Giving Credit Where Due in Writing
Do you know how to quote or paraphrase properly and effectively?
Hello Fancy Comma newsletter readers! Hope you’re staying cool (or warm for any of our readers living in Australia). It’s been a busy, hot month. One thing we did over the past few weeks is publish our new book, Amplifying Science Communication with Public Relations. In our book, we argue that applying public relations strategies can boost public engagement with science, build scientist-media relationships, and more.
This month, in our newsletter, Kelly writes about using quotes and paraphrasing effectively. Keep reading for more!
Quoting versus Paraphrasing
Quoting and paraphrasing are both means of restating what someone else has already said. In either case, you are replicating someone else’s ideas rather than creating and expressing your own. However, they differ in both form and function, and it is important to understand when and how to use each.
Quoting is straightforward. When you quote someone, you are repeating the exact same phrasing that they used (as in the above picture). You may choose only a select part of the quote, but you are still creating an exact replication of what someone else said.
Paraphrasing, on the other hand, is not an exact replication, though it should replicate the meaning the author intended. Paraphrasing is rewording someone else’s thoughts to be more concise and/or more comprehensible to your audience. Think of paraphrasing as translation.
Credit Where Credit is Due
Plagiarism occurs whenever you are expressing someone else’s ideas without giving the original creator (author or speaker) credit for those ideas. Basically, it occurs when you take credit for someone else’s ideas, or allow the reader or listener to assume that they are your original ideas.
Plagiarism can occur when using either quotations or paraphrasing if you do not provide a reference to the person who originally came up with the idea. There are numerous help guides for citations and references, Purdue OWL (Online Writing Lab) is one of my favorites.
Give credit where credit is due: Whether you are using the exact phrasing or are rephrasing, if the idea is not yours, cite the creator. If your idea builds off of someone else’s ideas cite the person you are building your ideas off of.
Don’t Misquote Me
Alternatively, do not attribute ideas to someone if they are not theirs. If you are quoting or paraphrasing, cite the source of those ideas, however, if you are adding to or otherwise changing the tone or meaning of the ideas make sure it is clear to the audience that these are your interpretations, not those of the original author (this is more of an issue with paraphrasing).
When to Quote
There are a few basic rules for determining when a direct quote is appropriate. First, unless you are writing up an interview or a book report, your quotes should be short, ideally, two lines maximum.
Direct quotes should also be used if you are stating an idea or phrase that is famously well-known (for example, “I think, therefore I am”). Direct quotes should also be used if precision is vital, like when you are quoting exact instructions or directions.
Finally, quoting is also ideal when the author’s exact phrasing provides the most impactful wording — in cases where you are emphasizing the author or highlighting something they said.
How to Quote
Again, quotations are exact replications of someone else’s idea. If you are changing the wording, it is not a direct quote.
If there is misspelling or problematic phrasing (for example, “he” rather than “they” when speaking to a general audience) that you want to address, you can include the denotation (sic) within the quote to indicate that the error was the author’s and not yours.
If you shorten a long quote either by excluding a section from the beginning, the middle, or the end, denote this exclusion with an ellipses (…). Make sure that this exclusion does not change the meaning of the quote.
Finally, if you need to add or change something within the quote, you can use brackets. For example, if the author is talking about a city but does not say it by name, you can include this within the quote as long as you place it inside of brackets: changing “They went there” to “They went [to Paris]” to make the sentence more clear.
When to Paraphrase
If you want to mention or share someone’s ideas, but the quote would be excessively long, you should paraphrase it. In this case, you should try to condense the author’s ideas, so they are more concise.
Alternatively, if the original phrasing was too complex — maybe it included too many technical terms or there isn’t sufficient context — you should paraphrase it to simplify the language or add necessary context. In this case, the paraphrase may be longer than the original quote.
How to Paraphrase
The keys to paraphrasing are to maintain the original meaning intended by the author and to make sure to give credit to the original creator of the ideas. Again, paraphrasing changes the wording only, not the meaning.
Whenever you paraphrase, make sure you reference the original creator of the idea. An easy way to do this is to either mention the author or speaker’s name before you begin paraphrasing (for example, “As Einstein believed…”) or to include an in-text citation directly after the paraphrased portion.
Again, when you paraphrase, make sure you retain the original meaning. A simple way to ensure this is to make sure that whichever alternative wording you choose is as close to direct synonyms as possible.
Quotations and paraphrasing are common in writing, especially in research writing. It is vital to understand the difference between these two methods of crediting your fellow writers, and when and how you should use them. Quotations and paraphrasing can make writing more compelling, but can also make it more tedious, and even run the risk of plagiarism. When used effectively, quoting and paraphrasing are vital writing tools.
What we’ve been reading (and writing)
Check out these tips for customize your keyboard for easier editing.
Angela Tague talks about setting up a freelance work schedule.
Slater Katz says you can borrow marketing strategies from the Kardashians.
We’ve also talked about marketing yourself on the Fancy Comma blog. Click here to read an excerpt of our new book, Amplifying Science Communication with Public Relations.
On the Fancy Comma YouTube channel, Sheeva talks about managing one’s finances as a freelance science writer.
That’s a wrap for this month’s newsletter! If you liked it, please remember to share it!