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How do I cite, in MLA format, a quote that is already in parentheses?
August 29, 2007 12:56 AM   Subscribe

How do I cite, in MLA format, a quote that is already in parentheses?

My strategy thus far has been to extricate the quote from the parentheses, but sometimes it doesn't make sense to. I've learned to live with my galloping prose style, which parenthetically points at things as they whoosh past. Google turned up nothing, and I don't have with me an MLA handbook.

Do I use nested parentheses? That seems remarkably ugly.
posted by limon to Writing & Language (10 answers total)
 
I don't understand what you mean. The parens for citation go outside the quote marks... I guess if the citation is within quotes, you could do:
blah (for example "xyz", Name 21)
That is, skip the parens around the Name 21 part. The point is to make it easy to figure out what you're referring to, not to be a stickler for symbols.
posted by Firas at 1:11 AM on August 29, 2007


Er, where I say "if the citation is within quotes" I mean "if the quotation & citation is in your own parentheses".
posted by Firas at 1:14 AM on August 29, 2007


If I'm reading you correctly, you're talking about citing a quote that is within your parentheses?

My 5th ed. handbook has this to say:

"Use square brackets around a parenthesis withing a parenthesis, so that the levels of subordination can be easily distinguished."

So your best bet would be something like this:
If Smith blah blah blah (which can be clearly seen when he says "Blah blah blah" [23]), he blah blah blah.
(I didn't know this! I usually just use dashes. But it makes sense.)
posted by SoftRain at 1:16 AM on August 29, 2007


This is also the Chicago Manual of Style's preferred method of handling "parentheses within parentheses."
posted by D.C. at 5:23 AM on August 29, 2007


Actually, shouldn't that be this monstrosity?
If Smith blah blah blah (which can be clearly seen when he says "Blah blah blah" [(23)]), he blah blah blah.
posted by smackfu at 6:39 AM on August 29, 2007


Actually, shouldn't that be this monstrosity?

No. Why would it be? There's no reason to do [(23)]. SoftRain has it right.
posted by Orinda at 7:54 AM on August 29, 2007


Seems to me that it would be easier to write

"If Smith blah blah blah (which can be seen clearly when he says, on page 23, "Blah,"), then blah."

Or even

"Smith says "Blah." (Smith 1743, 23) This means that Smith blah blah. Therefore, blah."

I've learned to live with my galloping prose style, which parenthetically points at things as they whoosh past.

Maybe life is different in lit-land, but my normal advice would be: stop living with that. You want simple, direct sentences wherever possible. Even if you can keep living with it, there's a strong chance that journal editors can't -- galloping prose adds length, and longer articles means pissing off more people who can't get in.

The first time I got something published, the editor came back with what boils down to "Cut this by a third to a half, but don't get rid of anything that matters." To my embarrassment, I could.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:16 AM on August 29, 2007


And the real answer is:

Do it however you feel like.

However you feel like is almost certainly good enough for a conference paper or seminar paper, so long as it's clear that you're giving the original author the credit.

If it's getting published, production editors will read it. If they want your citation in another form, they'll tell you. If they don't give a shit, neither should you, because you're an author and not a production editor.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:20 AM on August 29, 2007


In principle, I agree that "However you feel like is almost certainly good enough for a conference paper or seminar paper, so long as it's clear that you're giving the original author the credit."

But this:

when he says, on page 23, "Blah,"

bothers me. One of the functions of the MLA citation format (and other citation formats) is to separate the not-in-itself-meaningful apparatus for locating citations (page numbers, line numbers) from your discourse about the cited text. Unless you are trying to make a point about the fact that this quotation falls on page 23, leave the page number coralled in its own parentheses or square brackets.
posted by Orinda at 10:09 AM on August 29, 2007


I just looked up the guidelines and the in-text citation style wasn't as flexible as I'd remembered—you can skip the author name in the parens if it's clear whose work you're referencing but the page number has to go in parenthesis. (I could have sworn it wasn't that acutely specific in MLA.)
posted by Firas at 10:33 AM on August 29, 2007


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