Using quotes in an essay
USING QUOTATIONS IN ESSAYS (with specific rules for quoting poetry)
Titles : Titles of plays and very long poems are underlined (or italicized); titles of poems are placed in quotations. If a poem does not have a title, it is referred to by its first line.
Rules for quotations
- The quotation must be worked into a sentence of your own. Do not just leave floating quotations in your essays.
- Introduce quotations with signal phrases which is separated from the quotation by a comma:
· Incorrect: John Wright was very authoritative and possessive. “I don’t know as what his wife wanted makes much difference to John” (1133).
· Correct: John Wright was very authoritative and possessive. Mr. Hale says , “I don’t know as what his wife wanted makes much difference to John” (Glaspell 1133).
· Notice the signal phrase highlighted in the Correct Example. Other signal phrases include: admits, according to, argues, declares, maintains, insists, contends, emphasizes, suggests, any synonyms for says.
· Notice that all signal words are in present tense.
· Be sure the signal phrase you choose works within the context of your paper. Don’t just randomly pick one.
· Finally, notice how the citation is formatted. The author’s last name and the page number of the quotation are included. NOTE: the page number is used here because this play does not use line numbers. If it did, you would include the line number instead of the page number.
- Weave the quote into the sentence. Often, you won’t need any punctuation before the quote:
· Mr. Hale reveals that Mrs. Wright’s needs did not “make much difference to John” (Glaspell 1133).
· Glaspell writes that as a young woman, Minnie Foster “ was kind of like a bird herself” (1141).
- Set the quote up with a colon. Use this method only if the introduction to the quotation is a complete sentence. If you use a comma instead of a colon, you will have committed a serious grammatical error—a comma splice . Be careful not to confuse a colon (:) with a semicolon (;).
· Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters discuss what may have provoked Mrs. Wright to murder her husband: “If there’d been years and years of nothing, then a bird to sing to you, it would be awful—still, after the bird was still” (Glaspell 1142).
- Do not quote any more than is necessary; pick the “gold nugget” from the quote and just use that. Using only short phrases from the story will keep you from making major grammatical errors. Also, including too much quoted material diminishes your command of the paper (i.e., it makes you look like you don’t know what you’re talking about)
· The women decide that Mrs. Wright was going to “knot” her quilt (Glaspell 1144).
- If what you are quoting is already in quotations (that is, dialogue), you must put double quotes around the main part and single quotes around the dialogue.
· EX: Sammy begins to assert his independence when he says to Lengel , “ ‘I quit’” (Updike 827).
7. Notice the punctuation marks that are used with quotations. The only two punctuation marks used to introduce quotations are a colon and a comma. A semicolon is never used.
8. Question marks and exclamation points go outside the final quotation mark if the punctuation mark is part of your sentence—your question or your exclamation (“like this”?). Those marks go inside the final quotation marks if they are part of the original—the writer’s question or exclamation (“like this!”).
9. If you need to omit any part of the quote (and it is not obvious that you’ve omitted something), use ellipsis marks (. . .). Normally, you will use these when you omit a portion of the middle of the quote. Only use ellipses at the beginning or end of a quotation if the quote has the appearance of being a complete sentence.
· EX: Sammy calls the woman a “witch … [who] if she’d been born at the right time, they would have burned her over in Salem” (Updike 824).
· EX: Faulkner indicates a change will occur when he writes, “…soon there would be sun” (742). Notice that in this quote I only used the page numbers because I used the author’s name in the text of my sentence.
10. It is acceptable in quotations to make editorial changes such as capitalization, verb tense, or clarification as long as the altered material is enclosed in brackets.(brackets, not parentheses)
· Sammy calls the woman a “witch … [who] if she’d been born at the right time, they would have burned her over in Salem” (Updike 824).
11. Always explain WHY you’ve selected this quote. Summarize it, but don’t translate or just say it in other words. Point to its pertinence. Do not just stick it in there without any type of commentary.
Special Rules for Quoting Poetry and Drama:
12. When quoting less than 4 lines of poetry or verse drama (like Oedipus Rex or any Shakespearean play), use a slash ( / ) to mark the line breaks and keep the quote in the regular text of your paragraph.
· Robert Frost begins his ballad by musing, “Whose woods these are I think I know. / His house is in the village though” (lines 1-2).
13. When quoting 4 or more lines of poetry or drama, set the quote apart with a colon, move to the next line, indent 10 spaces (or so) and do not use quotation marks unless you are quoting dialogue. Notice in a block quote, the period goes before the citation. Common Sense Reminder: Do not use too many block quotes in a short essay. They are space huggers and can make it look like you are stretching your essay. It’s a good idea to break passages down into smaller bits when analyzing them.
· In his ballad “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” Robert Frost muses:
Whose woods these are I think I know
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow. (lines 1-4)
14. When quoting poetry cite the line numbers instead of the page numbers. When quoting drama, if there are also acts, scenes, and lines, indicate those as well. For example, (1.3. 45-47) is the citation for Act 1, scene 3, lines 45-47. You may have to alter or improvise for some versions of plays.
15. When quoting separate lines, place the citation at the end of the sentence and denote non-consecutive line numbers by using a comma instead of a dash.
· T. S. Eliot’s speaker frets, “I have measured out my life in coffee spoons,” after asking, “Do I dare / Disturb the universe?” (lines 50, 45-46).
16. Parenthetical Citations – Indicate the source of any quoted or paraphrased material in parentheses at the end of the sentence. Even if the quotation stops in the middle of your sentence, put the citation at the end of the sentence.
· In short quotations, the punctuation goes after the citation.
· Include the author’s last name and exact page number of the quote in the parentheses. If you happen to be quoting from two works by the same author (or you have two authors with the same last name), use a shortened form of the title and the page number. EX: (Updike 827); (“A Good Man” 903)
· Within a single paragraph, if all quoted material comes from the same source, use the author’s last name in parentheses after the first quote. Thereafter (within that paragraph), use only the page numbers. (Welty 1000); (1004)
· If you use the author’s name in the lead in to the quote, only put the page number in the parentheses.
How much should I quote?
The focus of your essay should be on your understanding of the topic. If you include too much quotation in your essay, you will crowd out your own ideas. Consider quoting a passage from one of your sources if any of the following conditions holds:
- The language of the passage is particularly elegant or powerful or memorable.
- You wish to confirm the credibility of your argument by enlisting the support of an authority on your topic.
- The passage is worthy of further analysis.
- You wish to argue with someone else’s position in considerable detail.
Condition 3 is especially useful in essays for literature courses.
If an argument or a factual account from one of your sources is particularly relevant to your paper but does not deserve to be quoted verbatim, consider
- paraphrasing the passage if you wish to convey the points in the passage at roughly the same level of detail as in the original
- summarizing the relevant passage if you wish to sketch only the most essential points in the passage
Note that most scientific writing relies on summary rather than quotation. The same is true of writing in those social sciences—such as experimental psychology—that rely on controlled studies and emphasize quantifiable results. (Almost all of the examples in this handout follow the MLA system of citation, which is widely used in the humanities and in those social sciences with a less quantitative approach.)
Why is it important to identify my sources?
Quotations come from somewhere, and your reader will want to know where. Don’t just parachute quotations into your essay without providing at least some indication of who your source is. Letting your reader know exactly which authorities you rely on is an advantage: it shows that you have done your research and that you are well acquainted with the literature on your topic.
In the following passage, the parenthetical reference to the author does not adequately identify the source:
The ancient Greeks never saw a need to justify wars that were waged outside the walls of the city state. “Hence we must turn to Roman antiquity to find the first justification of war, together with the first notion that there are just and unjust wars” (Arendt 12). Yet the Roman conception of a just war differs sharply from more modern conceptions.
When you are making decisions about how to integrate quotations into your essay, you might imagine that you are reading the essay out loud to an audience. You would not read the parenthetical note. Without some sort of introduction, your audience would not even know that the statement about Roman antiquity was a quotation, let alone where the quotation came from.
How do I introduce a short quotation?
The following offers just one way of introducing the above quotation:
The ancient Greeks never saw a need to justify wars that were waged outside the walls of the city state. As Hannah Arendt points out in On Revolution, “we must turn to Roman antiquity to find the first justification of war, together with the first notion that there are just and unjust wars” (12). Yet the Roman conception of a just war differs sharply from more modern conceptions.
Since the quotation is relatively short, the brief introduction works.
You could, however, strengthen your analysis by demonstrating the significance of the passage within your own argument. Introducing your quotation with a full sentence would help you assert greater control over the material:
The ancient Greeks never saw a need to justify wars that were waged outside the walls of the city state. In On Revolution, Hannah Arendt points to the role the Romans played in laying the foundation for later thinking about the ethics of waging war: “we must turn to Roman antiquity to find the first justification of war, together with the first notion that there are just and unjust wars” (12). Yet the Roman conception of a just war differs sharply from more modern conceptions.
In these two examples, observe the forms of punctuation used to introduce the quotations. When you introduce a quotation with a full sentence, you should always place a colon at the end of the introductory sentence. When you introduce a quotation with an incomplete sentence, you usually place a comma after the introductory phrase. However, it has become grammatically acceptable to use a colon rather than a comma:
Arendt writes: “we must turn to Roman antiquity to find the first justification of war . . .”
If you are blending the quotation into your own sentence using the conjuction that, do not use any punctuation at all:
Arendt writes that “we must turn to Roman antiquity to find the first justification of war . . .”
If you are not sure whether to punctuate your introduction to a quotation, mentally remove the quotation marks, and ask yourself whether any punctuation is still required.
Finally, note that you can deviate from the common pattern of introduction followed by quotation. Weaving the phrases of others into your own prose offers a stylistically compelling way of maintaining control over your source material. Moreover, the technique of weaving can help you to produce a tighter argument. The following condenses twelve lines from Arendt’s essay to fewer than two:
What Arendt refers to as the “well-known realities of power politics” began to lose their moral legitimacy when the First World War unleashed “the horribly destructive” forces of warfare “under conditions of modern technology” (13).
What verbs and phrases can I use to introduce my quotations?
Familiarize yourself with the various verbs commonly used to introduce quotations. Here is a partial list:
Using literary quotations
Use the guidelines below to learn how to use literary quotations.
For further information, check out Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Acknowledging Sources, or you may wish to see when the Writing Center is next offering its workshop entitled Intro to Literary Analysis.
As you choose quotations for a literary analysis, remember the purpose of quoting.
Your paper develops an argument about what the author of the text is doing–how the text "works."
You use quotations to support this argument; that is, you select, present, and discuss material from the text specifically to "prove" your point–to make your case–in much the same way a lawyer brings evidence before a jury.
Quoting for any other purpose is counterproductive.
Punctuating and Indenting Quotations
For the most part, you must reproduce the spelling, capitalization, and internal punctuation of the original exactly.
The following alterations are acceptable:
Changing the closing punctuation
You may alter the closing punctuation of a quotation in order to incorporate it into a sentence of your own:
"Books are not life," Lawrence emphasized.
Commas and periods go inside the closing quotation marks; the other punctuation marks go outside.
Lawrence insisted that books "are not life"; however, he wrote exultantly about the power of the novel.
Why does Lawrence need to point out that "Books are not life"?
Using the slash when quoting poetry
When quoting lines of poetry up to three lines long (which are not indented, see Indenting quotations), separate one line of poetry from another with a slash mark (see examples in Incorporating Quotations into Sentences).
Using Ellipsis Points for Omitted Material
If for the sake of brevity you wish to omit material from a quoted passage, use ellipsis points (three spaced periods) to indicate the omission.
(See this sample paragraph . The writer quoted only those portions of the original sentences that related to the point of the analysis.)
Using Square Brackets when Altering Material
When quoting, you may alter grammatical forms such as the tense of a verb or the person of a pronoun so that the quotation conforms grammatically to your own prose; indicate these alterations by placing square brackets around the changed form.
In the following quotation "her" replaces the "your" of the original so that the quote fits the point of view of the paper (third person):
When he hears Cordelia’s answer, Lear seems surprised, but not dumbfounded. He advises her to "mend [her] speech a little." He had expected her to praise him the most; but compared to her sisters’, her remarks seem almost insulting (1.1.95).
Prose or verse quotations less than four lines long are not indented. For quotations of this length, use the patterns described above.
Indent "longer" quotations in a block about ten spaces in from the left margin; when a quotation is indented, quotation marks are not used.
The MLA Handbook (1995) recommends that indented quotations be double-spaced, but many instructors prefer them single-spaced. The meaning of "longer" varies slightly from one style system to another, but a general rule is to indent quotations that are more than two (or three) lines of verse or three (or four) lines of prose.
Indent dialogue between characters in a play. Place the speaker’s name before the speech quoted:
CAESAR: Et tu, Brute! Then, fall, Caesar!
CINNA: Liberty! Freedom! Tyranny is dead! (3.1.77-78)
Emphasizing Your Ideas
What to include in literary analysis
Take a look at this sample paragraph. It includes 3 basic kinds of materials:
statements expressing the student’s own ideas about the relationship Woolf is creating;
data or evidence from the text in summarized, paraphrased, and quoted form; and
discussion of how the data support the writer’s interpretation.
The quotations are used in accordance with the writer’s purpose, i.e. to show how the development of Mrs. Ramsey’s feelings indicates something about her personality.
Should I quote?
Quoting is only one of several ways to present textual material as evidence.
You can also refer to textual data, summarize, and paraphrase. You will often want merely to refer or point to passages (as in the third sentence in the sample paragraph) that contribute to your argument.
In other cases you will want to paraphrase, i.e. "translate" the original into your own words, again instead of quoting. Summarize or paraphrase when it is not so much the language of the text that justifies your position, but the substance or content.
Similarly, after you have decided that you do want to use material in quoted form, quote only the portions of the text specifically relevant to your point.
Think of the text in terms of units–words, phrases, sentences, and groups of sentences (paragraphs, stanzas)–and use only the units you need.
If it is particular words or phrases that "prove" your point, you do not need to quote the sentences they appear in; rather, incorporate the words and phrases into sentences expressing your own ideas.
Maintaining Clarity and Readability
Introduce your quotations
Introduce a quotation either by indicating what it is intended to show or by naming its source, or both.
For non-narrative poetry, it’s customary to attribute quotations to "the speaker"; for a story with a narrator, to "the narrator."
For plays, novels, and other works with characters, identify characters as you quote them.
Do not use two quotations in a row, without intervening material of your own.
Pay attention to verb tense
Tense is a tricky issue. It’s customary in literary analysis to use the present tense; it is at the present time that you (and your reader) are looking at the text.
But events in a narrative or drama take place in a time sequence. You will often need to use a past tense to refer to events that took place before the moment you are presently discussing:
When he hears Cordelia’s answer, Lear seems surprised, but not dumbfounded. He advises her to "mend [her] speech a little." He had expected her to praise him the most; but compared to her sisters’, her remarks seem almost insulting (1.1.95).
Follow your course instructor’s guidelines for documenting sources. If your instructor hasn’t told you which system to use to document sources, ask.
Keep in mind that when you are writing a paper about the same text and quoting from the same edition that everyone else in the class is, instructors will often allow you to use informal documentation. In this case just include the page number in parentheses after the quotation or reference to the text. To be sure, though, you should ask your course instructor.
The documentation style used in this pages is that presented in the 1995 MLA Handbook, but other style systems are commonly used. The Writing Center has information about the rules of documentation in general and about a number of the most common systems, such as APA, APSA, CBE, Chicago/Turabian, MLA, and Numbered References.
Last updated: Monday, March 5, 2018
Using quotes in an essay
For years your teachers have told you that if you borrow someone else’s exact words, you need to put quotations marks around those words. They also told you that you need to use quotations (as well as paraphrases and summaries) to support your research essay.
That’s all well and good. And it doesn’t seem too terribly hard to put quotation marks around a sentence or two and paste the quote into your paper, but it actually takes some skill to effectively use quotations.
But that’s why you’re here, right? To learn how to put a quote in your essay like a pro.
If you’re looking for a few useful tips, here’s what you should and shouldn’t do when quoting.
Don’t Quote Just for the Sake of Quoting
We all know you should use at least a few quotes to support your research essay, but you shouldn’t just throw them in because a research paper needs quotes.
Don’t pick a few random quotes from one of those quote websites (you know which sites I’m talking about).
Those random quotes from famous people—such as, “People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do,” by Isaac Asimov—sound cool, but unless you use them in the perfect context, they’re just filler. They aren’t credible research sources.
FYI: Even though beginning your introduction with a quotation can be an excellent strategy, random celebrity quotes aren’t the best choice for the opening lines of your paper.
Don’t pick random sentences from your sources, either. It can be tempting to quickly paste them in your paper and hope they (sort of) make sense.
Sure, there are times when you’ll get lucky and the quotes will pretty much work, but most times, they’ll be awkward quotes that don’t support your arguments.
How to Put a Quote in Your Essay Like a Pro
Now that you know what you absolutely should not do when quoting, you need to know what you should do. Ready to learn how to put a quote in your essay like a pro? Here are four tips to help you move from amateur to pro status.
Tip #1: Choose quotes wisely
Sure, it’s a heck of a lot quicker to pull any random quote and put it in your paper, but that doesn’t mean that you’ve chosen wisely. Quotes should support your arguments, so you need to find information from sources that actually do that.
Let’s look at an example. Say you’re writing an argument essay and are arguing that teens develop eating disorders because of societal and peer pressure.
To support this argument, you use the following quote: “10-15% of all Americans suffer from some type of serious eating disorder” (www.mirasol.net).
There are two reasons this quote doesn’t work.
Reason #1: The source isn’t the best choice for an academic research paper. This quote is taken from an eating disorder recovery center’s website. I’m not saying that the source isn’t accurate or credible. This may be a very well-respected and reputable center.
What I am saying is that this source isn’t the best choice for a research paper. When writing a research paper, you should use scholarly resources and look for quotes and statistics from research studies (rather than random websites).
Reason #2: The quote doesn’t actually provide evidence to support the argument. In this example, the argument is that teens develop eating disorders due to societal and peer pressure. Thus, the quote should provide evidence of that.
Using a statistic to illustrate how many people suffer from eating disorders might be appropriate for general background information, but it doesn’t help explain why teens develop eating disorders.
Tip #2: Use signal phrases
One strategy you might consider when adding quotes in your paper is to use signal phrases. Signal phrases let readers know to expect a quote. They introduce the quote and provide context.
Think of them like traffic signals. Traffic lights signal drivers to stop, go, or slow down. They keep traffic moving.
Signal phrases in writing do the same thing. They tell readers to slow down and pay attention to the information that is to follow and keep the writing cohesive.
Here’s an example from a paper about distracted driving to help clarify. This writer uses “according to” as the signal phrase to introduce the quote:
Texting messaging has been around for dozen of years, but there was never a point where it was considered to physically provide harm to someone. However, as of today it has exceeded to a point where it is considered to be more dangerous than drinking and driving. According to the Department of Transportation, “approximately 3,092 people were killed in an additional 416,000 were injured due to distracted drivers in the year of 2010 alone” (Copeland, 2012).
In this example, the signal phrase lets readers know to expect a quote and provides context by stating that the information is taken from the Department of Transportation.
Tip #3: Seamlessly integrate quotes
Another strategy you might consider when adding quotes in your paper is to seamlessly integrate them in the middle of a sentence, much like you would a paraphrase.
In this case, the quote isn’t introduced by a signal phrase but is part of the sentence. Here’s an example from a paper about mandatory physical education in schools:
If a child spends at least five hours at school most of the week, isn’t P.E. the perfect time for students to get time for physical activity? However, when P.E. is given as an optional course or elective and not a required class, most students choose not to do it to avoid physical activity. Very few people know that “only six states—Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Illinois and Iowa—adhere to standards from the National Association of Sports and Physical Education that schoolchildren participate in 150 minutes a week of physical education. And just three states Delaware, Virginia and Nebraska have 20 minutes of mandatory elementary-school recess a day” (TIME.com).
In this example, the writer uses the phrase “very few people know that” to begin the sentence. The quote simply becomes part of the writer’s sentence.
Using quotes in an essay
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13 Comments to “21 Killer GRE Essay Quotes You Should Be Using Right Now”
i think it is difficult to remember even these 21 quotes in the exam. any tips to remember them will be helpful. thanks
Yes, it is rather difficult to remember all the 21 quotes, which is why we asked you to pick a few of your favorite ones from the list. Plus, the only way you can remember these quotes is by using them while you practice AWA essays.
I personally memorize the ones that can be useful in more than one topic, and as said learn the ones you like most.
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How to Write a Quote in an Essay
Properly placed quotes add power and detail to your essay writing. Putting the right expert observation in the right place can make an essay shine. Don’t allow improper formatting to distract your reader. Proper formatting of quotes, attributions and citations differs slightly depending on whether you are using Modern Language Association or American Psychological Association style, but general principles apply to both. Check with your instructor to determine the precise style desired.
Format Your Quote
Begin and end short quotations with double quotation marks. Do not leave a space between the quotation marks and the text. Only the exact words of your source and the punctuation of the quote itself should be inside the quotation marks. Separate lines of poetry with a space, a forward slash and another space.
Quotations that are longer than four lines of prose or three lines of poetry are formatted as “block” quotes. Use a colon at the end of the phrase that leads to the quote. Begin the quote on a new line, indent the entire quote one inch farther than the body of your text and do not use quotation marks.
Additions and Deletions
A quote must be the source’s exact words, but sometimes you will only need the most relevant words. If you are omitting a section of a quote, indicate this by using ellipses, otherwise known as “three little dots.” Always use a space before and after an ellipses. If your ellipses comes at the end of a sentence, end the sentence with a period first. If the quoted material that follows begins in the middle of a sentence and was not capitalized in the original, use a capital in brackets to indicate the change while making the sentence correct. If you need to add a couple of words within a quote to clarify something, put your own words in brackets.
“This study contains the definitive proof we’ve been looking for. . [T]ail feathers are an important factor in peacock mate selection.”
“I think [Smithville Mayor] Joe [Johnson] knows more than he’s telling.”
Basic In-text Citation, MLA Style
In-text citations are essential in any nonfiction writing. They are shorthand that allows the reader to locate more information about your source on your works cited page. In MLA style, a parenthetical citation contains the author’s last name and the page number where the quote can be found: (Smith 97). You can omit the author’s name if you’ve already identified her as the person speaking or writing, and just use the page number within parentheses. If you’re quoting more than one Smith, include a first initial; if you’re quoting more than one book by Smith, include a shortened version of this book’s title. Parenthetical citations belong outside the last set of quotation marks, before the punctuation that ends the sentence for a short quote and following it for a block quote.
Other Types of Sources
If you are quoting a work with no known author, use a shortened version of the title of the work in your parenthetical citation, putting this in quotation marks if it’s an article or short work and in italics if it is a full-length book. If you’re citing a website, omit page numbers. The important thing is that the first word of your citation be the same as the first word of the work’s entry on your works cited page, so the reader can find it easily.
Citing Multiple Authors, Multi-Volume Works or Classics
If you’re citing a work by three or more authors, use all last names in your initial citation; after that, you can name just the first one and use the phrase et al as shorthand for including the rest. If you’re citing an encyclopedia or similar work that has multiple volumes, include the volume number. In citing the Bible, identify the version in your first mention, followed by book, chapter and verse. If you’re citing a work that has been reprinted many times with different pagination, follow your page number with a colon and a little more information: (Kipling, 53: Ch. 6).
Basic In-Text Citation, APA Style
APA style requires the author’s name, page number and year of publication to be part of the in-text citation. You can include all of this information within parentheses (Smith, 1988, p. 273) or use some of it in your sentence before the quote: Smith (1988) observed that “the penguins seemed confused by the nuclear explosion” (p. 273). If you’re citing an electronic source, use the title of the section or page the work is on and a paragraph number with the abbreviation “para.”
Using quotes in an essay
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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 (8 th 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 Rodrнguez-Fuentes, Daniel P. Kenzie, Susan Wegener, Maryam Ghafoor, Purdue OWL Staff
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:
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).
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:
When citing long sections (more than three lines) of poetry, keep formatting as close to the original as possible.
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.
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.
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:
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:
Through a long absence, have not been to me
As is a landscape to a blind man’s eye:
And passing even into my purer mind,
With tranquil restoration . . . (22-24, 28-30)
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Using quotes in an essay
Version Date: November 27, 2012
Original Date: February 13, 2001
(Reflects MLA Handbook [1999/2003] style)
1. Introduce your quotations. A quotation should never suddenly appear out of nowhere. Some kind of information about the quotation is needed. Name the author, give his or her credentials, name the source, give a summary. You won’t do all of these each time, but you should usually name the author. For example:
a. But John Jones disagrees with this point, saying, "Such a product would not sell."
b. In an article in Time Fred Jackson writes that frogs vary in the degree of shyness they exhibit: "The arboreal tree frogs seem to be especially. . . ."
2. Discuss your quotations. Do not quote someone and then leave the words hanging as if they were self explanatory. What does the quotation mean and how does it help establish the point you are making? What is your interpretation or opinion of it? Quotations are like examples: discuss them to show how they fit in with your thesis and with the ideas you are presenting. Remember: quotations support or illustrate your own points. They are not substitutes for your ideas and they do not stand by themselves.
It is often useful to apply some interpretive phrasing after a quotation, to show the reader that the you are explaining the quotation and that it supports your argument:
- Here we see that
- This statement shows
- Clearly, then,
- We can conclude from this that
- This tells us that
- From this we can understand that
- Such a contrarian view must nevertheless be taken seriously because
- If we are to understand from this comment that
A. Pick the quotation verb which seems in each case to fit your purpose most exactly. For example:
In this essay Green tells us, "Hope increases courage."
Note that the particular verb you choose helps orient your reader toward your opinion of the statement. “Jones says” is neutral; “Jones informs us” is positive, “Jones alleges” is somewhat negative. Other verbs to choose from include:
- informs us
B. Sometimes you might want to use a colon introduction. For example:
Kumquat offers this explanation: "Deep thinkers talk little."
- is more enlightening:
- prefers a different argument:
- discerns this point:
- distinguishes between the two:
- reminds us of his youth:
- believes we should talk less:
- cannot admit that the plan failed:
- feels that no further action is needed:
In the words of Fisher, "Art is a mirror of belief" (342).
As Ted Fisher has remarked, "Life imitates art."
As Fisher reminds us, "Monkey see, monkey do."
4. Sometimes you might want to begin your quotation in the middle of the writer’s sentence. For example, Joe’s Text:
I live in the country where life is slow and soft.
Joe believes that "life is slow and soft" in the country (Living Easy 288).
Sally, I love the delicious metaphors you make.
Boz tells Sally that he loves "the delicious metaphors" she makes (433).
(Note: for embedded phrases like these, do not use ellipsis dots on either side. It is obvious from the fragmentary nature of the quoted phrase that the quoter has omitted words before and after the phrase.)
5. Sometimes leave out some words to condense the quotation. Mid-sentence ellipses use three spaced dots. Example text:
The surf on the beach at Mazatlan beat against the shore.
Smith says of his wave watching, "The surf . . . beat against the shore" (Jones 788).
Ellipses at the end of a sentence use an end-of-sentence period and then three spaced dots. Example text:
Rule 5 says, "Sometimes you will want to leave out some words. . . ."
6. Parenthetical material goes inside the punctuation mark. Example:
The forest is variously described as "marvelous" (34), "fun" (98), and "dramatic" (39).
Compare punctuation without and with parenthetical material:
John records that "all things were made through him. . . ."
John records that "all things were made through him . . ." (John 1:3).
(Note that the period has moved from next to the last letter of the sentence to behind the right parenthesis mark.)
7. Standard MLA Citation Style is actually rather simple for most entries: The in-text citation is the author’s last name followed by a page number:
The new method was implemented to save money (Jenkins 242).
See my article for more detail on MLA style.
At the end of your paper, you will have a Works Cited page, listing the work in standard MLA order. Basically, the order is:
Lastname, Firstname. The Book Title. City: Publisher, Date.
Last, First. “Article Title.” Journal Name Volume (Year): Page-Page.
Last, First. “Article Title.” Site Name. Article date. Organization Name. Date of access <URL in angle brackets>.
Harris, Robert. “Using Quotations Effectively.” VirtualSalt.com. 27 Nov. 2012. 4 July 2013 <http://www.virtualsalt.com/quotehlp.htm>.
Note: For Web articles, omit information not available, such as author, article date, site name, etc. Never make up page numbers for a Web site. Always include article title, date of access, and URL at the very minimum. See the link at the bottom of this page, “How to cite this page,” for more information.
Using Quotations and References: An Example
At the beginning of many of the Holmes stories, Doyle takes care to capture the reader’s interest by proclaiming that the story just getting under way is an especially noteworthy or remarkable one. At the beginning of “The Five Orange Pips,” for example, Watson notes that this adventure is one of the “many which present strange and interesting features,” because it is “so remarkable in its details and so startling in its results” (Doyle 100). There were many adventures in the year 1887, Watson continues, but “none of them present such singular features as the strange train of circumstances which I have now taken up my pen to describe” (101).
As if this weren’t enough, John Openshaw, the man who brings the case to Holmes, describes his problem as “no ordinary one” (102), and adds that he doubts “whether . . . you have ever listened to a more mysterious and inexplicable chain of events” than the ones he is about to relate (103).
Indeed, this declaration of singularity is a common gambit Doyle uses at the beginning of many of the stories. “The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb” was “so strange in its inception and so dramatic in its details” (191) that it deserves to be recorded, Watson says. “The Adventure of the Silver Blaze” is described as “this extraordinary case” (Castle edition 172), while “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” “presented more singular features” than any of the “seventy odd cases” that Watson has studied in the last eight years (Doyle 165).
As Doyle grew more experienced, he evidently grew a bit more sophisticated, for the later stories often strive to capture interest by tantalizing the reader. For example, “The Adventure of the Cardboard Box” opens with the assertion that we are about to read “a strange, though peculiarly terrible chain of events” (Castle edition 188). In the first paragraph of “The Adventure of the ‘Gloria Scott’ it is Holmes himself declaring the adventure to be an “extraordinary case” (223), commenting tantalizingly about a paper in his hand that “this is the message which struck Justice of the Peace Trevor dead with horror when he read it” (223). –and so on.
Note that the technique used here is to cite frequently, though briefly, to build the quotations into the writer’s own sentences, and to use whatever arrangement of the material best supports the writer’s argument.
Using quotes in an essay
I am writing an essay on project management within IT and in my introduction I will give a brief description of project management, to being my essay I was looking at using one of these:
- Project management is ‘A unique set of co-ordinated activities, with definite starting and finishing points, undertaken by an individual or organisation to meet specific objectives within a defined schedule of cost and performance parameters’
- Almost by definition, innovation relies on project management (Wheatley 2004)
Would either (#1 vs #2) of these quotes be an appropriate way to start an essay?
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There are pros and cons to starting off with something attributed to someone else.
It can lead the audience to expect something derivative so you really have to work to demonstrate why your ideas are either supported by the quote or can refute it – depending on your aims.
You may also use quotes to carefully point out the main idea of essay/report for the reader or to make a good statement right from the beginning to make your essay interesting and relevant.
I could not provide you with some examples but feel free to google it. and also check out some essay writing tips like this or this
Yes, I suppose, especially, the second quote. By the way, you did not attribute the first quote to anyone.
I kind of like the idea of starting with #2, but italicized and as its own paragraph — almost like an epigram leading off your essay. In fact, if you can get two or three of these short pithy quotes and set up each on its own line, before you begin your intro, that would be a rather intriguing start.
The opening words of an essay should immediately enmesh the reader in your wiles. Purpose-written paragraphs have broader latitude to do so than have found quotations. To start with a quote is not wrong, but you may do better, as onomatomaniak suggested, to “think of an engaging first sentence that makes the reader think you have something interesting to say.”
Aside from limiting range of expression, starting with a quote requires attribution (crediting the source of the quote) which may cause the reader to look aside, to a footnote or a bibliography, during that important first moment with your essay.
I’m sure great essays can be started with quotations, because there are so many great quotes to be found, and I hope someone will present examples. But you often have more freedom of expression and can get to the point more quickly without one.
It is a good idea to begin an essay with some interesting quotes or sentences. You have to make your starting sentence attractive to grab the reader’s attention.