How to Write a Quote in an Essay

Quotations form a major part of academic writings. Adding direct quotes to any piece of writing is very important as it helps in expanding upon the idea you have in mind as also acts as the evidence for the same. Quotes are also important as they usually support the arguments in the essay and hence can be used to develop the thesis statement. Therefore, for a paper to look well-written and to leave the impression of one which cannot be accused of plagiarism, it is very vital to understand how to correctly incorporate quotes in it.

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What is a Quote (definition)

A quote is the restatement of someone else’s words the way they have been written in a book or text and giving the author credit by including his/her name.

How to analyze a quote

The success of quote analysis depends on how accurate and thoughtful you are. A quote can be analyzed by:

  1. Looking at its linguistic features such as metaphors, similes, alliteration and tone.
  2. Explaining the meaning of the quote through the use of paraphrases, identifying how the quote is significant to the audience, and relating the quote to the current issues.

Introducing a quote

It is vital for every essay to have an interesting introduction that can entice the reader and make him/her want to continue reading the essay. There are quite a number of ways that one can decide to use in developing an essay’s introduction, but there are some cases where the author will be forced to start an essay with a quotation. This therefore, calls for the author to select the most relevant quote for such a purpose and place it in their paper in a way that will give the paper life and clear understandability.

There are some of the important things to note while choosing the best quote to start off your paper. The most obvious thing is to avoid using common quotes, ones that have been overused and can be easily seen as clichés. This is mainly because readers will always expect something beyond the obvious. However, if it is very relevant and there is no other alternative, they can be used. In this case, you can make some adjustments to the quotes to make it look different and more appealing. For example, you can decide to make it look like a question, bring in contradictions to the original version of the quote and try to disapprove it, or maybe make some analysis of the words used in the quote to extract the hidden meaning.

Secondly, you should research at length the suitability of the quote in the context of the writing. This will make it possible for you to decide whether or not to use the quote in your paper. Ideally, you must have enough knowledge about your audience. The following questions should be answered before using a quote:

  1. How will the readers react to the quote?
  2. Can the readers familiarize the quote with the author?

Quotes are essential in an essay as they make it attractive hence causing the reader to continue reading. Regardless of the quote you settle, it is important to ensure that it adds value to your essay and doesn’t bring in confusion. A quote that is out of context will be a significant distractor in your essay and will only confuse your readers.

How to quote within a quote

Inserting a quote in your writing is quite an easy and a straightforward ordeal, however, the idea of quoting within a quote is a little bit engaging. The first thing you need to do is to identify the secondary source. The secondary source is the book, text, article or the other kind of source that has used the quote that you want to incorporate into the writing. This is also known as the indirect quote.

If you only want to use a small section of the quote from your secondary source, you should ensure that you put to use the most relevant part of the quote that makes a lot of sense regarding what is being applied indirectly. Among the best practices concerning the use of indirect quotes is the proper introduction of the secondary source before putting it to use.

For example:

Secondary quotes are different from the standard passages in terms of how they can be identified. The secondary quote is therefore identified by double quotation marks (“”) while single quotation marks (‘’) are used for the quote you are interested in. This can only be complete when there is a parenthetical citation immediately after mentioning the author’s surname.

When quoting in APA, the following apply:

Include the author’s name, year of publication and the page number. They should be indicated after the quote.

In the case of MLA citation:

The page number should come after indicating the author’s name.

This should also be added to the reference list. The reference list is made up of all the sources that have been included in the body of the essay. In cases where indirect quotes have been used, only the secondary source should feature in the reference list.

How to cite a quote from a person

Citing a quote is a dependent variable mainly depending on the type of citation guideline you are required to use. We have two common citation guidelines and they are APA and MLA. When quoting in APA, you are required to include the author’s name and the year of publication. e.g. (Clarke, 2006)

In the case of MLA, you need to have the name of the author, the year of publication and also the page number where the quote has been extracted from. This should also be transferred to the reference list. e.g. (Clarke. 2006, p.56)

Citing shorter quotes

A short quote is a paragraph that is made up of less than four lines that have been typed. Therefore, any quote that is made up of less than four lines is referred to as a short quote. In this case, using the MLA guidelines the following applies:

  1. You should enclose the quote with double quotation marks
  2. The author’s surname is written outside the quote in parenthesis
  • The page number should also be included

You should note that the author’s name can be written before or after the quote. When written after the quote, it should be enclosed in parenthesis. The page number comes at the end of the quote, and it is not a must to add anything trying to show that you are writing the page number.

It is advisable to always introduce your quote with at least three sentences rather than just jumping to the quote. This is because the readers will not understand what you are trying to imply. The introduction can also be used to acknowledge the author instead of citing them at the conclusion of the quote.

Another possible way of citing a shorter quote is giving the quote, followed by the proper citation then you conclude by commenting on the same trying to explain its meaning. This is referred to as a quote sandwich.

Ending a sentence in quotes usually comes about when the source is not immediately cited after punctuation mainly a period or a comma. They, therefore, must be enclosed in the quotation mark. e.g., “come on John.”

Citing long quotes

In MLA, a long quote can be defined as any paragraph made up of more than four lines of typed sentences. If you have to include a long quote in your essay, then it should be done in a separate paragraph with no quotation marks. The quote should be introduced with a short sentence, then a colon followed by the quote indented. It is also a common practice to double space the long quote. At the conclusion of the quote, you should include the author’s surname and the page number in parenthesis.

When more than one paragraph is involved, block quotes should be used regardless of having less than four lines from each quote in the paragraph. You should also not forget to always indent the starting line of all the paragraphs. This should be an indent of at least a quarter inch. When transiting to the next paragraph, ellipses (…) should be used.

APA long quotes can be done almost similar to the MLA, but some few aspects vary. The quote should be placed in its paragraph. An indent of at least a half inch should also be applied from the left margin, and all the lines should follow. If there are many paragraphs, additional indents of half an inch should be applied to all the preceding paragraphs. You should also adhere to the common practice of double spacing all through the quote and at the end of the quote you should cite the source. You need to include the author, the year of publication and the page where the quote was extracted from.

Adding or removing words

If it is important for you to introduce other words or play with the quote so as to fit into the context of what you are writing, the following are what you need to do:

Place the information you have added in brackets so that the reader may understand what you are trying to imply using the quotation.

When removing irrelevant parts of the quote, use ellipses (…)

Citing a quote with more than one author

In MLA, when you are required to cite a quote that has been written by various authors, you need to separate their names with commas and lastly the word ‘and’ e.g. (Amos, Charles, David, and Walter).

Citing from the Internet

Citing from the internet can be quite challenging compared to citing from books or various publications because vital information such as page numbers cannot be found. But still, you are required to use the available information explicitly. You need to have the author’s name, year and date of publication and the site where you are taking the quote from.

Quote on quote

This is also written as quote-unquote. Usually used by people talking while trying to suggest that they are saying someone else’s words. e.g., The teacher said, quote You should be in the class by 2 pm unquote.

Secondly, it is used to show that a small phrase or a word is in quotes. e.g., The problem Africa is facing is quote-unquote corruption.

How to quote a book

In a nutshell, this is how you can quote a book in MLA and APA


For in-text citation, you need to have the last name of the author and the page number enclosed in a parenthesis. e.g., (Clarke, 56).

In the reference list

Last name of the author, first name. Book title. The city where the book was published: The Publisher. The year of Publication. Medium of Publication


For in-text citation,

The last name of the author then the year of publication followed by the page number. E.g., Clarke (2018)…(p. 56).

In the reference list

The last name of the author, the first initial. (Year of publication). The work title. City of Publication: Publisher.

Up Quotes

Up quotes also known as inspirational quotes have become a common item in today’s world. They are found almost everywhere. Their aim is obviously to encourage, motivate and provoke thought in all our daily dealings.

The question here is why someone would want to use an up quote in his /her essay. In simple term, an up quote can work to easily convince your audience to follow your stand on something by boosting the argument in your paper.

For example, if you are tackling a paper that deals with a certain concept or principle, you can incorporate an up quote that matches your thesis in your conclusion and by simply doing you will have added a significant meaning to your paper.

Apart from up quotes, we also have quotes that are not common in academic writing but very important in day to day life. They are why quotes, period quotes and breaking up quotes.

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