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5 Ways You're Using Quotes Wrong

Callie Beuermann

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1. You’re using too many

Bet you didn’t think that you could use too many quotes in a text response essay - it seems impossible, right? Wrong. There needs to be space in your essay for ideas to develop and some sentences (other than the introductory and concluding sentences) will have no quotes in them.

Each quote or group of quotes needs to be quantified in its own right so that it adds sustenance to your essay. If you use a quote, you need to pair it with a concept. The point of quotes is to justify that what you’re suggesting about the text is true and correct. If you can use quotes effectively, then you should be able to justify a huge number of abstract viewpoints about any work.

There is no set number that constitutes a correct amount of quote. It’s mostly about the ratio within an essay.

To ensure that you do not use too many quotes, read over your essay to check that your ideas are clear and the quotes substantiate the concepts that you put forward. For every quote you write, ask yourself, does it support my idea and is it relevant to my essay topic? For every small point that you bring up, you can collect quotes and perhaps use three to four short quotes (see point three).

Too many quotes can give you a headache.

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2. You’re using too few

On the other hand, there is such thing as using too few quotes. You need enough evidence to support what you’re suggesting about the text, otherwise it seems as though you lack knowledge of the text.

This one is common mistake made among those students who decide that they can get through VCE English without reading the texts.

The solution is easy. Read the text and make mind-maps of themes and ideas along with quotes from the text that suit. In order to do this, you can read each text at least twice - once to soak in the work, and a second time to work out ideas that require that bit more understanding, and to find those relevant quotes that you need for text response.

You don’t want yours to be like the desert of essays.

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3. Your quotes are too long

Quotes that are too long tend to become redundant and a waste of time to memorise and write down. The examiner or marker will also lose interest if your quote spans over more than a line or so. A group of smaller quotes might be more effective in supporting your contention. Of course you should rely on your own judgment and expertise. It is your essay, your ideas and therefore you should decide what types of quotes work best and when!

To evidence your understanding and knowledge of the text, collect several short quotes (one to four words long) from different areas of the text. If you choose several different pieces of evidence from the beginning, middle, and end, all from the same character, and/or from differing characters, this will prove that your idea exists throughout the entire work.

You trying to memorise an entire novel worth of quotes:

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You memorising shorter, connected quotes:

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4. Your quotes are irrelevant

A common mistake is simply peppering quotes that you remember throughout your essay to make it look like you know the text. Instead, you should actually know your text, and always choose quotes that fully support what you are saying in reference to the author’s contention.

The reader won’t know where your essay is going if you throw random quotes in that don’t support your argument:

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5. You’re not embedding the quotes

Finally, to effectively use quotes, you should be embedding your quotes correctly to ensure that your essay flows. You should be able to read the essay aloud, with quotes, as you would read a speech. 

Lisa wrote up a extremely detailed blog post on How To Embed Quotes Like A Boss. One read of this and you'll never go wrong with quoting again! Check it out!

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