Is there any punctuation--obviously not standard--for when you rearrange a quotation? It would be similar to an ellipsis, but indicate movement rather than elision.

For example, you are given the following line:

If one yields to it one's character narrows and cheapens.

The structure of your writing, though, favors "It 'narrows and cheapens' 'one's character.'" This, though, hideously places two quotation marks next to each other. Of course, you could change your sentence to fit the original order but this is not always easy. Has anyone ever introduced a punctuation mark that would go between the two segments?

As an example of what I mean, I hypothesize a symbol:

It "narrows and cheapens <> one's character,"

where <> is my substitute for what I seek.

Please do not tell me how to use quotations. I do not need an education on how to get around this need. I am only curious if there is such a symbol.


2 Answers 2


Such a symbol doesn't exist, because it isn't necessary. Other ways have been found of re-arranging a quotation to preserve its intent. Contrast this with the necessity of inventing the ellipsis to indicate omission (something has to mark the space), or the asterisk or dagger for footnotes (to direct attention there).

For those who find this question and who are not as certain about how to indicate such a quotation without a symbol, I'll leave the rest of the original answer...

If you are not quoting what was said, don't use quotation marks. Simply report the speech:

He said that it narrows and cheapens one's character.

If you need quotation marks, then provided that you are not altering the substance of what was said, many publications will simply report a quote:

He said, "it narrows and cheapens one's character."

What you could also do, to satisfy a need to quote what was actually said and not misquote at all, is to quote the most important part of what was said; make sure that the salient point is marked:

He said that it "narrows and cheapens" one's character.

Because this last satisfies the need for a quote and absolute accuracy in what is quoted, it's probably to be preferred, and this sort of very restricted quote is widely found.

There is certainly no need to quote re-arranged parts of a sentence, nor to invent a special symbol.

Afterthought: Another way would be to use the reported-speech method of the first example with a footnote quoting the actual utterance.

  • 1
    +1. As an addition, just to note that sometimes people ues square brackets to clarify words in quotes whose context is missing, e.g. If one yields to [alcoholism] one's character narrows and cheapens. Generally though OP, it wouldn't be used to change the order of a quote, as then you're paraphrasing more than quoting. Commented Dec 19, 2013 at 23:50
  • Like the third choice best - the most important part of the quote is the "narrows and cheapens" part... you could just as easily say it "narrows and cheapens" a person's character - that end bit is easily changeable to still mean the same thing, while "narrows and cheapens" is quite specific
    – MJ6
    Commented Dec 20, 2013 at 1:19
  • Thank you for your efforts but my question was not how to quote the line above. I do not need an education in using quotations or in how to get around the rearrangement. My question was whether such a symbol existed. Also, your first example is plagiarism.
    – Unrelated
    Commented Dec 20, 2013 at 7:27
  • @Unrelated You want corroboration for an incorrect assertion (that some symbol is necessary). It isn't necessary, so it doesn't exist. Perhaps I'll add that to the answer. I don't understand how reported speech is plagiarism, I'm afraid.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Dec 20, 2013 at 7:35
  • @Unrelated if someone attributes the phrase to another "he said" then I don't think you can accuse someone of plagiarism, you are merely rephrasing the person's thoughts. This is my gut reaction, but it makes sense to me.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Dec 20, 2013 at 8:00

You could use

It "narrows and cheapens"'one's character'.
Hmm. I see what you mean. In an NYTimes article, quotation marks that are together (but all encompass one sentence, like, "He said that 'He said that "He said this" ' ") used spaces between the quotation marks, here: https://i.sstatic.net/euoSV.jpg. But other than that, no character has been made.

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