Chapter 11-1-4: Modifying Cited Text

Writing > MLA > Citation Rules > ModifyingText

In-text citations should flow naturally with the rest of your text to make complete and grammatically correct sentences. It is sometimes necessary to change part of the quoted text in order to achieve this. In order to do this, use square brackets (“[]”). For example:

Some of the most famous people have stated that “[A]ll of the world is a stage” (Smith 94).

Smith has often stated that “[A]ll of the world is a stage, and [ . . . ] we are morally obligated to put on a show” (82).

Smith stated that "The journalist[, Mike Thompson,] did his best to remain neutral" (21).

As Smith notes, "Everyone has gotta [sic] start somewhere" (32).

In the first sentence above, the author of the paper is quoting someone else. They've modified a small letter "a" to a capital "A." They show that they've made this change by using square brackets.

In the second sentence, the author of the paper has removed text, and they show that they've done this by using square brackets with an ellipsis. Observe that there are spaces on each side of the periods.

In the third sentence, the author has added their own information to clarify the context.

In the last sentence, [sic] is Latin for "thus was it written." Authors use this to show that they know that the word before it was odd or problematic in some way, but that is the way the author they're quoting stated it.

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Attribution information for this page: Tony Russell, Allen Brizee, Purdue OWL Staff (et al.)
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