Rules for Quotations and In-Text Citation

Rules for Quotations and In-Text Citation

By using in-text citation, you are providing a road map for your readers. They can read the last name of the author next to the text you are quoting, then flip the page to your Works Cited list and, using that name, identify the book or article you are quoting and the page from which the quotation is taken. Then, if they wish to look up the article to read it in its entirety, or if they would like to check to make sure the quotation isn’t taken out of context, they have all the information they need. By providing this map, you lend your argument credibility, as you are not concerned about others “checking” your facts. Here are the Modern Language Association (MLA) formatting rules:

Short Quotations

To indicate short quotations (fewer than four typed lines 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).

Long Quotations

For quotations that extend to more than four lines of verse or prose, there is a different process.

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 one inch from the left margin; maintain double-spacing. 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. (quoted 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 industrail 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 citizes 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)

Taken from Purdue University OWL:


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