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)
Formatting direct quotations is an entire art when it comes to writing a school or college essay. MLA writing style is the simplest, but you still have to know how to add citations properly, especially when talking about the poem. The poem is something different from prose by its nature. Thus, the formatting rules are a bit different. We recommend citing a poem in MLA style.
First, a student has to realize why it is crucial to quote a poetry. Often, various essays are assigned to the students of English Literature or Arts class:
- Critical thinking
- Compare & contrast
You may first read about the best ways to get ready with your homework as fast as possible.
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Reasons to Cite Quotes from Poem
To prove your words and the fact that you have read the story, it is critical to insert direct and indirect quotes from the selected MLA poem. To cite means to apply exact words of the discussed authors in your academic essay. Under the MLA writing style, a student should develop quotations in various ways. It all depends on the length.
- Short quotations from poetry include less than 3 lines (for prose, 4 lines are used). Example from Edgar Allan Poe is:
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
Tis some visitor,' I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door -
Only this, and nothing more
- Long quotations have to be more than 3 lines of the literary piece (or 4 lines of prose). You will have to cite multiple paragraph quotes. The example of such quote to cite may be the lines by DeFord:
The broken hearts of yesterday
But wait, be still, don't lose this way
Affection now, for what you guess
May be something more, could be less
Accept my love, live for today.
Moreover, students may sometimes need to insert in-text direct citations to explain or omit words that play no role. Thus, students are not encouraged to cite unnecessary parts.
Without proper research skills, you won't be able to choose the most proper texts to quote, so perfect your research capabilities using these tips.
Format Your Title Properly
Sure thing, it is necessary to start citing a poem correctly from its title. Sometimes quotation marks are used instead of italics. But which way should you choose?
Well, this decision depends on the size of the piece. If you need to cite a short poem, do it this way:
- "Be Proud of Who You Are"
- "Our Brothers"
- "Life's Own Battle"
Longer poems have to be cited in italics. Let's have a look at several examples:
- Tape for the Turn of the Year
- The Sea and the Mirror
- The Age of Anxiety
The titles of short literary pieces are always put in quotation marks. As for the long poems, as you have noticed, their titles are written in italics.
For more ideas on writing an essay, turn to this article.
How to Cite a Poem in MLA?
Working on MLA poem is the simplest task you can picture as it does not require too much time. Instead of reading lengthy manuals, keep to these short guidelines.
- Each time you cite a quotation from a poetry (it can be several words or the whole paragraph), place the citations off with quotation marks around them. Insert parentheses to quote exact words of the author. Always leave punctuation marks like period or comma outside the end parenthesis. The number next to the citation corresponds to the number of the specific line.
"According the lyrics of the author, "and every fair from fair sometime declines" (7).
- If you decide to quote lines that follow each other, type in a virgule (/) to define where the chosen lines "divide". In parenthesis, provide the first and last name of the author, breaking them apart with the help of a hyphen.
- In case you should include more than 4 consecutive lines, apply "long quotation"; or so-called blockquote. Print a short signal phrase in the introduction of your quote; indent it two times; double space; leave punctuation marks the way they appear in the original text.
- Other elements of formatting appear the way you would cite a prose with the rights reserved.
- Whatever you quote, always proofread and edit the way you cited quotations if necessary.
How to Cite Short Direct Quotations from Poems in MLA?
Before writing, one has to learn the basic rules of the corresponding format when citing a poem. You may have a look at the valuable example or find a good book dedicated to academic writing styles. Sure thing, you must read the poetry as well. Otherwise, you won't know which parts have to be chosen for your essay and quoted properly.
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Before you cite a poem, pay attention to how long the selected quotes are to identify their type. As it was said above, short quotes from poetry are those that involve less than three lines of text. Make sure you obey these rules when you decide to cite a quotation from poetry in English paper:
- Apply quotation marks to the direct quote from the chosen literary piece
- Mention the author's initial name, full title (in case of missing author), and page number or line number
- Locate punctuation after the parenthetical quotation
- Add questions or exclamation marks that belong to the citation inside the quotation marks. Leave them outside in case it does not belong to the original writer's words.
- Don't forget about the full reference to the source on the Bibliography page at the end of your MLA essay.
Let's Have a Look at a Sample
Replace breaks with a "/," insert a space before and after the slash mark. Mind that the line of the poem is applied instead of the page number for the parenthetical quotation. The only exception is a work being cited in a secondary source. Capitalize every line of verse intact after the slash mark.
In Adrienne Rich's "Aunt Jennifer's Tigers," Rich says that"Uncle's wedding
band / Sits heavily upon Aunt Jennifer's hand" (7-8). The band evidently is a
sign of the oppression.
Another example is:As he mentioned, "till the leaves went whirling with him / Till the dust and wind together / Swept in eddies round about him" (10-12).
When you cite a poem, you should provide the line numbers only in case your source shares them, in parentheses, just after the ending quotation marks and before the final punctuation.
You can find even more poem's quotations samples online!
How to Cite Long Direct Quotations from Poems in MLA?
If you need to quote a longer part (more than three lines of verse), here are the steps to applying MLA style properly in such case.
- It is recommended to use a free-standing block of text (k.a. block quote)
- Skip quotation marks
- Begin to quote directly from a new line
- Indent the first word of each paragraph only if you have to quote several paragraphs
- Apply double-space in the quote
- Involve parenthetical citation which will follow after the final punctuation
Emily Dickinson concludes "I'm Nobody! Who Are You?" with a characteristically bittersweet stanza:
How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong June
To an admiring bog! (5-8)
He celebrated his triumph as quoted in these lines of the poem:
he brought in triumph back the beauteous dame,
With whom her sister, fair Emilia, came.
With honour to his home let Theseus ride,
With Love to friend, and Fortune for his guide (9-12).
Other Rules of Citing Poems
The Golden Rule number one states: if the students quote a poem, they must add valuable feedback or comments to explain why particular lines were chosen to share. It is necessary to inform the reader what you make of this specific quote and why it is important in the context of your essay topic.
You can mix quotations into the sentences of your own. They don't have to be added unless you get your reader ready for them. The best way to do so is shown in the example below:
Alexander Pope's pastoral episode is determined by grief and deep depression, due to the fact that spectator, who is asked to "see gloomy clouds obscure the cheerful day' (5), is present at the funeral.
Make in-text citations of MLA poem using ellipses to point the space which included words you decided to skip. There are many examples like 'on the... different shores of the Dream" (23). Each time you make tiny adjustments to grammar, type in brackets (example: The speaker states that "Darkling [he listens]" (51).).
How to Cite a Poem - Final Recommendations
Apply 3-spaced period to highlight omissions. It does not matter whether the quote is long or really short, a student has to modify some of the given information in it to fit the sentence requirements. Skip anything from the poem quotation which sounds insignificant for your main idea. It is simple to exclude unnecessary parts: indicate such parts with 3-spaced periods (...).
Add square brackets in order to include your own interpretations within citations. If you insert words of your authorship to integrate the cited part into your train of discourse or to interpret words that might be ambiguous, paste square-shaped brackets around these words.
Remember: you should not overload your text with quotations from the discussed poem. Quote the words of others without getting too enthusiastic. Direct citations have to occupy only a small part of your entire essay. Paraphrasing or rewriting some words from the poem is a better way to recall certain episodes. Still, poem quotation is one of the best methods to prove you've really read the text.
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