How to Format a Quote in APA Formatting

Any time you borrow someone else's words or ideas, you must give the person credit. When using the 6th edition of the American Psychological Association (APA) stylebook, short quotes are incorporated into the text, enclosed by quotation marks. Long quotes are indented into a block quotation, without quotation marks.

Use a signal phrase to alert your reader that a quote from another source will follow. For example, if the author's last name is Williams, your signal phrase might be, “According to Williams” or “Williams said” followed by the quote. The reader can then turn to your References page -- the last page of an APA paper, which contains the sources you used -- and scan the page for the name “Williams” to read the full citation.

Pair your signal phrase with two other key pieces of information: the year the quote was published as well as the page number, if any. Place the year in parentheses immediately after the author's name, then place the page number, preceded by “p,” for page, in parentheses immediately after the quote. A full signal phrase would look like this: According to Williams (2012), “Students usually relax about learning APA style when they realize they do not have to commit every rule to memory” (p. 217). Treat online sources the same way, when possible. If there isn't a page number, you can use paragraph numbers, preceded by "para." The URL will appear on your References page.

Incorporate short quotations within the body of your text. APA defines short quotations as those under 40 words. A short quote within the body of an APA paper might look like this: Williams (2012) found that “students who initially feared APA style like a teenage slasher movie eventually found it very straightforward and logical” (p. 222).

Set off long quotations in a freestanding block of text. APA defines long quotations as 40 words or longer. Do this by writing a signal phrase, with the author name and date of publication in parentheses, indented 1/2-inch from the left margin. End this phrase with a colon. Begin the quote on the next line, indenting this line and all subsequent lines of the quote 1 inch from the left margin. Include a period after the last word of the quote, then place the page number, preceded by “p,” in parentheses after the period. The quote should not be enclosed in quotation marks.

Use ellipses, or three little dots, when you need to inform the reader that you have cut out some of the quoted material in the middle of a sentence. For example: As Williams (2012) said, "I have learned is important to cite things correctly" (p.216). When you have left out some words at the end of a sentence, use three little dots followed by a period, for a total of four dots, as follows: "As Williams (2012) pointed out, "Formatting is important because it helps the text flow...." (p.217).

Place “sic” in parentheses following a word that you are quoting verbatim that has been misspelled to communicate to the reader that the mistake was the author's and not yours. An example would look like this: Williams said, “Its (sic) amazing how quickly students can grasp APA style when they want to” (p.222). "Sic" is short for "sans intention comique," or without comic intention, and is Latin for "just as it was written."

  • Treat subsequent references to a quote the same way you treated the first reference.
  • Double-check to ensure that all the sources you cite within the text of your paper appear on the References page, as the full citation is needed for readers to easily find your source material.
About the Author

With education, health care and small business marketing as her core interests, M.T. Wroblewski has penned pieces for Woman's Day, Family Circle, Ladies Home Journal and many newspapers and magazines. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Northern Illinois University.

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