The block quote is used for direct quotations that are longer than four lines of prose, or longer than three lines of poetry. A block quote is always used when quoting dialogue between characters, as in a play.
The block format is a freestanding quote that does not include quotation marks. Introduce the block quote with a colon (unless the context of your quote requires different punctuation) and start it on a new line. Indent the entire quote 1-inch from the left margin and double-space it (even if the rest of your paper is not double-spaced). Include the page number at the end of your block quote outside of the ending period. Also include the author's last name, date of publication, and page number(s)/paragraph number.
If you quote a single paragraph (or just part of one), do not indent the first line of the block quote more than the rest:
It is not until near the end of The Hound of the Baskervilles that the hound itself is actually seen:
A hound it was, an enormous coal-black hound, but not such a hound as mortal eyes have ever seen. Fire burst from its open mouth, its eyes glowed with a smouldering glare, its muzzle and hackles and dewlap were outlined in flickering flame. Never in the delirious dream of a disordered brain could anything more savage, more appalling, more hellish be conceived than that dark form and savage face which broke upon us out of the wall of fog. (Doyle 82)
If you quote two or more paragraphs, indent the first line of each paragraph an additional ¼ inch. However, if the first sentence quoted does not begin a paragraph in the source, do not indent it the additional amount, only indent the subsequent paragraphs. Here is an example where the first sentence is the beginning of a paragraph:
In the aftermath of the hound sighting, Sherlock Holmes keeps his cool:
Sir Henry lay insensible where he had fallen. We tore away his collar, and Holmes breathed a prayer of gratitude when we saw that there was no sign of a wound and that the rescue had been in time. Already our friend's eyelids shivered and he made a feeble effort to move. Lestrade thrust his brandy-flask between the baronet's teeth, and two frightened eyes were looking up at us.
"My God!" he whispered. "What was it? What, in heaven's name, was it?"
"It's dead, whatever it is," said Holmes. (Doyle 82)
Just as for prose, poetry block quotations (3+ lines) should begin on a new line. Unless the quotation involves unusual spacing, format it as you would prose: indent each line one-inch from margin and double-space the lines. Do not add any quotation marks that do not appear in the source:
Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem “To John Oliver Killens in 1975” addresses another African American writer of the day:
look at our mercy, the massiveness that it is not.
look at our “unity,” look at our
Dim, dull, and dainty. (1-5)
A line of poetry in a block quote that is too long to fit within the right margin of the page should be continued on the next line and indented an additional ¼ inch:
Allen Ginsberg’s famous poem “Howl” begins:
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo
in the machinery of night, (9)
When quoting dialogue from a play, begin each part with the appropriate character’s name indented 1-inch from the left margin and written in all capital letters followed by a period. Then, start the quotation and indent all subsequent lines an additional ¼ inch. In the parenthetical reference at the end of the quote, include the act, scene, and line(s) of your quote, instead of the page number(s):
At the beginning of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, chaos erupts on a ship at sea before the cast of characters ends up on Prospero’s island:
MARINERS. All lost! to prayers, to prayers! all lost!
BOATSWAIN. What, must our mouths be cold?
GONZALO. The king and prince at prayers! let’s assist them,
For our case is as theirs.
SEBASTIAN. I’m out of patience.
ANTONIO. We are merely cheated of our lives by drunkards:
This wide-chapp’d rascal,—would thou mightst lie drowning
The washing of ten tides!
GONZALO. He’ll be hang’d yet,
Though every drop of water swear against it,
And gape at widest to glut him.
A confused noise within: “Mercy on us!”—“We split, we
split!”—“Farewell my wife and children!”—“Farewell,
brother!”—“We split, we split, we split!” (1.5.3-14)
Formatting Direct Quotations Properly in MLA Format
Using direct quotations involves using the exact words of others in your paper, and under the MLA format, you must format quotations differently depending on their length.
Short quotations are less than four lines of prose or three lines of verse (poetry)
Long quotations are more than four lines of prose or three lines of verse (poetry) and include multi-paragraph quotes.
In addition, you might sometimes need to add words to direct quotations for clarity, or omit words that are unnecessary from the quotation. In MLA format, certain formatting rules apply in these situations.
Short direct quotations in MLA format
Short direct quotations include prose that is no more than four lines or verse that is no more than three lines. To format these correctly in MLA format, there are a few rules you must follow.
- Enclose the direct quotation in quotation marks.
- Reference the original author or title (if no author) and page number or line number (verse).
- Place punctuation after the parenthetical citation.
- Place questions marks or exclamation points that are part of the quote inside the quotation marks; place them outside if not part of the original author’s words.
- Include complete reference to the source on Works Cited page.
- According to Spools, sustainable weight loss is only possible through “continued dieting, regular exercising and vigilant monitoring of body weight” (289).
- Sustainable weight loss is only possible through “continued dieting, regular exercising and vigilant monitoring of body weight” (Spools 289).
- Some say that sustainable weight loss is only possible through “continued dieting, regular exercising and vigilant monitoring of body weight” (Spools 289), but other researchers disagree that this level of vigilance is necessary.
- Is sustainable weight loss possible without engaging in “continued dieting, regular exercising and vigilant monitoring of body weight” (Spools 289)?
Short quotations that consist of verses from poetry are handled a little differently.
Breaks are notated with a “/,” and a space appears before and after the slash mark. In addition, the line of the verse is used instead of a page number for the parenthetical citation (unless the poem is quoted in a secondary source). Keep the capitalization of each line of verse intact after the slash mark.
- Silverstein ends with “For the children, they mark, and the children, they know / The place where the sidewalk ends” (15-16).
Long direct quotations in MLA format
Long direct quotations consists of quotations that are longer than four lines of prose or three lines of verse, and the MLA format dictates how these are presented.
- Use a free-standing block of text (block quote).
- Omit the quotation marks.
- Start the direct quotation on a new line.
- Indent one inch from the left margin.
- Indent the first word of paragraphs ONLY if quoting multiple paragraphs.
- Use double spacing in the quotation.
- Include parenthetical citation after the ending punctuation.
Fitness and health guru Jillian Michaels stresses the importance of believing in yourself.
If you are citing poetry, maintain the original formatting to the best of your ability. Use poetry line numbers unless you are quoting something quoted in another source.
In his poem “The Sphinx,” Ralph Waldo Emerson personifies the sphinx as many different pieces of nature, and this shows the transcendental ideals Emerson often touted.
Uprose the merry Sphynx,
And crouched no more in stone,
She melted into purple cloud,
She silvered in the moon,
She spired into a yellow flame,
She flowered in blossoms red,
She flowed into a foaming wave,
She stood Monadnoc’s head. (120-128)
Showing changes to direct quotations in MLA format
Sometimes when you use direct quotations, you might need to add a word or words for clarity or omit portions of the quotation to shorten it or make it work within the context of your words. When this is necessary, you must show changes with brackets [ ], and show omissions of text with an ellipsis […].
When using brackets, place the words you add between the brackets.
- According to Putz, “Some people [who are trying to lose weight] try one fad diet after another with little success because these diets do not promote sustainable or ongoing weight loss” (98).
When using an ellipsis to show the omission of words, put a space before and after it.
- According to Jillian Michaels, success is within reach when you “Have establishment in yourself; trust in the significance of your life … [because] destiny is awaiting you (285).
Direct quotations should stay a small part of your research paper. Paraphrasing and summarizing information into your words is a larger part of including information from your sources. Understanding [URL]direct quotations versus indirect quotations[/writing-resources/punctuation/direct-versus-indirect-quotations] is important in presenting information.