You can change direct quotations under certain circumstances. Some changes require you to explain the change, and others you can make without indicating the change to readers.
Changes to a quotation not requiring explanation
Some changes can be made to direct quotations without alerting readers:
- The first letter of the first word in a quotation may be changed to an uppercase or a lowercase letter to fit the context of the sentence in which the quotation appears.
- Some punctuation marks at the end of a quotation may be changed to fit the syntax of the sentence in which the quotation appears, as long as meaning is not changed (e.g., it might alter meaning to change a period to a question mark, depending on how the sentence is written).
- Single quotation marks may be changed to double quotation marks and vice versa.
- Footnote or endnote number callouts can be omitted.
- Any other changes (e.g., italicizing words for emphasis or omitting words) must be explicitly indicated.
Changes to a quotation requiring explanation
Other changes require you to alert reader to the change:
- Use an ellipsis to indicate that you have omitted words within a quotation (e.g., to shorten a sentence or tie two sentences together).
- Either type three periods with spaces around each ( . . . ) or use the ellipsis character created by your word processing program when you type three periods in a row ( … ), with a space before and after.
- Use four periods—that is, a period plus an ellipsis (. … )—to show a sentence break within omitted material, such as when a quotation includes the end of one sentence and the beginning of another sentence.
- Use square brackets, not parentheses, to enclose material such as an addition or explanation you have inserted in a quotation.
- If you want to emphasize a word or words in a quotation, use italics. Immediately after the italicized words, insert “emphasis added” within square brackets as follows: [emphasis added].
If the quotation contains an error, it is necessary to indicate the error.