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13.7 Integrating Quotations Smoothly (Avoid Floating Quotations)

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    Avoid "Floating Quotations"

    Floating quotations: "quotations which seem to have been thrown into a paragraph randomly, without any explanation" (Streeter).

    When incorporating quotations, it is important that they are seamlessly woven into your paragraphs. While it is fine when taking notes to collect quotations as stand-alone objects during the pre-writing process, when writing the essay you will want to "massage" them into the surrounding writing. For example, consider the quotation below taken from the first line of the poem "I wandered lonely as a cloud" by William Wordsworth:

    • "I wandered lonely as a cloud" (Wordsworth 1).

    When you find a quotation like this, you will want to include it in your essay to do your close reading. This quotation functions as evidence to show essay readers your interpretation of the literature. When you do it well, it helps readers understand how evidence supports your argument (thesis statement/interpretation of the literature). What happens if you don't smoothly incorporate your quotation into the essay? Readers get confused! They might ask themselves "why is this here? What am I supposed to do with this?!" For example, notice in the paragraph below how the writer starts their second sentence with quotation marks. That is, they just drop the quotation into the paragraph. They don't try to weave it into their own words and ideas.

    Bad Example Paragraph 1:

    Daffodils are like people in the poem. “I wandered lonely as a cloud” (Wordsworth 1). The speaker is like a cloud. This is a simile. 

    This lack of context in the above paragraph can be disorienting to the reader, who has no idea how to interpret the information. How does the quoted material support the topic sentence? What is the writer arguing? Compare this random plopping of a quotation above to the integrated version below.

    Example of Effective Quotation Integration

    Model Example Paragraph 2:

    While most people value humans over plants and other inanimate objects in nature, in “I wandered lonely as a cloud,” Wordsworth frequently gives nature human characteristics (anthropomorphism) and gives human characteristics of the natural world (chremamorphism). When the speaker of the poem describes themselves as wandering “lonely as a cloud,” this simile gives the sense he is dehumanized, more cloud than person (1). Conversely, the natural environment is made more human when daffodils are personified as “[t]ossing their heads in sprightly dance,” and even the waves are also described as dancing (12-13). Even the verb choice for each indicates the speaker may be less human, in that an animal or human can wander, but, generally, plants and animals lack the consciousness or intentionality implicit in dancing. By blurring the line between human and nature, and imbuing the daffodils and waves with seemingly more agency than the human speaker, the poem implies nature is just as valuable as humans, if not more so.

    What do you notice about the difference between the way quotations are integrated in the first and second paragraph examples?

    In the second example, the quotations are smoothly integrated with the author’s words while maintaining the grammatical structure of each sentence. Rather than plopping an entire sentence or line, the writer chose the most important phrases from the poem which illustrate the point they are attempting to make. They ensured that these quoted phrases flowed smoothly into their sentences by ensuring they were grammatically correct. Finally, it is clear where the writer’s words end and Wordsworth's begin, and where Wordsworth's words begin and the writer's end, as evidence through quotation marks and in-text parenthetical citations.

    Works Cited

    Streeter, Lauren. "Floating Quotations and Quotation Punctuation: Easy-to-fix errors in writing." Clarkson, N.D. Accessed 28 July 2022.

    Wordsworth, William. "I wandered lonely as a cloud." Lyrical Ballads. 1807.

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