Guide to Quotations and In-Text Citations (mla)

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A Quick Guide to Quotations

Long Quotations
A long quotation is defined as more than four lines of prose and more than three lines of poetry.

For long quotations, often referred to as block quotes, follow these guidelines:

  • First of all, make sure you have a good reason to use a long quote.

  • Introduce and attribute the information provided in the quote as you would for a short quotation.

  • Instead of quotation marks, indicate the quotation by setting it off in its own block of text by indenting each line ½ inch.

  • Maintain double-spacing throughout your essay.

  • Add the parenthetical citation after the closing punctuation (not inside the mark as with shorter quotations).

A quotation of prose longer than four lines looks like this:

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)

A quotation of more than three lines of poetry looks like this:

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)5

1 Please note: If you named the author leading up to your quote, you do not have to include the author’s name in the parenthetical citation—e.g. Whitman attests to the plurality of the American identity and to his own role in expressing that diversity when he writes in Leaves of Grass “I contain multitudes” (130).

2 Please note: If the quotation includes a question mark or an exclamation point, put the punctuation inside the quotation marks; do not include an extra period after the parenthetical—e.g. Thompson wonders, “Am I really here?” (78)

3 Drama can be written in either poetry or prose and so can be quoted as such. However, plays are usually broken down into acts and scenes, which need to be indicated in the parenthetical citation as act, scene, lines—e.g. (2.2.130-5).

4 Notice the use of the brackets, [ ]. The original line is “sing myself,” but that wouldn’t make sense in the grammar of the sentence; you are allowed to change verb tense, pronouns, or number (singular/plural) to make a quote fit into your sentence, but you have to indicate that you’ve made a change. To do this, bracket any changes as follows: “I” could become “[me]”; “goes” could become “[went]” and so on. You can also use brackets to denote an elision: “Four score and seven years ago, our forefathers brought forth […] a new nation” (Lincoln 1).

5 Notice that this example also shows how to quote a quote. In this case, the poem by Roethke was quoted in someone else’s book; so, the author of the essay had to indicate the their access to Roethke’s poem came through the book by Shrodes, Finestone, Shugrue.

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