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Author Topic: Lesson #13 – Dealing with Quotations and Attributions  (Read 14242 times)
Joe Carillo
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« on: July 25, 2009, 01:56:59 AM »

These are the basics of how written English normally handles quotations and attributions:

When the exact words of a speaker are quoted, those words should be duly set off by quotation marks. The attribution is then provided either before or after the statement, but depending on the writer’s judgment, it may also be placed within the quoted statement whenever appropriate:

The manager said, “Our president has decided and he’s someone who rarely changes his mind.”

“Our president has decided and he’s someone who rarely changes his mind,” the manager said.

“Our president has decided,” the manager said, “and he’s someone who rarely changes his mind.”

No matter where the attribution is placed in such quoted statements, the statement retains the exact words and the tense of the verbs used by the speaker. Nothing should be changed in what was actually said, as in the following example:

“Our company is in preliminary talks to acquire Canada’s Niko Resources and French energy firm Maurel and Prom,” a spokesman for the refiner Indian Oil Corp. (IOC) said on Friday.

But the treatment would be different if the quoted material is paraphrased with attribution; that is, when the statement is reported without using the speaker’s exact words. In print journalism, in particular, this practice is indicated by doing away with the quotation marks that normally set off quoted material from its attribution.

Now, when quotation marks are dropped in this manner, there could be confusion as to which tense should control the time framework of the whole sentence—that of the attribution, or that of the quoted paraphrased material. This is why when using paraphrased quoted statements, many news service agencies as well as newspapers and magazines follow the so-called sequence of tenses rule.

Under the sequence of tenses rule, when the attribution comes after or within that paraphrased statement, the tenses in the quoted statement are retained:

Indian Oil Corp. (IOC) is in preliminary talks to acquire Canada’s Niko Resources and French energy firm Maurel and Prom, a spokesman for the state-run Indian refiner said on Friday.

On the other hand, when the attribution comes ahead of the paraphrased quoted statement, the tense of the attribution acquires control over the tenses in the rest of the statement:

A spokesman for the state-run refiner Indian Oil Corp. (IOC) said on Friday that the company was in preliminary talks to acquire Canada’s Niko Resources and French energy firm Maurel and Prom.

Formally, the sequence of tenses rule requires that the tenses in such attributed paraphrased statements be rendered as follows:

(1) The present tense should become past tense (“is”/”are” to “was”/”were”). For instance, if a beauty contest winner tells the news reporter these exact words, “I am overwhelmed,” the reporter would write it as follows:

She said [that] she was overwhelmed.

(2) The future tense should become conditional (“will” to “would”). For instance, if an irate beauty contest loser tells the reporter these exact words, “I will appeal the judges’ decision,” the reporter would write it as follows:

She said [that] she would appeal the judges’ decision.

(3) The past tense should become past perfect (“was”/”were” to “had been”), except when the time element is indicated. For instance, if a beauty contest chair tells the newspaper reporter these exact words, “We were scandalized by the loser’s complaint,” the reporter would write it as follows:

She said [that] they had been scandalized by the loser’s complaint.

However, the past tense is retained when the time element of the action in the quoted material is given:

She said [that] they were scandalized when the loser filed a complaint yesterday.

(4) The future perfect becomes conditional (“will have + past participle” to “would have + past participle”). For instance, if the beauty contest chair tells the newspaper reporter these exact words, “I will have to review the scores first before deciding,” the reporter would write it as follows:

She said she would have to evaluate the scores first before deciding.

The sequence of tenses rule is easy to apply when the attribution comes after or within the paraphrased quoted statement. For instance, if a political analyst tells a newspaper reporter these exact words, “Some senators are vehemently against changing the Constitution and I think they’ll fight tooth and nail to defeat the proposed amendments,” the reporter might make a quoted paraphrase in either of two ways:

Some senators are strongly opposed to charter change and will fight the proposed amendments in every possible way, the political analyst said.

or:

Some senators are strongly opposed to charter change, the political analyst said, and they will fight the proposed amendments in every possible way.

The tenses in the speaker’s exact words are retained.

As previously pointed out, however, some news service agencies, newspapers, and magazines find the sequence of tenses rule for paraphrased quoted statements rule confusing and misleading. They prefer to use the so-called exceptional sequence rule, which generally retains the tense used in the speaker’s exact words no matter where the attribution falls in the paraphrased quoted material. The example given earlier will thus be rendered in this paraphrased quoted form:

The political analyst said [that] several senators are strongly opposed to charter change and will fight it in every possible way.

Proponents of the exceptional sequence rule argue that paraphrased quoted statements formed by using it are clearer and more logical and immediate than those formed by using the traditional sequence of tenses rule. True enough, by not having to change the tenses in paraphrased quoted statements, the exceptional sequence rule eliminates a procedure that can sometimes confuse even the writers themselves and possibly mislead the reader.

We can better appreciate the relative virtues of the two rules by applying each to a statement about a situation that doesn’t change so quickly. Assume, for instance, that a provincial governor told a reporter these exact words yesterday: “I have a green card but I don’t intend to live in the U.S. upon my retirement.”

A quoted paraphrase of this verbatim statement using the traditional sequence of tenses rule will change its tense from present to past:

The provincial governor said [that] he had a green card but didn’t intend to live in the U.S. upon retiring.

In contrast, a quoted paraphrase using the exceptional sequence rule will retain the present tense:

The provincial governor said [that] he has a green card but doesn’t intend to live in the U.S. upon retiring.

Both versions are grammatically correct, and present no logical problems with their differing use of the tenses.

Even under the exceptional sequence rule, though, some situations arise in which changing the tense of the verbatim quoted material becomes absolutely necessary. For instance, assume that a city mayor told a reporter of a daily newspaper these exact words yesterday: “I am not feeling well so I will not attend the party caucus tonight.”

In a news report for today’s papers, the following paraphrased quoted statement using the exceptional sequence rule will no longer hold logically:

The city mayor said [that] he is not feeling well and will not attend the party caucus last night.

This is because by the time the report is read, the city mayor might have already gotten well and might have even attended the party caucus eventually. Thus, there’s no choice but to use the past tense, as in the case of the sequence of tenses rule:

The city mayor said [that] he was not feeling well and would not attend the party caucus scheduled last night.

Indeed, no matter what rule we use in writing paraphrased quoted statements, the paraphrasing must reflect in a logical way the effect of the passage of time between the utterance of the quoted statement and its being read in printed form.
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maxsims
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« Reply #1 on: July 25, 2009, 05:42:39 AM »

Hi, Joe,

Your example:The manager said, “Our president has decided and he’s someone who rarely changes his mind.” is a prime example of how the 'rule' on where to place the end-of-sentence quotation mark continues to defy logic.

The quotation in the example is but part of the whole sentence beginning The manager said and ending his mind" and hence the quotation mark should logically go inside the final stop.   (Or perhaps, for clarity, we should say that the final stop should go outside the quotation mark.)

Beats me!   In fact, most of the conventions governing the placement of quotation marks in relation to punctuation marks seem illogical to me.

By the way, does your trusty Merriam-Webster make any distinctiion between "quote" and "quotation".   

(Hey! I just noticed that, in the foregoing, I put the quotation mark inside the stop, where I believe most people would put it!     If it's correctly place there, how can the example be correct?)
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Joe Carillo
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« Reply #2 on: July 25, 2009, 08:09:31 PM »

Hi, Joe,

Your example:The manager said, “Our president has decided and he’s someone who rarely changes his mind.” is a prime example of how the 'rule' on where to place the end-of-sentence quotation mark continues to defy logic.

The quotation in the example is but part of the whole sentence beginning The manager said and ending his mind" and hence the quotation mark should logically go inside the final stop.   (Or perhaps, for clarity, we should say that the final stop should go outside the quotation mark.)

Beats me!   In fact, most of the conventions governing the placement of quotation marks in relation to punctuation marks seem illogical to me.

By the way, does your trusty Merriam-Webster make any distinctiion between "quote" and "quotation".   

(Hey! I just noticed that, in the foregoing, I put the quotation mark inside the stop, where I believe most people would put it!     If it's correctly place there, how can the example be correct?)

My digital Merriam-Webster’s 11th Collegiate doesn’t make much of a distinction between “quote” and “quotation,” as can be seen in these entries:

quote
Function:noun
Date: 1888

1 : QUOTATION
2 : QUOTATION MARK —  often used orally to indicate the beginning of a direct quotation

quotation
Function:noun
Date: 1607

1 : something that is quoted;  especially   : a passage referred to, repeated, or adduced
2 a : the act or process of quoting  b (1) : the naming or publishing of current bids and offers or prices of securities or commodities  (2) : the bids, offers, or prices so named or published;  especially   : the highest bid and lowest offer for a particular security in a given market at a given time

As to whether the quotation marks should be inside or outside the period or stop, it’s really all a style choice. The British English style generally favors putting them inside the stops, and the American English style favors outing them outside the periods. In recent years, though, I’ve noticed that some online editions of British newspapers and magazines had gradually adopted the American preference for putting the stops inside the closing quotation marks. I suppose that at least as far as the mass media are concerned, their positioning preference for the closing quotes would eventually be homogeneous. I really don’t mind personally, for I’ve long considered this matter as simply stylistic in nature. So long as the style usage is consistent, it’s perfectly OK with me.
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renzphotography
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« Reply #3 on: September 20, 2009, 01:14:52 PM »

Allow me ask this question in order to clarify this matter once and for all. My question is on how to deal with a quotation within a quotation.

While I see Mr. Carillo uses ( " ) double quotations to start and end quotations I have come across cases where only a single quotation ( ' ) was used.

To make matters more complicated if double quotation is used then the inner quotation is a single quotation. But I have also seen cases where the outer quotation is single but the inner quotation was double.

Example:

Version 1
 "Cain asked God 'am I my brother's keeper?' before he was banished," narrated John.

Version 2
 'Cain asked God "am I my brother's keeper?" before he was banished,' narrated John.

Considering the examples given which version is proper?

« Last Edit: September 20, 2009, 01:24:18 PM by renzphotography » Logged
Joe Carillo
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« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2009, 03:35:50 PM »

My thoughts on this subject are discussed extensively in “How to handle quoted material,” a series of three columns that I wrote for The Manila Times in March to April this year.

Here's the concluding part (Part III) of that series of columns: 

Handling quoted material and of doing partial quotes and orphan quotes are actually very simple writing routines in English, but the unfortunate fact is that many of us still get mixed up when doing them.

The reason for the confusion is that we get exposed to both the American English and British English styles for dealing with quotations. These styles have marked differences. The American English style is to use double quotation marks to enclose quotations, and single quotation marks to set off a quotation within a quotation. In contrast, until recent times, the British English style did the reverse: it used single quotation marks to enclose direct quotations, and used double quotation marks to set off a quotation within those direct quotations.

Let’s take the quoted statement below from a recent New York Times article about the Broadway actor Geoffrey Rush. It’s a verbatim quote, but simply for illustrative purposes and to avoid unsightly complications, I didn’t enclose the entire passage within the opening and closing quotation marks required for such a quote. Look:

The geopolitical particulars did not interest Mr. Rush, though.

“I kept thinking, ‘What will the world be like when all life ends?’” he said recently, recalling that day in 1962. “What is ‘nothingness’?”


That is the American English style for handling quoted statements and punctuating the elements within quoted statements. Notice that in the attributed direct quote, the opening quotes and closing quotes are double quotation marks, while the opening quotes and closing quotes setting off the quoted statements within the quotation—and the orphan quote for “nothingness” as well—are single quotation marks.

On the other hand, the British style of yesteryears (and this applied to many of the English literary classics) would render such quoted statements in the following manner:

The geopolitical particulars did not interest Mr. Rush, though.

‘I kept thinking, “What will the world be like when all life ends?”’ he said recently, recalling that day in 1962. ‘What is “nothingness?”’


Observe that in place of the double quotes for the opening and closing quotes for the direct quotations, this particular British-style uses single quotation marks instead, and that in place of the single quotes for the opening and closing quotes setting off the quoted statements within the direct quotations (as well as those setting off the orphan quotes), this style uses double quotation marks instead.

In recent years, though, many publications in the United Kingdom shifted to the American English style for using quotations marks—but retaining a major punctuation difference. Still the norm in British publications is to put the punctuation of a statement inside the closing quotation marks if that punctuation belongs to the quoted statement; otherwise, that punctuation is placed outside the closing quotation marks.

Take this example from an article in a recent issue of The Sunday Times of London:

Richard, he boasts to friends, is “offensively well and full of violence”, rolls about in the hay “stark naked”, takes his turn at chopping wood and filling the oil lamps, and “even insists on pouring out my ration of gin for me every evening”.

Note that in the first and second partial quotes, the comma is placed after the closing quotation marks; and that in the third partial quote, the period (or what the British call the full stop) after the entire passage is placed outside the closing quotation marks.

In the American English style, of course, all of those punctuations will be inside those closing quotation marks:

Richard, he boasts to friends, is “offensively well and full of violence,” rolls about in the hay “stark naked,” takes his turn at chopping wood and filling the oil lamps, and “even insists on pouring out my ration of gin for me every evening.”
« Last Edit: April 23, 2011, 10:47:04 AM by Joe Carillo » Logged

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