I am using a block quote in my manuscript. The sentence starts off something like this:

Our approach provides a general procedure to deal with this problem by using...

The block quote is a bit long and I'd rather cut it down to:

Our approach [...] uses...

but now I've changed the tense of using to uses. Is this appropriate? Do I need to make this clear, as in us[es]? That looks really bad.

What is the preferred way to deal with a change in verb tense created by the use of ellipsis?

1 Answer 1


Yes, the formally correct way to indicate that you have changed a direct quotation is by using brackets, but I would use them around the whole word you changed, like so:

"Our approach ... [uses] blah blah blah."

As StoneyB points out in the comments below, some styles prefer you to put the "..." in brackets as well, so it's clear that they weren't part of the original quotation. This does not appear to be universal, but should be equally acceptable.

"Our approach [... uses] blah blah blah."

  • Yes; but the ellipsis points should be within the brackets, too. Nov 27, 2012 at 2:15
  • 1
    @StoneyB - I've not seen it that way, and it contradicts guidance given in various sources, like this one.
    – Lynn
    Nov 27, 2012 at 6:27
  • This is I think drawn from an old MLA Style Manual. I don't have it to hand at the moment, but I'm pretty sure the 3d edition requires you to bracket your ellipsis points so it doesn't appear that they appeared in your original. I remember thinking, when I saw that, how obvious it was! Nov 27, 2012 at 8:20
  • @StoneyB: That does make total sense. Though if Wikipedia is to be believed, the recommendation flipped the other way around: "Currently, the MLA has removed the requirement of brackets in its style handbooks. However, some maintain that the use of brackets is still correct because it clears confusion."
    – Lynn
    Nov 27, 2012 at 16:23
  • @StoneyB: At any rate, I have incorporated your suggestion into the answer, as I think it's a good addition.
    – Lynn
    Nov 27, 2012 at 16:25

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