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Quotation and Quote

Commonly Confused Words

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In formal English, quotation is a noun, quote a verb. But note the observations below.

Examples:

  • I hate quotations. Tell me what you know." (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

  • She defended her case by quoting passages from the Bible.

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."
    ("quote," 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 likely to gain ground in formal prose.
    ("quote," Bryan A. Garner, Garner's Modern American Usage, Oxford University Press, 2003)

Practice:

(a) Merdine began each of her essays with a familiar ______.

(b) When he can't think of an answer, Gus ______ from a song lyric.

Answers to Practice Exercises

Glossary of Usage: Index of Commonly Confused Words

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