Using Quotes

How to incorporate quotes into your writing

Quotes from a text can be used as pieces of evidence to support an argument. However, keep the following tips in mind:
  • Quotes should be used sparingly; your own writing and thoughts are more important
  • The significance of a quote (the connection between the quote and your argument) needs to be analyzed and explained clearly to the reader
  • Quotes can not be used as a sentence without including some of your own words (that's what we call a quote dump)
The following examples use a quote from William Golding's novel Lord of the Flies.


Serious room for improvement:

William Golding's novel Lord of the Flies is about kids stranded on an island. Some of the kids are good and some are bad. "Roger, with a sense of delirious abandonment, leaned all his weight on the lever" (Golding 180). So I ask you, what causes irresponsible behavior? Ralph is good, but Jack is bad.

What's wrong with it?
  • It's a quote dump (meaning that the quote stands alone as its own sentence)
  • The quote is not explained or analyzed
  • The quote does not seem to connect to what the writer is trying to say

Room for improvement:

There are bad kids on the island. One of them is Roger. He drops a boulder on Piggy. "Roger, with a sense of delirious abandonment, leaned all his weight on the lever" (Golding 180). This caused Piggy's death.

What's wrong with it?
  • It's a quote dump (meaning that the quote stands alone as its own sentence)
  • It is not enough of an explanation to say "this caused Piggy's death." There needs to be a much clearer connection between the quote and the point that the writer is trying to make.

A possible revision:

The purest form of wickedness on the island is evident in Roger. He demonstrates his true depravity when, "with a sense of delirious abandonment, [he] leaned all his weight on the lever" (Golding 180). Well aware of Piggy's place beneath him, Roger willingly takes Piggy's life.

What's right with it?
  • The quote is used in a sentence that contains the writer's own words. 
  • The author explains that Roger's action is wicked, and the reader knows that this is wickedness is representative of larger things happening on the island. 
  • By using the phrase "willingly takes Piggy's life," the writer gives the reader another clue about Roger's wickedness.

Another possible revision:

Roger's murder of Piggy clearly illustrates the depths children can sink to without proper supervision. As he stood high above Piggy on the mountain, "Roger, with a sense of delirious abandonment, leaned all his weight on the lever" (Golding 180). The fact that he does it with "delirious abandonment" demonstrates the level of pleasure that Roger is getting by committing this terrible act.

What's right with it?
  • The quote is used in a sentence that contains the writer's own words. 
  • The first sentence introduces an idea (the depths children can sink to without supervision) that the quote will illustrate.
  • The last sentence further explains the quote by noting that Roger kills Piggy for pleasure.


By Ken Rodoff, English teacher, Springfield Township High School, Erdenheim, PA.
Adapted by Joyce Valenza
Readapted by Becky Mazur

Comments