MLA Formatting Quotations
MLA (Modern Language Association) style is most commonly used to write papers and cite sources within the liberal arts and humanities. This resource, updated to reflect the MLA Handbook (8th ed.), offers examples for the general format of MLA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the Works Cited page.
Contributors: Tony Russell, Allen Brizee, Elizabeth Angeli, Russell Keck, Joshua M. Paiz, Michelle Campbell, Rodrigo Rodríguez-Fuentes, Daniel P. Kenzie, Susan Wegener, Maryam Ghafoor, Purdue OWL Staff
Last Edited: 2018-01-06 01:54:24
When you directly quote the works of others in your paper, you will format quotations differently depending on their length. Below are some basic guidelines for incorporating quotations into your paper. Please note that all pages in MLA should be double-spaced.
To indicate short quotations (four typed lines or fewer of prose or three lines of verse) in your text, enclose the quotation within double quotation marks. Provide the author and specific page citation (in the case of verse, provide line numbers) in the text, and include a complete reference on the Works Cited page. Punctuation marks such as periods, commas, and semicolons should appear after the parenthetical citation. Question marks and exclamation points should appear within the quotation marks if they are a part of the quoted passage but after the parenthetical citation if they are a part of your text.
For example, when quoting short passages of prose, use the following examples:
According to some, dreams express "profound aspects of personality" (Foulkes 184), though others disagree.
According to Foulkes's study, dreams may express "profound aspects of personality" (184).
Is it possible that dreams may express "profound aspects of personality" (Foulkes 184)?
When short (fewer than three lines of verse) quotations from poetry, mark breaks in short quotations of verse with a slash, ( / ), at the end of each line of verse (a space should precede and follow the slash).
Cullen concludes, "Of all the things that happened there / That's all I remember" (11-12).
For quotations that are more than four lines of prose or three lines of verse, place quotations in a free-standing block of text and omit quotation marks. Start the quotation on a new line, with the entire quote indented ½ inch from the left margin; maintain double-spacing. Only indent the first line of the quotation by an additional quarter inch if you are citing multiple paragraphs. Your parenthetical citation should come after the closing punctuation mark. When quoting verse, maintain original line breaks. (You should maintain double-spacing throughout your essay.)
For example, when citing more than four lines of prose, use the following examples:
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)
When citing long sections (more than three lines) of poetry, keep formatting as close to the original as possible.
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)
When citing two or more paragraphs, use block quotation format, even if the passage from the paragraphs is less than four lines. Indent the first line of each quoted paragraph an extra quarter inch.
In "American Origins of the Writing-across-the-Curriculum Movement," David Russell argues,
Writing has been an issue in American secondary and higher education since papers and examinations came into wide use in the 1870s, eventually driving out formal recitation and oral examination. . . .
From its birth in the late nineteenth century, progressive education has wrestled with the conflict within industrial society between pressure to increase specialization of knowledge and of professional work (upholding disciplinary standards) and pressure to integrate more fully an ever-widerning number of citizens into intellectually meaningful activity within mass society (promoting social equity). . . . (3)
Adding or omitting words in quotations
If you add a word or words in a quotation, you should put brackets around the words to indicate that they are not part of the original text.
Jan Harold Brunvand, in an essay on urban legends, states, "some individuals [who retell urban legends] make a point of learning every rumor or tale" (78).
If you omit a word or words from a quotation, you should indicate the deleted word or words by using ellipsis marks, which are three periods ( . . . ) preceded and followed by a space. For example:
In an essay on urban legends, Jan Harold Brunvand notes that "some individuals make a point of learning every recent rumor or tale . . . and in a short time a lively exchange of details occurs" (78).
Please note that brackets are not needed around ellipses unless adding brackets would clarify your use of ellipses.
When omitting words from poetry quotations, use a standard three-period ellipses; however, when omitting one or more full lines of poetry, space several periods to about the length of a complete line in the poem:
These beauteous forms,
Through a long absence, have not been to me
As is a landscape to a blind man's eye:
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart;
And passing even into my purer mind,
With tranquil restoration . . . (22-24, 28-30)
Why we use parenthetical / in-text citations
Researchers place brief parenthetical descriptions to acknowledge which parts of their paper reference particular sources. Generally, you want to provide the last name of the author and the specific page numbers of the source. If such information is already given in the body of the sentence, then exclude it from the parenthetical citation.
Place the parenthetical citation where there is a pause in the sentence – normally before the end of a sentence or a comma. The in-text citation will differ depending on how much information you provide within the sentence.
Example with author’s name in text:
Johnson argues this point (12-13).
This point had already been argued (Johnson 12-13).
Citing sources with more than one author
If you use sources with the same author surnames, then include a first name initial. If the two sources have authors with the same initials, then include their full names:[su_spacer]
(J. Johnson 12-13).
(John Johnson 12-13).
If there are two or three authors of the source, include their last names in the order they appear on the source:
(Smith, Wollensky, and Johnson 45).
If there are more than three authors, you can cite all the authors with their last name, or you can cite the first author followed by “et al.” Follow what is shown the works cited list.
(Smith et al. 45).
Citing sources without an author
Some sources do not have authors or contributors – for instance, when you cite some websites. Instead, refer to the name of the source in your parenthetical citation in place of the author. Shorten / abbreviate the name of the source but ensure that your reader can easily identify it in your works cited (abbreviate the title starting with the same word in which it is alphabetized). Punctuate with quotations or italicize as you would in its works cited form (a book is italicized; an article is in quotes).
Double agents are still widely in use (Spies 12-15, 17).
With prices of energy at new highs, bikes have been increasingly used (“Alternative Transportation” 89).
Citing part of a work
When citing a specific part of a work, provide the relevant page or section identifier. This can include specific pages, sections, paragraphs or volumes. When the identifier is preceded by an abbreviation or word, place a comma between the identifier and the source reference.
Part of a multivolume work
It is arguably the most innovative period in history (Webster, vol 4).
Chapter within a book (if no specific numbers can be referenced)
The electoral college undermines democracy (Sanders, “Government Injustices”).
Article in a periodical
Allen claims there is an inverse correlation between higher taxes and patriotic feelings worldwide (B2).
When citing a specific page(s) of a multivolume work, precede the page number by the volume number and a colon. Do not separate by a comma.
It was arguably the most innovative period in history (Webster 4:12-15).
Use “par.” or “pars.” when referring to specific paragraphs.
The marketing dollars of big studio films has overshadowed good indie movies (Anderson, pars. 12-34).
Citing group or corporate authors
In your parenthetical citation, cite a corporate author like you would a normal author. Preferably, incorporate the corporate author in your text instead of the parenthetical citation.
Facial transplants pose significant risk to the autoimmune system (American Medical Association 12-43).
As noted by the American Medical Association, facial transplants pose significant risk to the autoimmune system (12-43).
Citing an entire source
When citing an entire work, there are no specific page numbers to refer to. Therefore it is preferable to refer to the source within the text itself with either the author or the title of the source.
Hartford suggests the Internet provides more distractions than it does information.
Citing multiple works by the same author
If you reference more than one source by the same author, distinguish the parenthetical citations by including the name of the source. Use a comma to separate the author from the source.
Wars can be economic catalysts (Friedman, World 77-80).
Industrialized nations are better equipped to rebound from recessions (Friedman, “High Tides” 56).
Citing indirect sources
When an original source is unavailable, then cite the secondhand source – for instance, a lecture in a conference proceedings. When quoting or paraphrasing a quote, write “qtd. in” before the author and pages.
John Murray calls Tim Smith “interesting but egotistical” (qtd. in Jesrani 34).
Citing literary / classic and religious works
For works such as novels, plays and other classic works, it’s helpful to provide further identifying information along with the page information. Do this by adding a semicolon and then the identifying information following the page number.
(Tolstoy 5; pt. 2, ch. 3).
When citing classic poems and plays, replace page numbers with division numbers (part, book, scene, act). The below refers to book 10 line 5. Bear in mind the divisions and the way they are written can vary by source.
Fear plays a role in Homer’s Odyssey (10.5).
The title of books in the Bible and other famous literary works should be abbreviated.
(New Jerusalem Bible, Gen. 2.6-9).
Placing parenthetical citations in direct quotations
When directly quoting a source, place the parenthetical citation after the quote.
Sanders explains that economic woes are due to “the mortgage crisis and poor risk assessment” (20).
Place the parenthetical citation at the end of an indented quotation. There should be no period after the parenthetical citation. The last sentence of the indented quote should look like:
It’s unclear whether multilateral tariffs are disruptive to bilateral talks. (Evert 30-31)
Citing online sources
Generally, follow the same principals of parenthetical citations to cite online sources. Refer to the author, and if possible, a permanent identifier that would be the same for any reader.
The economy will rebound with the new monetary policies (Smith).
Solar power will become the primary source of energy (Williams 2).
Citing online sources with no author
If there is no author, use the title that begins the citation, either the article or website title. Be sure it also takes the same formatting, i.e. articles are in quotes and website titles are italicized. Shorten / abbreviate the name of the source but ensure that your reader can easily identify it in your works cited (abbreviate the title starting with the same word in which it is alphabetized).
Elephants are thought to be one of the smartest mammals (“Smart Elephants”).
Nineteen men and women were convicted (Salem Witchcraft Trials).
Note: Ideally, when citing online sources, try to reference the source within your sentence, with either the author or the title to avoid writing a parenthetical citation.
Where to put the parenthetical citations:
- Place parenthetical citations at the end of the sentence you are paraphrasing and quoting. For example: The destruction of the argentine is due to many socioeconomic factors (Taylor 33).
- Even when quoting, place the parenthetical citations after the quotations.
“Mamma always said stupid is as stupid does” (Gump 89).
When quoting four lines or more, indent every line you are quoting by one inch (or 10 spaces) and do not use quotes.
The use of nuclear weapons in today’s society is strikingly alarming. Though the United States is the only country to employ it in the past, they are at the same time the country that condemns its use the most. While this may seem hypocritical, is it the most proper action for the United States to make as the global leader. (Taparia 9)