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I am editing a manuscript in which the author frequently wants to change words within a fairly long quote (two sentences or more), and believes that if he does so he no longer needs to put the rest of the quote within quotation marks. I tell him he can't do that.

What is the right way, if there is one, to do this. I would rather not have to paraphrase the whole quote for him, but maybe that's the only way.

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If a word is changed or added, it's placed in brackets. ([]). However, this is typically only done to clarify, usually when context has been removed. For example, if Alice was talking about Bob and we had Alice giving a direct quote of "He said that he had sent the message", we could write it as "[Bob] said that he had sent the message." We couldn't say "[Bob] said that he had sent the [rabbit]". (Unless the message was a rabbit).

It sounds like your writer has been stretching what is allowed in changing a quote and possibly this is why he thinks he should omit the quotation marks. But either adhering to the rules of what you can change (and placing them in quotation marks) or paraphrasing are his only options that maintain the integrity of the work.

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    Bob sent the [rabbit], but Eve intercepted it as part of a classic hare-in-the middle attack...
    – papidave
    Jul 17 '17 at 0:39

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