Quotation and Quote

Commonly Confused Words

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In formal English, quotation is a noun (as in "a quotation from Shakespeare") and quote is a verb ("She likes to quote Shakespeare"). However, in everyday speech and informal English, quote is often treated as a shortened form of quotation.

Definitions

The noun quotation refers to a group of words taken from a text or speech and repeated by someone other than the original author or speaker.

  • An indirect quotation is a paraphrase of someone else's words: it reports on what a person said without using his or her exact words. Indirect quotations are not placed inside quotation marks.

The verb quote means to repeat a group of words originally written or spoken by another person. In informal speech and writing, quote is sometimes used as a shortened form of the noun quotation.

See the usage notes below. Also see:


Examples

  • "She remembered a quotation she'd read recently, the words of H.L. Mencken: 'Nothing can come out of an artist that is not in the man.'"
    (Hilary Sloin, Art on Fire. Bywater, 2012)
     
  • "Relying on numerous interviews of parents and children with a wide range of skin colors, [Lori] Tharps proves the quotation by the social scientist Frank Sulloway to be painfully true: 'No social injustice is felt more deeply than that suffered within one's own family.'"
    (Allyson Hobbs, "I'm Not the Nanny: Multiracial Families and Colorism." The New York Times, November 3, 2016)
     
  • "Many times I have wanted to quote Topsy, the young black girl in Uncle Tom's Cabin. I have been tempted to say, 'I dunno. I just growed.'"
    (Maya Angelou, Mom & Me & Mom. Random House, 2013)
     
  • "[V]ery few quotes in newspapers are completely accurate in the sense of being faithful to the false starts and hesitancies of the spoken word."
    (Ian Jack, "Should We Quote Swear Words? I'm Not Sure They're Absolutely Necessary." The Guardian [UK], September 20, 2013)


    Usage Notes

    • "The noun quote, short for quotation, was first recorded in 1888. . . . This sense of quote has met with strong disapproval in some quarters. Such commentators as Bernstein 1965, Follett 1966, Shaw 1977, and Trimmer & McCrimmon 1988 have disparaged its use in writing, and the Heritage 1969, 1982 usage panel rejected it by a large majority (the 2000 panel has lightened up). Some other critics, however, have taken a more tolerant view. Harper 1985, for example, accepts its use in writing that has 'a conversational tone,' and Bremner 1980 calls it 'standard in the publishing business.'

      "The noun quote is now widely used in standard if mostly casual writing, . . . but there are still times when it seems most appropriate to choose quotation instead. We recommend that you let your own judgment of the writing situation and your sense of idiom be your guide."
      (Merriam-Webster's Concise Dictionary of English Usage, 2002)
    • "The problem with quotation is that, to the writer who hopes to deliver goods quickly, the three syllables sound and read as if they were slowing the sentence down. The single syllable of quote, meanwhile, sounds apt to such a writer. And it sounds more and more natural all the time, as it seems to predominate in spoken English. So although it remains informal for now, it's gaining ground in formal prose."
      (Bryan A. Garner, Garner's Modern English Usage, 4th ed. Oxford University Press, 2016)


      Practice

      (a) Melinda begins each of her essays with a familiar ______.

      (b) When he can't think of an answer, Gus likes to _____ a song lyric.

      Answers to Practice Exercises

      Glossary of Usage: Index of Commonly Confused Words

      Answers to Practice Exercises: Quotation and Quote

      (a) Melinda begins each of her essays with a familiar quotation.

      (b) When he can't think of an answer, Gus likes to quote a song lyric.

      Glossary of Usage: Index of Commonly Confused Words