Grammar/usage: continuing a sentence properly after a quotation
September 24, 2016 3:08 PM   Subscribe

Here is my problem sentence: “It’s a difficult thing. You almost feel guilty” that you can’t do more, said member Joey Coco of Baton Rouge, a leader in the Louisiana recovery.

My question: Is the writer allowed this kind of construction, continuing the sentence with "that you can't do more"? "You"!? ... It would be convenient if the actual quote ended after "more," but it doesn't. I am copyediting this and wonder on what grounds I should ask the author to rewrite it.
posted by noelpratt2nd to Writing & Language (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
The author probably shouldn't add their own ending to a partial sentence from a quote. It ends up awkward. They could switch the order, something like: '... wish they could do more. “It’s a difficult thing. You almost feel guilty.”'
posted by ethand at 3:17 PM on September 24, 2016


Would this be better?
“It’s a difficult thing. You almost feel guilty [that you can’t do more]," said member Joey Coco of Baton Rouge, a leader in the Louisiana recovery.
This takes care of the grammatical/orthographic problem of who the author is attributing that "you" to, but it doesn't take care of the mind-reading problem if the worry is that your author might be adding too much of their own interpretation into the quote.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:17 PM on September 24, 2016 [8 favorites]


Why isn't it just: "It's a difficult thing. You almost feel guilty [that you can't do more]," said member Joey Coco? Isn't this what square brackets are for?
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:17 PM on September 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


“It’s a difficult thing. You almost feel guilty” that you can’t do more
Why is "that you can't do more" appended here outside of the quote? Was it a part of a quote that was shortened or a clarification of the sentence inserted by the writer? if it's the former,

"It's a difficult thing. You almost feel guilty [. . . ] that you can't do more,"

If it's the latter:
"It's a difficult thing. You almost feel guilty [that you can't do more],"

, said member Joey Coco of Baton Rouge, a leader in the Louisiana recovery.
This also reads strangely - member of what? I'd strike member in this context.
posted by Karaage at 3:18 PM on September 24, 2016


It's not the worst thing ever, but it's awkward, so a lot of stylebooks would say that it's preferable to paraphrase than to use a partial quotation. One solution: Joey Coco of Baton Rouge expressed a wish that he could do more, saying "It's a difficult thing. You almost feel guilty."
posted by Miko at 3:18 PM on September 24, 2016 [12 favorites]


What about using brackets and putting [that you can't do more] within the quote?
posted by Sweetie Darling at 3:18 PM on September 24, 2016


So the quote ends after thing? This I think:

"It’s a difficult thing. You almost feel guilty (that you can’t do more)”
posted by Laura_J at 3:18 PM on September 24, 2016


Parenthesis implies that it's a thing the quoted person actually said, albeit parenthetically. Square brackets indicate that the writer is adding words or altering to add context.

It is, of course, incumbent on the author to ensure they are really representing the original statement accurately; this would be horribly misleading if what Coco really said was "You almost feel guilty, but then you realize you've wasted enough time here and wish you had never gotten involved."
posted by zachlipton at 3:33 PM on September 24, 2016 [1 favorite]




Member Joey Coco of Baton Rouge, a leader in the Louisiana recovery, comments on the fact that so little can be done with these words: “It’s a difficult thing. You almost feel guilty.”
posted by Namlit at 3:47 PM on September 24, 2016


Okay, thanks. I so seldom see this kind of thing that I hardly knew where to look for a rule. It seems the brackets can be used to insert more than obvious correction of errors, then. Ha -- I myself edited the piece cited by you, b33j. But this is a news abbreviation for a less voluminous release. I need to say something to the writer, so I now feel more equipped grammatically (and politically).
posted by noelpratt2nd at 3:55 PM on September 24, 2016


So the whole context from that article is:
Coco’s home was not damaged – “On a scale of 1 to 10, after you pull somebody into a boat from the front door of their house on a Sunday morning, you come home and realize you’re a 400,” he said. He has been helping friends and family tear out sheetrock from their homes, and plans to up his advocacy work even more to make Baton Rouge more resilient.

“It’s a difficult thing. You almost feel guilty,” Coco said. “As an engineer, you kind of wrestle with that dilemma of ‘What is the best use of my time?’

“My biggest regret of the whole thing was not screaming louder. I realize that made an impact, but I still choke up about whether I did enough.”
... Which means, to me, that your writer isn't justified in their paraphrase. They're making a leap. It's just not clear enough what exactly he feels almost-guilty about. Given the context it sounds more like he feels almost-guilty that his house wasn't damaged, or maybe thinking about whether he could have warned people earlier. I mean, their paraphrase isn't off-the-wall, but there's still too much interpretation there for my taste.

So I wouldn't use brackets -- they're only okay if the paraphrase is accurate to what he intended, and we just don't know. I'd ask them to change the sentence instead.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:10 PM on September 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


I hardly knew where to look for a rule.

The phrase to search under is "partial quotation."
posted by Miko at 4:53 PM on September 25, 2016


« Older How can an introvert psych herself up to do...   |   What is the difference between "loner" and "keeps... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.