Austin's Rules of Thumb

When quoting, quote the author's exact words.

When you quote in an essay, you are saying to your reader, "You are hearing someone else's voice. These are not my words; they're someone else's."

 For this reason, it is important to quote the author's exact words. Quotation marks are a promise to the the reader that you are faithfully reproducing another's language.  Do not change the wording, even a tiny bit. Doing so is would be deceiving your reader.

  Note: Sometimes, either to be concise or to make the grammar work, it will feel necessary to add or omit words. You can do this using ellipses (…) to show where you've omitted words and brackets ([ ]) to mark a word you've added. This is the only way you may change the author's language between quotation marks.


  • Change the author's language when quoting
  • Introduce grammar mistakes into a quotation: this sends the message to the reader that you haven't read the text carefully!