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How to Use Dialogue From a Script in an Essay in MLA


Quoting dialogue between two or more characters from a script can seem like a daunting task, but knowing the origin of your script will make the task less challenging. Guidelines set forth by the Modern Language Association will also help make the process manageable.

Quoting Dialogue

Dialogue is the exchange between two or more characters within a script, whether for the purposes of a theatrical play or film. To format your quotation, begin the quote on a new line and indent it one inch from the body of your paper. If the quotation extends onto the next line, make sure to indent the second and subsequent lines another 1/4 inch, or about three spaces. Lines should be double spaced, and character names should be written in all capital letters, followed by a period. You should not use quotation marks when quoting dialogue from a script, play or film.

In-Text Citations

Because plays are often published differently from prose, MLA guidelines indicate that in-text citations should be contained in parentheses and consist of the act, scene and line number of the script, rather than the page number. To cite dialogue, begin with the broadest division and work toward the smallest division -- for example, from act to scene to line. Separate each of those divisions with a period. If you have noted the author and title of the script elsewhere in your paper, you do not need to include it again in the in-text citation. For example, the parenthetical citation (4.1.5-12) denotes that the quotation is from act 4, scene 1, lines 5 through 12.

Works Cited List

Published plays are generally found in either an anthology, a collection of a single author's works or a single volume. The source will dictate how the citation appears in the Works Cited list. However, scripts often have not been published in one of the previously listed formats. In this case, MLA considers it to be a manuscript and recommends that it be cited as such.

Works Cited Examples

A citation for an unpublished script is set up with the author's name (last name first), followed by a period; the title in italics, followed by a period; the type of work, followed by a comma; and the year. For example:

Baker, Stephanie. The Night Came. Unpublished script, 1998.

A script found online is more complicated to cite. It is set up with the authors first, followed by a period. Then, in italics, include the title, followed by a period. Then include the version of script, followed by a period. Then add the date of completion, followed by a period. The name of the site where the script was accessed, followed by a period, should come next. Then include the date of access, followed by a period. Finally, include the website address. For example:

Hill, Walter and David Giler. Alien. Revised Final Script. June 1978. The Daily Script. 3 Mar. 2008. http://www.dailyscript.com/scripts/alien_shooting.html.

Published scripts or plays by a single author are formatted with the author first, followed by a period. Then include the title in italics, followed by a period. Then add the publication city, followed by a colon. Then include the publisher, followed by a period. Then add the year, followed by a period. Finally, include the format, followed by a period. For example:

Williams, Tennessee. The Glass Menagerie. New York: Random House. 1945. Print.

About the Author

Alicia Anthony is a seasoned educator with more than 10 years classroom experience in the K-12 setting. She holds a Master of Education in literacy curriculum and instruction and a Bachelor of Arts in communications. She is completing a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing: fiction, and working on a novel.

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