Quoting Passages Using MLA Style

Over the course of your academic career, there will be times when you are required to quote the words of others in your writing. Following the rules of properly integrating quotes into your paper is essential for the proper formatting of your writing and, subsequently, for the grade you get. The way you will format these quotes will depend largely on the length of the text that you are citing. Outlined below are a few of the most commonly followed guidelines for including direct quotes into your own work.

As a way of practice, MLA guidelines dictate that all pages should be double spaced.

Note: To adjust paragraph spacing in Microsoft Word, navigate to the Page Layout tab in the main ribbon, and adjust Line Spacing to Double.

Knowing how to quote in an essay, or how to cite a quote from a book is imperative to your success. Here is a brief overview of how to write a quote following MLA guidelines.

An Example of Using Short Quotes

A short quote is defined as having four or fewer typed lines, citing this type of quote is easy. Simply enclose the entire quote with double quotation marks and include the name of the original author and page reference information somewhere in the text. Remember to include the relevant citation information in your Works Cited page.

Here is an example of a short quote, with in text citation.

According to Jones, there is a “direct correlation between childhood behavioral issues and unregulated access to violent video games” (Jones 2010) but others feel that this type of behavior stems more from the home environment.

In case if you were needing to cite a poem, that has fewer than three lines of text, it would be necessary to indicate breaks in text with a slash at the end of each line.

Here is a poem example.

“Yesterday upon the stair / I saw a man who was not there” (1-2)

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A Short Explanation and Example of Using Long Quotes

To incorporate use long quotes, you should definitely be aware of what is a block quote. The process for citing a quote which contains more than four lines of prose or text differs slightly from that of a shorter quote. In this case, enclose the text in a free standing block of text (aka block quote) and omit any quotation marks.

Tips and Some Examples of How to Block Quote

In order to blockquote, press enter to start a new line of text. Please do not confuse the way how to indent a citation in MLA properly. You should remember that the entire quote should be indented ½ inch from the left margin. You will still need to maintain a double spaced paragraph.

Here is an example of a long block quote, this time a prose example.

During his 1940 speech to the House of Commons, Churchill said,

What General Weygand called The Battle of Franc hos over. I expect the battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us…(Churchill 1940)

When citing long poems (poems with more than three lines), guidelines state to maintain as much of the original formatting as possible. For example,

Hughes Mearns repeatedly speaks of the vision of a ghost in his poem, Antigonish,

                        Yesterday, upon a stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
I wish, I wish he’d go away…

                        When I came home last night at three
The man was waiting there for me
But when I looked around the hall
I couldn’t see him there at all!
Go away, go away, don’t you come back any more!
GO away, go away, and please don’t slam the door…

If you need to cite multiple paragraphs, follow standard block quotation formatting, regardless of how many lines are in the text. The first paragraph will be cited as usual, the first line of the second paragraph will be indented by an additional ¼ inch to indicate the start of a new paragraph.

A Short Explanation and Example of How to Format Dialogue

The process for writing dialog follows the same basic guidelines. Whenever it is necessary to write dialogue, write the words said by each party, regardless of how brief, as a separate paragraph. Commas are used to indicate dialogue tags, like “he replied” or “she said.”

Whenever one individual’s dialogue continues for longer than one paragraph, it is necessary to use quotation marks to start the dialogue at the start of each paragraph. Remember not to use closing quotation marks until the person has finished speaking. Here is an example of formatting a dialogue.

During his time as a teacher, Mr. Jones would frequently encourage his students to think outside of the box.

“Consider the limitations of the world and reach beyond them,” he would frequently say in his lectures.

I recall one day discussing with him the challenges of being middleclass and not being able to afford the same luxuries as many of my peers,

“You don’t understand how difficult it is to survive in a world where you are alone and do not have ample financial resources!” I said. Okay, I whined, and he quickly rebuffed.

“Make your own path, lad.”

A Handy Explanation How to Block Quote in Word

According to MLA guidelines, any quote that is longer than four lines in length, must be started on a new line, and maintain a ½ inch indentation from the left-hand margin. It should also be double spaced, without quotation marks.

Here is a simple and efficient way of how format a block quote in Word.

  1. Press ENTER at the start of the first word in the quote, and again at the end of the final word in the quote.
  2. Highlight the entire block of text.
  3. Right-click on the highlighted text and scroll down to ‘paragraph’.
  4. Under the ‘indent’ tab, change the left indent to .5”

The information in the aforementioned paragraphs has explained how MLA format rules apply to both short and long quotes, as well as poetry. There are a number of other situations where in-text citation for quotes might apply.

Please refer to the quick reference guide below for additional information.

Quick Reference Guide

This Webpage provides only simple illustrations for a few common quotations. For the different placements of sentence periods under varying circumstances, please see sections 3.7.2. Prose, 3.7.3. Poetry, 3.7.4. Drama, 3.7.5. Ellipsis, and 6.3 Readability in the MLA Handbook.

For detailed advice on quoting poetry or prose, please use the official MLA Handbook:

MLA Handbook 6th ed.

Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 6th ed. New York: MLA, 2003.

1. If there is an obvious error in the quoted passage, add (sic) (Latin meaning “thus”) after the error, e.g., “The theraputic (sic) remarks upset the patient immensely” (Morley 24).

2. To emphasize a passage you may italicize, bold, or underline it, but you must add (italics mine) or (emphasis added) in parentheses after the passage emphasized, e.g., “My job is the best job (italics mine) there is” (Gates 147). Or, “My job is the best job (emphasis added) there is” (Gates 147).

In the MLA Handbook, however, Gibaldi finds that it is rarely appropriate to use italics for emphasis in writing research papers (95) and that “In research papers and manuscripts submitted for publication, words that would be italicized in print are best underlined” (94).

3. To quote 1 or 2 lines of verse, poem, or poetry, you may use a back slash (/) to mark the end of the first line, e.g., In “Logan Braes,” John Mayne writes: “Revered by friends, and far frae faes, / We’d live in bliss on Logan Braes” (363).

4. To quote 4 or less lines of prose, you can include the passage within quotation marks as part of your text, e.g. Dick Oliver concludes that “all communication industries [. . .] are moving rapidly toward exclusively digital technology” (24).

5. To quote 5 or more lines of prose, or 3 or more lines of verse, begin on a new line, set the quoted passage off from the text of your essay by indenting 1″ (2.5 cm) or about 10 spaces from the left margin, double-space between lines, without using quotation marks.


In their Introduction to Computer Science with C++, Lambert, Nance, and Naps 
stress that:

          The key to writing a successful program is planning. Good programs

          do not just happen: they are the result of careful design and 

          patience. [. . .]. Writing a program is like writing an essay: 

          An overall theme is envisioned, an outline of major ideas is

          developed, each major idea is subdivided into several parts, 

          and each part is developed using individual sentences (15).

6. To omit part of a quoted passage, you need to indicate the omission by the use of 3 spaced dots enclosed in square brackets, e.g., “The local politicians believe welfare [. . .] should all be paid for through income taxes” (Stewart 1).

7. If your omission is at the end of the sentence, i.e. with an ellipsis at the end, there will be a total of four dots (3 spaced dots enclosed in square brackets followed by a period immediately outside the square brackets, and no period at the end of the parentheses), the ellipsis examples may look like this:

“Africa is more than warlords and tyrants [. . .].” (De Villiers and Hirtle 15)

8. If you are quoting 3 or more lines of verse but want to omit one or more full lines, indicate the omission by a single line of spaced dots across the page, enclosed in square brackets, e.g.,

[. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .]

9. To add a word or a remark to a quotation, or to replace a word or remark in the quotation, you must place your word or remark in square brackets [ ], e.g., “The child [Adam] was left miserably abandoned” (Price 206).

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