Generally, writers should not change the wording in quotations, but quotations that lack context or that include a gratuitous word or phrase should be repaired, as shown in the following examples.
1. “Without those tools, she said, ‘It’s as if years ago we had given them a pencil to write the essay and took away the eraser.’”
When a partial paraphrase is inserted before a quotation to provide clarity or additional information, lowercase the first letter of the first word of the quotation even if it was originally a complete sentence: “Without those tools, she said, ‘it’s as if years ago we had given them a pencil to write the essay and took away the eraser.’”
2. “It [the fire] was both a setback and a great relief,” he later remarked.
Avoid introducing a bracketed noun or noun phrase to specify what an ambiguous pronoun refers to in a quote. Instead, use the noun or noun phrase in a paraphrase and omit the pronoun from the partial quotation that follows: “The fire, he later remarked, ‘was both a setback and a great relief.’”
3. “I think it’s important to recognize that this issue is not a, quote, distraction,” she added.
Omit, without comment, a speaker’s or writer’s use of the word quote (or the phrase “quote, unquote”) to signal emphasis or skeptical or ironic usage; simply frame the emphasized word or phrase in single quotation marks: “‘I think it’s important to recognize that this issue is not a “distraction,”’ she added.”