In a paper I am quoting a block of text that contains the phrase "The author however does not believe ..." The copyeditor of my paper inserted comma before and after "however" as this is the journal's style. The comma, however, do not appear in the original source.

Should they be there in the quotation?

  • Citation advice is off-topic here sorry. Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 9:21
  • Why? This is about the usage of comma in English. Totally on-topic for me...
    – Thomas
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 9:25
  • Not really. It's about the conventions and requirements of quotations. Since you could ask the exact same question about French or German quotes, then it shows it isn't about English. You may like to consider Writing. Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 9:27
  • 1
    OK, I'm going to let this go now. I can't see why the question is not on-topic according to english.stackexchange.com/tour It's a different question when asked about German, because punctuation rules and quoting conventions are different in different languages.
    – Thomas
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 10:16
  • 7
    All style guides, in all languages, require quotes to be verbatim, and editorial insertions to be clearly marked (the common convention in English is to use [square brackets] and/or disclaimers like "emphasis mine" before or after the quoted material). Regardless of the details, however, the ethical and editorial standard is to accurately represent the person quoted and above all else to avoid putting words in anyone's mouth, and to do so consistently and in such a way that when a reader encounters quoted material, however formatted, he can trust, by default, that it's verbatim.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 11:40

1 Answer 1


There is a strictly correct answer and a practical answer.

The strictly correct answer is to leave out the commas (as @DanBron explained in his comment) and add this after the quote:

[punctuation as in original]

This follows a similar convention when your source material includes either emphasis (italic text) or misspellings.

HOWEVER, this strictly correct approach does no service for the reader, in my opinion. Just what punctuation was or is out of place in the original?

The practical answer is to add the commas as your editor recommends. It doesn't change the meaning of the quote at all, and thus does not harm to the source or its author. After the quote, you could add...

[commas added]

...to be totally honest, but what does the reader gain by this? Nothing, in my opinion.

What would you do in this case?: The source material omitted the period at the end of the first of two sentences. If this is edited material and not from some informal source like on-line chat session, then we would conclude that omission of the period was a typographical error. We would do our own readers a service by adding the period back in.

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