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I am writing an essay and it needs to be in formal language, I am referring to a letter/message and I am supposed to quote it for the readers, but before jumping right into quoting that letter, I like to make an introducing comment like, "The letter was read as follows," I know I'm confusing "is as follows" into it, but I like to have it in the same shade, just grammatical and perhaps formal.

Like, "The message was read as.."

Can someone with a better understanding of the English language and its idioms help me, please?

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Here are two common ways to write it.

The message read: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch . . . ."

Or

The message read as follows: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch . . . ."

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    reads perhaps too? – Araucaria - Not here any more. Mar 24 '15 at 16:09
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    Surprisingly, I think both read and reads are possible and acceptable. – Damkerng T. Mar 24 '15 at 16:22
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    Agreed. I was just following the OP's example with the past simple. It could also be had read, used to read, will read . . . . Past simple is most common for relating a story (narrating past events). – Jim Reynolds Mar 24 '15 at 16:28

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