9 Quotations and direct speech

9.3 Styling of quoted text

9.3.1 Spelling, capitalization, and punctuation

In quotations from printed sources the spelling, capitalization, and punctuation should normally follow the original. However:

  • • Such obvious errors as a missing full point or unclosed parentheses or quotation marks may be silently corrected.

  • • Forms of punctuation that differ from house style may be silently regularized. Thus foreign forms of question mark or quotation mark (for example « » or „“) should be replaced, and the use of double and single quotation marks and of em rules, en rules, and hyphens standardized.

  • • It is acceptable to change a capital on the first word of a quotation to lower case, to integrate it into the surrounding sentence.

  • • Orthographic signs (including the ampersand) and abbreviations may be retained or expanded, and superscript letters reproduced or brought down, according to editorial preference.

  • • The original’s use of the letters i and j, and of u and v, may be consistently modernized, though it is generally safest to retain the printed forms.

  • • A double v (vv) may be changed to the letter w.

  • • The long s (roman ſ, italic ſ ) is a variant form rather than a distinct letter and is always regularized to s.

  • • Text that is printed in full caps may be rationalized to upper and lower case (or caps and small caps).

Preserve if possible the Old and Middle English letters ash (æ), eth (ð), thorn (Þ), yogh (ȝ), and wyn (ƿ) in quotations from printed sources (see 12.13.1). Ligatured œ and æ in quoted text may be retained or printed as two separate letters according to editorial policy.

9.3.2 Interpolation and correction

Place in square brackets any words interpolated into a verbatim quotation that are not part of the original. Use such interpolations sparingly. Editorial interpolations may be helpful in preserving the grammatical structure of a quotation while suppressing irrelevant phrasing, or in explaining the significance of something mentioned that is not evident from the quotation itself. The Latin words recte (meaning ‘properly’ or ‘correctly’) and rectius (‘more properly’) are rare but acceptable in such places:

he must have left [Oxford] and his studies
as though they [the nobility and gentry] didn’t waste enough of your soil already on their coverts and game-preserves
the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester [recte Cumberland] are often going to a famous painters in Pall Mall; and ’tis reported that he [Gainsborough] is now doing both their pictures

The Latin word sic (meaning ‘thus’) is used to confirm an incorrect or otherwise unexpected form in a quotation; it is printed in italics within square brackets. Do not use sic simply to flag erratic spelling, but only to remove real doubt as to the accuracy of the quoted text. Do not use [!] as a form of editorial comment:

Bulmer established his Shakspeare [sic] Press in London at Cleveland Row

In some contexts editorial policy may allow the silent correction of trivial errors in the original, judging it more important to transmit the content of the quoted matter than to reproduce its exact form.

9.3.3 Omissions

Mark the omission of text within a quotation by an ellipsis (...). Do not place an ellipsis at the start or end of a quotation, even if this is not the beginning or end of a sentence; the reader must accept that the source may continue before and after the text quoted. See 4.7 for a full discussion of ellipses.

Punctuation immediately before or after an ellipsis can generally be suppressed unless it is helpful to the sense, as might be the case with a question or exclamation mark; style in similar contexts should be consistent within a work. It may, however, be retained in some contexts—for purposes of textual analysis, for example, or where the author has some other particular reason for preserving it. If the preceding sentence ends with a full point it is Oxford practice to retain the point before the ellipsis, closed up to the preceding text:

Writing was a way of understanding … world events.
Where is Godfrey? … They say he is murdered by the papists.
Presently a misty moon came up, and a nightingale began to sing.… It was strange to stand there and listen, for the song seemed to come all the more sweetly and clearly in the quiet intervals between the bursts of firing.

Do not delete an ellipsis that is part of the original text if the words on either side of it are retained in the quotation. In a quotation that contains such an original ellipsis any editorial ellipsis should be distinguished by being placed within square brackets:

The fact is, Lady Bracknell […] my parents seem to have lost me … I don’t actually know who I am […] I was … well, I was found.

An ellipsis can mark an omission of any length. In a displayed quotation broken into paragraphs mark the omission of intervening paragraphs by inserting an ellipsis at the end of the paragraph before the omission. For omissions in verse extracts see 9.4.3 below.

9.3.4 Typography

A quotation is not a facsimile, and in most contexts it is not necessary to reproduce the exact typography of the original. Such features as change of font, bold type, underscoring, ornaments, and the exact layout of the text may generally be ignored. Italicization may be reproduced if helpful, or suppressed if excessive.

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New Hart's Rules


Preface Editorial team Proofreading marks Glossary of printing and publishing terms