I am currently writing my English coursework to hand in tomorrow and would very much appreciate some quick help. I would like to know whether I should insert commas into a quotation to make it read better. Here is the quote:

Don’t Spy On Us is targeting UK based mass surveillance and wants to “let judges not the Home Secretary decide when spying is justified”.

Here is how I would change it:

Don’t Spy On Us is targeting UK based mass surveillance and wants “to let judges, not the Home Secretary, decide when spying is justified”.

Is this grammatically correct and if so, should I be adding commas or just remove the quotation marks and keep the commas?

Thank you in advance

  • Are there commas in the text that you are quoting? Surely that is the criterion. – Chenmunka Mar 16 '16 at 15:02
  • No there were not, hence the reason for my query. I think now it has been resolved though. – useruser Mar 16 '16 at 15:19
  • I'd say adding commas here does not distort but does improve the quoted passage; I'd just add [tidied] after the quote to prompt readers to check accuracy for themselves. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 16 '16 at 15:46
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because there is no attribution/link for the quote asked about; the source I've eventually found includes the commas (but omits the parallel 'to'). – Edwin Ashworth Mar 16 '16 at 20:49
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    @Edwin Ashworth I wasn't trying to imply that the edits made the quote good. I was just trying to fix the problems you objected to in the question. Nor was I advocating adding bracketed commas. I was trying to let the OP know about the accepted use of edited quotations. That you should neither leave an improperly written quote unacknowledged, nor secretly edit it for readability. – InternetHobo Mar 17 '16 at 17:03

No. Do not ever, ever change the quotation, if you can help it, in terms of spelling, punctuation, capitalisation or anything else. Or if you really must (for clarity), show and say how and why you have done so.

Otherwise you would be distorting evidence. In your example, obviously, you are aiming for clarity. The point, however, is that you can alter the meaning of something that you present as someone else's statement, because you are only mentioning it to recruit authority.

In the end, though, it's up to you.

But while you're here... What is this thing called, Love?


To quote from this page

Sic is a Latin term meaning “thus.” It is used to indicate that something incorrectly written is intentionally being left as it was in the original. Sic is usually italicized and always surrounded by brackets to indicate that it was not part of the original. Place [sic] right after the error.

Example: She wrote, “They made there [sic] beds.”

Note: The correct sentence should have been, “They made their beds.”

Why use [sic] at all? Why not just make the correction? If you are quoting material, it is generally expected that you will transcribe it exactly as it appeared in the original.

The emphasis is my own.

  • I don't see how using [sic] to flag a missing comma is going to improve clarity. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 16 '16 at 15:43
  • I was trying to structure my answer for the situation in general as I didn't have a reference to the original source the OP used. – InternetHobo Mar 17 '16 at 17:07
  • The general situation has been addressed before on ELU. It's only the 'alter punctuation?' question that makes this acceptable. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 17 '16 at 17:15
  • Alright, I'm new to this site and I wasn't aware of that. – InternetHobo Mar 17 '16 at 17:18

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