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I'm writing a teaching statement and want to include quotes from student evaluations. How much can/should I edit these (for grammar)?

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In general, quotes should always be edited as little as possible.

The only changes you should make are:

  • Truncations to remove sections of quotes that aren't relevant for your purposes.
  • Edits to fit the grammatical structure of the existing sentence.
  • Correcting small errors in the original text.

However, any changes to the quotation must be clearly indicated. Truncations should be marked with an ellipsis (" . . . "), while all other changes should be indicated using square brackets.

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    Got it. So, I should act like a reporter. – David Hill Sep 25 '14 at 21:04
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    what if a word is misspelled? – David Hill Sep 25 '14 at 21:06
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    @DavidHill it depends what is the intended purpose. If it is just an internal document, I would say no one will mind that you silently fix typos. – Davidmh Sep 25 '14 at 21:32
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    @Davidmh: Especially if you're transcribing from handwritten comments! – aeismail Sep 25 '14 at 21:39
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    @David You can always use (sic) if you don't want people to think that you can't spell en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sic – Jeromy Anglim Sep 26 '14 at 6:35
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A quotation is, by definition, explicitly what someone else said or wrote. If you modify a quotation so that it's no longer what someone else said or wrote then you are deceiving your audience. On this basis you should edit as little as possible and if you do need to edit you should make it clear to your audience.

It is reasonable to truncate if it does not change the sense of the quote. If you omit parts in the middle of a quote you should indicate this with ellipses '...'.

It's okay to correct minor spelling errors if they're not relevant to the quote.

You can add in a missing word, but it's usually best to indicate where you've done so, if the student said "the lecturer overpaid fool" you could quote as "the lecturer is an overpaid fool" but it would be preferable to quote as "the lecturer [is an] overpaid fool" so it is clear you have edited the quote.

You can add context but should indicate where you've done so, for example if asked the question "Did you like the lecturer?" the answer you're quoting is "He is an overpaid fool" you could quote it as "He [the lecturer] is an overpaid fool" or "[The lecturer] is an overpaid fool".

You can also add emphasis but you should indicate where you've done so. For example: "I'm writing a teaching statement and want to include quotes from student evaluations. How much can/should I edit these (for grammar)?" (emphasis mine).

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