Writing Tip #20: How many quotes can I use?
Professors are not stupid; that’s why they have advanced college degrees! They know the tricks of the trade, and adding long quotes to a paper to meet the word count is one of the oldest tricks.
Use as few quotes as possible. The general rule is that a paper should include less than 20 percent quoted material. That figure can vary; check with your professors.
How long can a quote be? Block quotes (of 40 or more words) may be necessary if you are writing about a poem or literature, but they are mostly frowned upon. Use them when they can be the most use. Use quotes to leave a lasting impression, not to add to a word count!
Can a paper start with a quote? Yes, a paper can begin with a quote. If the quote is an effective one, it can add a powerful message or feeling to the document. A good quote can also have a strong influence on the reader's experience, drawing the reader into the paper.
Can a paper end with a quote? Yes. Ending a paper with a quote can have the same effect on the reader. The reader will be left with the impact of that quote.
If you believe that you need to use quotes, choose ones that are pronounced and will add value to your paper. For instance, if you are writing a paper about a colorful public personality, you may want to include a particularly provocative quote made by that person that illustrates their personality. Using meaningful quotes sparingly can add worth to your writing.