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Lesson 15: Quoting More Than One Sentence

In some cases, you may want to quote more than one sentence. Study the following example:

Between 1957 and 1986, Haiti was ruled first by “Papa Doc” Duvalier and then by his son “Baby Doc.” According to author Dennis Bernstein, “Baby Doc made Haiti into a trans-shipment point for Colombian cocaine. Nevertheless, as long as Papa and Baby Doc were anti-communists, they could do no wrong in the US government’s eyes” (Bernstein).

In the above example, I have quoted two full sentences from the author. While doing so is technically acceptable, it is risky. Your teacher (or college professor) will probably accuse you of being a lazy writer. Whenever possible, it is best to put most of the quote into your own words.

There is, however, an exception to this rule. It is often desirable to quote more than one sentence, if you are quoting the words of a first-hand witness. Consider the following example:

The Turkish secret police often use torture. According to one victim: “I loosened the blindfold and looked around. The scene was horrific. People were piled up in the corridor waiting their turn to be tortured” (qtd. in Bernstein).

If you were to paraphrase the words of the victim, they would lose much of their impact. Therefore, you want to keep the quote intact, even if it is more than one sentence long. In the above example, I have quoted three entire sentences. (Note the punctuation: The opening quotation mark comes before the first sentence; the closing quotation mark comes after the last sentence).

Now take another look at the example above. Can you guess why I have included the phrase “qtd. in” in the parenthetical citation?

In the above example, my “evidence” is not the words of an author called Dennis Bernstein. In this case, my evidence is a quote from a victim. Who is this victim? I have no idea. But I’m going to trust that Bernstein is telling me the truth when he claims that a victim said those words.

The abbreviation “qtd. in” stands for “quoted in.”

By using this abbreviation, I am saying to the reader: “I found this quote in an article written by Dennis Bernstein. If the quote is inaccurate, don’t blame me—blame Bernstein.” 

Any time you use a quote that someone else has found, you must use the abbreviation “qtd. in”.

Check Your Understanding

  1. Why is it risky to quote more than one sentence from your source?
  2. Under what circumstances would you want to quote more than one sentence from your source?
  3. What does the abbreviation “qtd. in” stand for?
  4. When should you use the abbreviation “qtd. in”?
  5. Imagine that you have found a book written by former president Franklin Roosevelt. You want to quote a line from the book in your paper. What should you put in the parenthetical citation?
  6. Imagine that you have found a book written by former president Harry Truman (who once served as Roosevelt’s vice president). In Truman’s book, he recounts many conversations he had with Roosevelt, sometimes quoting Roosevelt word for word. You want to use one of these quotes (the words of Roosevelt) in your paper. What should you put in the parenthetical citation?

Quiz: MLA 15