Adding emphasis to a quotation
If you wish to add emphasis to a quotation, for example by italics, use the words emphasis added, my italics, or italics + your initials after the quotation:
‘Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind …’
A Universal Declaration of Human Rights (emphasis added)
To show that the emphasis was in the original quotation and not added by you, use italics in original or emphasis in the original, for example:
‘It was all very well to say “Drink me”, but the wise little Alice was not going to do that in a hurry.’
Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (emphasis in the original)
Adding a comment or clarification to a quotation
Use square brackets when you wish to add a comment or clarification within a quotation. For example in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18:
‘Shall I compare thee [you] to a summer’s day?
Thou art [you are] more lovely and more temperate.’
By convention, square brackets show that the comment or clarification was added by you and not by the original author(s).
Omitting words from a quotation
The ellipsis sign of three dots … is used to show where you have removed text from an original quotation.
For example from the American Declaration of Independence:
‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal … with certain … rights … among these … life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’
Be consistent in whether or not you add spaces before and after the ellipsis sign. Some writers use four dots where an omission spans two or more sentences.
The word sic, which means ‘so’ in Latin, is used to show that a questionable word or phrase in a quotation is correctly cited and not an error by you.
‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men [sic] are created equal.’
The manufacturers of the new wonder drug backed up their claims with
‘Noble-Prize-winning research published in the Lancelot’ (sic).
As above, square brackets are used when you add a comment within a quotation.
In university and research writing, beware of overusing etc. when giving examples – it is normally better to be specific rather than truncating ambiguously. Compare the sentences below:
Several such leaders spring to mind, Peter the Great etc.
Several such leaders spring to mind, for example Peter the Great, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi and Aung San Suu Kyi.
Several such leaders spring to mind, for example Peter the Great, Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot.