In-text quotations: a slide set

In the slide above, [Mel] is substituted for “him” and [Devlin and his wife, who is also Jewish] explains “us.”

While they are most often used to remove words not needed for the essential meaning (because people seldom speak in perfectly crafted sound bites), be careful to use as much of a quote is needed to retain the speaker’s intentions. In the above example, Mel Gibson says, “I want to apologize specifically to everyone in the Jewish community.” He’s apologizing to a narrowed group, not “everyone,” but “everyone in the Jewish community.” Shortening the quote would sacrifice that clarity.

Can you see that keeping the capital letter of the original quotation with the least interruption to a reader’s eye is the second of the examples, above?

Never assume your readers know what you are talking about. Be clear about whatever who, what, and when details are needed to place a quotation in context.

This author choose a quotation that let him refer back to the subject of his book (the brain). He likens Whitman’s “multitudes” to “many neural subpopulations.” That lets him go one step further to say the workings of the brain allows both anti-Semite opinions and Jewish friends.

These slides are intentionally missing the source citation for page numbers in the book I used. Citations are subject to style. Please consult a handbook for MLA, APA, Chicago (or whatever style your assignment requires).

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Note:  With the exception of the poetry quoted, the examples in the slides come from chapter 5, “The Brain is a Team of Rivals,” of Incognito, The Secret Lives of the Brain, by David Eagleman. I bought this book because the inside cover summary was so intriguing:

Why do you hear your name being mentioned in a conversation that you didn’t think you were listening to? Why are people whose names begin with J more likely to marry other people whose names begin with J? Why is it so difficult to keep a secret? And how is it possible to get angry at yourself — who, exactly, is mad at whom?

Taking in brain damage, plane spotting, dating, drugs, beauty, infidelity, synesthesia, criminal law, artificial intelligence, and visual illusions, Incognito is a thrilling subsurface exploration of the mind and its contradictions.

Every chapter has multiple real-life stories to help make his points. Quite a few of them, such as the Mel Gibson story I’ve quoted from for these slides, aren’t obvious choices for a book about brain science. It makes for interesting reading.

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