MLA Formatting Quotations
MLA (Modern Language Association) style is most commonly used to write papers and cite sources within the liberal arts and humanities. This resource, updated to reflect the MLA Handbook (8th ed.), offers examples for the general format of MLA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the Works Cited page.
Contributors: Tony Russell, Allen Brizee, Elizabeth Angeli, Russell Keck, Joshua M. Paiz, Michelle Campbell, Rodrigo Rodríguez-Fuentes, Daniel P. Kenzie, Susan Wegener, Maryam Ghafoor, Purdue OWL Staff
Last Edited: 2018-01-06 01:54:24
When you directly quote the works of others in your paper, you will format quotations differently depending on their length. Below are some basic guidelines for incorporating quotations into your paper. Please note that all pages in MLA should be double-spaced.
To indicate short quotations (four typed lines or fewer of prose or three lines of verse) in your text, enclose the quotation within double quotation marks. Provide the author and specific page citation (in the case of verse, provide line numbers) in the text, and include a complete reference on the Works Cited page. Punctuation marks such as periods, commas, and semicolons should appear after the parenthetical citation. Question marks and exclamation points should appear within the quotation marks if they are a part of the quoted passage but after the parenthetical citation if they are a part of your text.
For example, when quoting short passages of prose, use the following examples:
According to some, dreams express "profound aspects of personality" (Foulkes 184), though others disagree.
According to Foulkes's study, dreams may express "profound aspects of personality" (184).
Is it possible that dreams may express "profound aspects of personality" (Foulkes 184)?
When short (fewer than three lines of verse) quotations from poetry, mark breaks in short quotations of verse with a slash, ( / ), at the end of each line of verse (a space should precede and follow the slash).
Cullen concludes, "Of all the things that happened there / That's all I remember" (11-12).
For quotations that are more than four lines of prose or three lines of verse, place quotations in a free-standing block of text and omit quotation marks. Start the quotation on a new line, with the entire quote indented ½ inch from the left margin; maintain double-spacing. Only indent the first line of the quotation by an additional quarter inch if you are citing multiple paragraphs. Your parenthetical citation should come after the closing punctuation mark. When quoting verse, maintain original line breaks. (You should maintain double-spacing throughout your essay.)
For example, when citing more than four lines of prose, use the following examples:
Nelly Dean treats Heathcliff poorly and dehumanizes him throughout her narration:
They entirely refused to have it in bed with them, or even in their room, and I had no more sense, so, I put it on the landing of the stairs, hoping it would be gone on the morrow. By chance, or else attracted by hearing his voice, it crept to Mr. Earnshaw's door, and there he found it on quitting his chamber. Inquiries were made as to how it got there; I was obliged to confess, and in recompense for my cowardice and inhumanity was sent out of the house. (Bronte 78)
When citing long sections (more than three lines) of poetry, keep formatting as close to the original as possible.
In his poem "My Papa's Waltz," Theodore Roethke explores his childhood with his father:
The whiskey on your breath
Could make a small boy dizzy;
But I hung on like death:
Such waltzing was not easy.
We Romped until the pans
Slid from the kitchen shelf;
My mother's countenance
Could not unfrown itself. (qtd. in Shrodes, Finestone, Shugrue 202)
When citing two or more paragraphs, use block quotation format, even if the passage from the paragraphs is less than four lines. Indent the first line of each quoted paragraph an extra quarter inch.
In "American Origins of the Writing-across-the-Curriculum Movement," David Russell argues,
Writing has been an issue in American secondary and higher education since papers and examinations came into wide use in the 1870s, eventually driving out formal recitation and oral examination. . . .
From its birth in the late nineteenth century, progressive education has wrestled with the conflict within industrial society between pressure to increase specialization of knowledge and of professional work (upholding disciplinary standards) and pressure to integrate more fully an ever-widerning number of citizens into intellectually meaningful activity within mass society (promoting social equity). . . . (3)
Adding or omitting words in quotations
If you add a word or words in a quotation, you should put brackets around the words to indicate that they are not part of the original text.
Jan Harold Brunvand, in an essay on urban legends, states, "some individuals [who retell urban legends] make a point of learning every rumor or tale" (78).
If you omit a word or words from a quotation, you should indicate the deleted word or words by using ellipsis marks, which are three periods ( . . . ) preceded and followed by a space. For example:
In an essay on urban legends, Jan Harold Brunvand notes that "some individuals make a point of learning every recent rumor or tale . . . and in a short time a lively exchange of details occurs" (78).
Please note that brackets are not needed around ellipses unless adding brackets would clarify your use of ellipses.
When omitting words from poetry quotations, use a standard three-period ellipses; however, when omitting one or more full lines of poetry, space several periods to about the length of a complete line in the poem:
These beauteous forms,
Through a long absence, have not been to me
As is a landscape to a blind man's eye:
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart;
And passing even into my purer mind,
With tranquil restoration . . . (22-24, 28-30)
There are three main ways to uses sources in your research paper. You may quote. You may paraphrase. Or you may summarize. All three require an in-text (parenthetical) citation!
You CANNOT use information from any website or published book unless you give the author (or site) credit--BOTH inside your text and at the end of your paper. In other words, it is NOT enough to simply list the sources you used on a Works Cited Page or References List.
As your instructor reads your essay, he or she should clearly be able to see which sentences, facts, or sections of your essay came from Source A, Source B, or Source C, etc. by looking at your in-text citations.
You can give credit to your sources within your text in two different ways: by using a signal phrase or by simply using an in-text citation.
Signal phrase: a signal phrase lets the reader know, right at the beginning of the sentence, that the information he or she is about to read comes from another source.
Example: Your paper might say something like....According to John Smith (2006), author of Pocahontas Is My Love, "Native American women value a deep spiritual connection to the environment."
Notice that since I took a direct quote from John Smith's book, I placed those words in quotation marks. Notice also that I placed the date that the book was published directly after the author's name in parentheses--this is proper APA format. Finally, notice that because I explained WHO wrote the book and WHAT book it comes from, the reader is easily able not only to find the source on his/her own to check my facts, but the reader is also more likely to believe what I have to say now that they know that my information comes from a credible source.
For Web Sources: If I was using a particular website (instead of John Smith's book), the signal phrase would look exactly the same, but I would say "According to Pocahontasrules.com..."
In-Text Citation: Use an in-text citation in situations where you are not quoting someone directly, but rather using information from another source such as a fact, summary, or paraphrase to support your own ideas.
Example: She stated, "Students often had difficulty using APA style," but she did not offer an explanation (Jones, 1998, p. 199).
Notice that it's clear within this sentence that I'm referring to a certain person's beliefs, but since this person's name does not appear at the beginning of the sentence, I have placed her name, the year that her article was published, and the page number where I retrieved this information in parentheses at the end of the sentence.
Information on how to format an in-text citation
Summarize an article or a larger section of an article whenever you simply want to present the author's general ideas in your essay.
How to Write an Effective Summary: Cover up the original article, it is key that you not quote from the original work. Restate what you've read in your own words, and be sure to give the author credit using an in-text citation.
Example: Congressman Joe Smith (2009) believes that our approach to reforming the healthcare system is backwards and costly. He discusses our rising national debt in "Healthcare: Let's Talk" and lists several statistics to prove that Obama's new plan will only make things worse.
Summaries are most often used to condense larger texts into more manageable chucks. However, as a writer you should be aware that this more manageable chunks and easily become vague and weigh your paper down with fluff.
Paraphrase your sources whenever you believe that you can make the information from a source shorter and/or clearer for your audience. A paraphrase is NOT an exact copy of the original, simply changing a few words here and there is NOT acceptable.
Take a look at these examples:
The original passage from The Confident Student (6th ed.): “Whatever your age, health and well-being can affect your ability to do well in college. If you don’t eat sensibly, stay physically fit, manage your stress, and avoid harmful substances, then your health and your grades will suffer” (Kanar 158).
A legitimate paraphrase: No matter what condition your body is in, you can pretty much guarantee that poor health habits will lead to a lack of academic success. Students need to take time for their physical and emotional well-being, as well as their studies, during college (Kanar 158).
A plagiarized version: No matter how old you are, your well-being and your health can impact your ability to do a good job at school. If you choose not to eat well, exercise, deal with stress, and avoid getting drunk, then your grades will go down (Kanar 158).
Because the art of paraphrasing is more concise than summarizing, a true paraphrase shows that you as a researcher completely understand the source work.
Quoting your sources
If you need help incorporating your sources into your essay, the first thing you'll need to remember is that quotes cannot stand alone--they can't be placed in a sentence all by themselves. You need to make each quote a part of your essay by introducing it beforehand and commenting on it afterward.
Think of each quote like a sandwich—the quote is the meat on the inside, but before you taste the meat, you must also be introduced to the sandwich by the bread. After you bite down on that meat, you need the other piece of bread to round out the meal.
The top piece of bread will tell us where the quote came from and/or how it fits in with what’s already been discussed in the essay. The bottom piece of bread points out what was important about the quote and elaborates on what was being said.
How do I use partial quotations to liven up my writing?
Be sure to introduce the author from the source work within the sentence itself and use quotation marks. No comma is necessary to introduce the quoted phrase.
Margaret Reardon points out that today's economy cars are "better equipped" to handle accidents than the smaller cars of the past.
What are block quotations and how are they handled?
Block, or indent, quotations longer than four lines of type. When a quotation is indented, the use of quotation marks is not necessary, and the page number is included outside the ending punctuation.
Like many people who enjoy a leisurely pace of living with such attendant activities as reading, painting, or gardening, I often long for a simpler time, a time when families amused themselves by telling stories after supper, as opposed to watching Baghdad get bombed. (1)
Block quotes are indented by one inch, and should be used sparingly.
How do I punctuate shorter quotations?
For a quotation shorter than four lines, quotation marks are used and the page numbers fall inside the ending punctuation.
According to DR. Shannon Marcus: "Many of our student's personal decisions will have the inherent dangers of instant gratification, and so will their political decisions," (548).
Do I use a comma or a colon to introduce a quotation?
A quotation is usually introduced by a comma or a colon. A colon precedes when a quotation is formally introduced or when the quotation itself is a complete sentence, but either no punctuation or a comma generally precedes when the quotation serves as an integral part of the sentence.
Shelley argued thus: "Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world."
She thought poets "the unacknowledged legislators of the world."
"Poets," according to Shelley, "are the unacknowledged legislators of the world."
Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" concludes: "A sadder and a wiser man, / He rose the morrow morn."
How do I correctly change a quotation to suit my purpose, such as to identify a pronoun?
Often, a quotation you wish to use includes a pronoun instead of a name. Since you must copy the quotation verbatim, you should insert the name after the pronoun to clarify who you are talking about. Use brackets (not parenthesis).
Example: "He [Clapton] got the chills when he listened to that material recently."
What if my quotation contains a mistake?
Additionally, if your source makes a “mistak”, you copy the mistake because direct quotations are copied verbatim. However, you indicate that the mistake is not yours by using [sic], which means "thus" and tells the reader that the error appears in the original.
The professor stressed that "if your source makes a mistak [sic], you should copy the mistake because direct quotations are copied verbatim."
If quotations are verbatim, how do I leave something out of a quotation that I do not need?
Use ellipsis marks if you wish to leave something out of the middle of a quotation (perhaps it is not needed or will make your quotation too long).
She states that
many of our students' personal decisions will have the inherent dangers of instant gratification, and so will their political decisions. Virtual reality will make it possible for them to program themselves into scenarios we now merely fantasize about. As a result, imagination itself will require a new definition. (1)
Quoted with ellipses:
She states that
many of our students' personal decisions will have the inherent dangers of instant gratification, and so will their political decisions. . . . As a result, imagination itself will require a new definition. (1)
Note 1: There are only three ellipses marks used in this sentence. A period also appears, indicating that one sentence ended before the word "As." If you had only left out a few words in mid-sentence, then you would not need a period.
Note 2: Do not change the meaning of the quotation when you leave out part of it!
Note 3: Notice that now that information has been removed from the middle of the quotation, it is only three lines long. It should no longer be indented.
Use ellipsis marks ( . . . ) at the beginning and end of quotations only if necessary. It is not always necessary to do so, and too many will damage the flow of your essay. Use them sparingly.
If my source quotes somebody else, how do I indicate this?
When you have a quotation within a quotation, handle it this way:
Indented original (article by David Fricke appearing in Rolling Stone):
Clapton [Eric] got the chills when he listened to that material recently. It was the first time he had done so in over fifteen years. "It got too much for me," he says. "Old memories started coming back; old issues raised their head. I think of the people in that band and what happened to them." (qtd. in Fricke 26)
Notice that this quotation is indented because it is longer than four lines. Therefore, no quotation marks are used at the beginning or the end. The quotation marks that appear at the end are the result of needing quotation marks around Clapton's remark, not because the entire paragraph is a quotation. Notice also that the first line is indented an additional five spaces. That's because it's the first sentence in the paragraph in the original. If you begin a quotation in mid-paragraph, there is no indention.
Clapton's name does not appear on your Works Cited page as he is not your source. Fricke is the source. Therefore, Fricke's name should appear. Since Clapton is speaking, however, use "qtd. in" (quoted in) for clarification.