How to Cite a Paragraph

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Citing specific information can be confusing at times because there are various rules for specific citations. Different writing styles require information be cited in different ways. For instance, American Psychological Association (APA) and Modern Language Association (MLA) are just two types of writing styles. A paragraph may fit into one of two distinct categories - short quotations or long quotations. How to cite a paragraph is different for each style.

Choose a citation method in coordination with the writing style of the paper or project being written. While the APA and MLA styles are similar in some ways, they have noticeable differences that need to be considered. This will determine whether to use the guideline for the short or long quotation format. Regardless of writing style, most paragraphs will likely fit the description for long quotation guidelines.

Count the number of lines in the paragraph if your paper is being written in the MLA style. Long quotation guidelines will be used if there are more than four lines of verse or prose. Begin the paragraph quotation on a new line with double spacing throughout. Indent the whole paragraph 1'' from the margin. Include parenthetical citation after the closing punctuation mark.

Open and close with quotation marks for short MLA paragraphs, which are less than 4 lines of prose or 3 lines of verse. Write the author's name and the page number within the text and include full citation on the reference page. In verse, provide line numbers instead of page numbers. Include punctuation marks after the parenthetical citation. Place question marks and exclamation points within the quotation marks if they are a part of the quote, otherwise follow rules for punctuation marks. For example: John's work stated that "care should be taken with grammar" (14) or How true is it that "care should be taken with grammar" (John 14)?

Calculate the number of words in the paragraph you are citing if using the APA style. If there are over 40 words, the long quotation style is used. Beginning on a new line, write the whole quotation indented half an inch away from the margin. Maintain double spacing throughout the citation, and do not use quotation marks. Include parenthetical citation after the closing punctuation mark.

Open and close with quotation marks for short APA paragraph quotations, which are less than 40 words. Include the author's last name, followed by the date of publication and page number in parenthesis. For example: According to John (2008) "care should be taken with grammar" (p.14) or It was stated that "care should be taken with grammar" (John, 2008, p.14).


  • Double-check spelling and grammar for long citations to make sure you are citing the source correctly.


  • Be sure to consult the citation format that coordinates with the writing style of the writing project.


About the Author

Based in New York City, Nicola McDonald began her writing career in 2002. She has written for Sophisticated Seattle and self-published her novel, "Lusting For Love." Also a librarian, McDonald earned a Master of Science in Library and Information Science from Drexel University and a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Mercy College.

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