3

Suppose that Mr. X writes a book that says the following:

In his essay on biscuits, Mr. Y says "the crux . . . is the apostrophe" which goes to show that you can't trust everything you hear.

Suppose now that I wish to write an essay of my own, and that I wish to embed thecited excerpt from Mr. X's book as an inline quotation in the essay. My essay would then look something like this:

Via his publications on philanthropic metaphysics, Mr. X has been foundational in the development of modern anthrophysiology. As Mr. X writes in his book Something Fishy, "In his essay on biscuits, Mr. Y says "the crux . . . is the apostrophe" which goes to show that you can't trust everything you hear" (Mr. X, 2015). This book Something Fishy, in particular, has been very well received by the academic and philanthropic communities.

Note that the ellipsis in my essay will not be due to an omission of my own! It will be due to an omission made my Mr. X in his quotation of Mr. Y.

Here is my question: should I make some special note or mark in my essay so as to indicate that the ellipsis in my quotation is not due to an omission by my self?

  • 1
    Arguably your problem is further compounded by the fact that Mr Frank Z's "original" version had no ellipsis in the first place, so we have to suppose your Mr X had some subtle reason for introducing one (or perhaps he was just quoting Mr Y verbatim, and Mr Y had the subtle reason! :). But it doesn't really make any difference to your reader, since in the "real world" there is no missing text. – FumbleFingers Mar 7 '15 at 2:13
  • @FumbleFingers I think I'll edit my post avoid such confounding. Thanks for pointing that out! – Jasha Mar 7 '15 at 2:17
  • Aw - just when I was thinking how clever it was you chose Mssrs X and Y to follow Mr Z! – FumbleFingers Mar 7 '15 at 2:18
  • You could say something like this: Mr. Y says, in full, "the crux of the biscuit . . . is the apostrophe," but this would be hard to knit into a quote of a quote. I suppose the best course of action would be to use a footnote to indicate that this is a complete quote. – Adam Katz Mar 7 '15 at 2:19
  • 1
    Yes, it's the least you can do. Mr. X made a mistake using "..." in a direct quote, since a direct quote purports to give the actual words that were said. Apparently, Mr. X is not even trying to do that. You don't want to be party to such a distortion, so if you must quote Mr. X when he makes this error, you would want to dissociate yourself from it. – Greg Lee Mar 7 '15 at 2:38
3

To indicate that the ellipsis occurred in Mr. X's version of the text, you can make that fact explicit in the parenthetical note where you identify the source of the quotation. This is consistent with the treatment endorsed by Chicago Manual of Style, fifteenth edition (2003):

11.70 Italics added. An author wishing to call particular attention to a word or phrase in quoted material may italicize it but must tell readers what has been done by means of such formulas as "italics mine," "italics added," "emphasis added," or "emphasis mine." This information appears either in parentheses following the quotation or in a source not to the equation. ...

Occasionally it may be important to point out that italics in a quotation were indeed in the original. Here the usual phrase is "italics in the original" or, for example, "De Quincey's italics."

Instead of italics in a quoted block of text, you're dealing with ellipsis in such a block, but the situation calls for similar handling. In identifying the source of the ellipsis in your quotation, you can't simply say "ellipsis in original" because the reader might stumble over the issue of whether you mean X's original or Y's original. Hence, "X's ellipsis" may be the simplest and clearest explanatory wording to use. That yields this form of your paragraph:

Via his publications on philanthropic metaphysics, Mr. X has been foundational in the development of modern anthrophysiology. As Mr. X writes in his book Something Fishy, "In his essay on biscuits, Mr. Y says 'the crux . . . is the apostrophe' which goes to show that you can't trust everything you hear" (Mr. X, 2015; X's ellipsis). This book Something Fishy, in particular, has been very well received by the academic and philanthropic communities.

You'll notice that I also altered the embedded quotation marks from double quotation marks to single quotation marks in order to avoid clashing double quotation marks. If you are using standard U.S. style conventions, the embedded quotation marks should be single, and the surrounding quotation marks double; in standard UK style, I believe, the positions are reversed.

Ultimately we're discussing an arbitrary approach to styling a complicated quotation, and various alternative approaches are undoubtedly possible. The important point, as Chicago emphasizes, is not to distract readers with multiple approaches within a single book or essay: "Consistency in usage throughout a work is essential."

  • 1
    This approach is probably best, but I can't help feeling you could get away with [sic] after the ellipsis within the cited text (I might even go for [ellipsis sic], even though I doubt anyone would consider that "standard"). – FumbleFingers Mar 7 '15 at 13:07

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.