I am finishing my dissertation, and my advisor was highly critical of my use of "floating quotations" or "stand-alone quotations." She directed me to a University of North Carolina webpage with advice for undergrad writers.
A floating quotation is a quotation that does not explicitly state its attribution. Here is what the UNC page says about floating quotations.
In general, avoid leaving quotes as sentences unto themselves. Even if you have provided some context for the quote, a quote standing alone can disrupt your flow. Take a look at this example:
Hamlet denies Rosencrantz’s claim that thwarted ambition caused his depression. “I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space” (Hamlet 2.2).
Standing by itself, the quote’s connection to the preceding sentence is unclear. There are several ways to incorporate a quote more smoothly.
I had never heard of this rule about floating quotations, nor had my wife, who was educated in a different part of the US. When I started looking into it, I found that the Chicago Style Guide did not mention floating quotations, nor did other mainstream style guides that I found.
However, I found several university writing webpages mention floating quotations as a problem.
In all the university writing webpages I have found, most of them suggest that the problem with floating quotations is a lack of clarity. However, the quote from the UNC page above is, to me, quite clear, there is no way to misinterpret it.
My question: are floating quotations a real problem, or is it a matter of personal preference? Is the proscription against their use universal, or is it just that some people think that this rule is good and assume that it is a universal rule?