Quotations in Answers
Quotation should take up no more than 20% of
total words in an answer. As a rule, quote the few relevant words
rather than the whole sentence from which the words come.
To introduce a quotation, remember to “orient”
your reader. To orient is to show the direction of your comments
and their source.
RULE: Don’t ever leave a sentence of quotation
all by itself in your answers. One small exception: you use a
colon and introduce a whole, relevant sentence.
RULE: Check your use of tense when you refer to
stories before handing in. Teachers will be affected by your
misuse of tense and other “writing problems” in their evaluation.
Normally, literature is referred to using the present tense.
Exceptions come when it is necessary to refer to various actions
that occur at different times in any work.
Here are some student examples from a recent
assignment with comments to follow each one:
When Margot describes the sun by saying, “It’s
like a fire in the stove,” the children don’t believe her.
Comment: This is a quote to support a discussion
on conflict, so the two sides are clear and the origin of the
quote is also clear. Be aware that the comment for this quote
Margot’s excellence becomes the “biggest
Comment: The student is writing about the
character of Margot and names a trait, “excellence,” in the
discussion. The sentence is short and to the point.
When her friends try to lock her in the
closet, “she was protesting, pleading and crying,” and tries
with all her might to free herself.
Comment: Another quote to identify a conflict
and also a trait of Margot. A few students fell into a trap with
Margot is shunned by friends because she is
“from Earth” and “remembered the sun.”
Comment: The student is discussing conflict;
however, it’s not always necessary to quote. For bits of
information that are basic facts, feel free to paraphrase rather
For example, when William asks her the
question, “What’re you looking at?” she doesn’t say a word.
Comment: This is mainly to show her character.
It also is using a conflict situation and the character’s reaction
to it to make the point about character.
Her first weakness, timidity, appears when she
reads her poem “in a quiet voice”; from that point her
antagonist, William, starts teasing her.
Comment: The student’s comment is clear from the
beginning and supported a four-word quote. Following, the student
uses the semicolon to comment further on the importance of the
trait as it applies to the plot (conflicts; antagonists) of the
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