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How to Properly Cite a Quotation Using MLA Format


The Modern Language Association of America format for in-text quotations is widely used in the study of humanities, especially in language and literature disciplines. The MLA formatting rules for direct quotations vary depending on the length and source of the quotation. Quotations totaling less than four typed lines of prose or three lines of verse follow the brief quotations formatting rules. Longer quotes follow the lengthy quotation guidelines.

Brief Quotations

Incorporate a brief quotation into the text of your essay. Place quotation marks around the actual quote.

Note the author’s last name and a location identifier after the quote in parentheses. Refer to the page number for traditional texts. Use line numbers for verse sources.

Format the punctuation. Position punctuation marks including periods, commas and semicolons immediately after the last parenthesis. Place question marks and exclamation points after the parenthetical citation as well, unless they are part of the actual passage. For example: What could cause a composer known for his tranquil pieces to create an opera characterized by “violent emotional expression” (Spencer 194)?

Indicate breaks in brief quotations of verse with a slash surrounded by a space on each side, at the end of each individual verse line. For example: Blume muses, “ I should not dwell on it / Sometimes I simply forget to forget” (7-8).

Traditional Lengthy Quotations

Introduce the quotation in prose ending with a colon.

Follow the introduction by positioning the quotation in a separate block of text. There is no need to use quotation marks. Instead, format the block so it is indented 1 inch from the left as compared to the rest of the text.

Indent the beginning of each paragraph an additional 1/2 inch only if your quote features multiple paragraphs. Skip this step if your quotation is only a single paragraph.

Place a parenthetical citation, including the author’s last name followed by the appropriate page number, after the closing punctuation mark. Do not place a period after this parenthetical citation.

Lengthy Poetry Quotations

Introduce the quotation in prose ending with a colon.

Follow the introduction by positioning the quotation in a separate block of text. There is no need to use quotation marks, but format the block so it is indented 1 inch from the left as compared to the rest of the text.

Use the original line beaks. You want to display the passage as close to the way the original text was presented as possible.

Place a parenthetical citation including the author’s last name followed by the page number after the closing punctuation mark. Do not place a period after this parenthetical citation

Tips
  • Enclose any words you add to a quote in brackets. Indicate omissions or a word or set of words with three freestanding periods.
  • If you use the original author’s name to introduce a quote, there is no need to include it again in the citation. You may omit from the parentheses where you place the locator.
References
About the Author

Erica Tambien began writing professionally in 1999. She is a freelance writer and communications consultant living in Reno, Nev. Her work has since appeared on various websites and for KOLO-TV. She holds a Bachelor of Science in business administration with an emphasis in marketing from the University of Nevada-Reno.

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