Conventions of Composition Rule 201

Rule: Quotations and examples should be embedded into paragraphs, worded so that the quotation flows from the non-quoted text. Because you will use quotations in your writing to support an assertion, you should precede a quotation with context and follow it with analysis. Sentences of analysis should not begin with the words, "This quotation shows." Instead, name the specific part of the author's words that make your point.

Note: One common mistake students make when writing about texts is that they refer to the quotation as if it comes from a book. Even though all of the quotations clearly do come from books, you should talk about them as if they come from the story of somebody’s life. One test to see if you’re doing it right: Read your writing aloud. Does it sound as though you’re talking about a book or about real people? Go for the latter.


Wrong: On page 161, Huck Finn says, "It was a close place."

Better: When Huck struggles with his decision about Jim, he says, "It was a close place" (161).

Wrong: In chapter four, Holden talks about Stradlater and Jean Gallagher.

Better: After Holden leaves Ackley, he talks about Stradlater and Jean Gallagher.

Wrong: In Act I, Macbeth says, "If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly."

Better: Macbeth doesn't like waiting around to kill King Duncan. He says, "If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly" (I.vii.1-2).

Practice integrating these quotations into the correct context:

  1. In the first paragraph, Krakauer tells how McCandless's story ends: "Four months later his decomposed body was found by a party of moose hunters."
  2. Lizzy's first refusal comes on page 81, when she says, "I am very sensible of the honour of your proposals, but it is impossible for me to do otherwise than decline them."
  3. By page 13, "Arthur's house had settled into a steady routine. It was Arthur's accepted role to lie squelching in the mud making occasional demands to see his lawyer, his mother or a good book; it was Mr. Prosser's accepted role to tackle Arthur with the occasional new ploy such as the For the Public Good talk, or the March of Progress talk, the They Knocked My House Down Once You Know, Never Looked Back talk and various other cajoleries and threats."

Resources for further explanation on integrating quotations:

UW-Madison's The Writing Center's Integrating Quotes from a Literary Text

Ashford University's Guidelines for Incorporating Quotes

The Writing Center at UNC-Chapel Hill's Quotations