How do I Give and Take in a Quote? Using the Ellipsis and Brackets

Question: Can I change a quote?

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Photo Provided by vanseodesign.com

Answer: Of course you can, but you have to tell your reader when you are doing it.

To show the reader that you are omitting words from a quote, you use the ellipsis: . . .

When you add words to clarify, you need to use brackets: [ ]

For example, let’s say a Massage Therapy student wants to research the effects that massage has on the babies of depressed pregnant women, and they come across a piece of evidence they want to use, but not in its entirety. They can use the ellipsis and brackets like this:

Original Quote: “The massage therapy group participants were given massages by professional massage therapist and the relaxation therapy group provided their own progressive muscle relaxation exercises. The 20-min massage therapy sessions were held twice a week during their last trimester. Both groups reported feeling less anxious after the first session and less leg pain after the first and last sessions. Only the massage therapy group, however, reported reduced anxiety, improved mood, better sleep and less back pain by the last day of the study. In addition, urinary stress hormone levels (norepinephrine) decreased for the massage therapy group. Their infants also had fewer postnatal complications, and the massage group had a lower prematurity rate (0% versus 17%)” (Field, Diego, Hernandez-Reif, Schanberg, Kuhn, 2004, p. 116)

Altered Quote: “The massage therapy group participants were given massages by professional massage therapist and the relaxation therapy group provided their own progressive muscle relaxation exercises. The 20-min massage therapy sessions were held twice a week during their last trimester. . . . Their [the women in the massage group] infants . . . had fewer postnatal complications, and the massage group had a lower prematurity rate (0% versus 17%)” (Field, Diego, Hernandez-Reif, Schanberg, Kuhn, 2004, p. 116)

Students needed to be reminded that they need to not only evaluate the sources they want to use as evidence to back up or expand on their ideas, but they need be choosey when they decide what specific examples to use. I cut the information that I placed in italics because it wasn’t directly dealing with my topic: Effects of massage on the babies of depressed pregnant women. If I was just writing about the effects on the pregnancy, then I could have considered including that information.

The ellipsis and brackets are effective punctuation marks for students to use to incorporate the most effective pieces of evidence to build their case. Students can’t take it all; they have to learn how to give a little and take a little.

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Field, T., Diego, M.A., Hernandez-Reif, M., Schanberg, S., Kuhn, C. (2004). Massage therapy effects on depressed pregnant women. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology. 25. 115-122. doi: 10.1080/01674820412331282231.