Mla Style Quotes In Essays

Using literary quotations

Use the guidelines below to learn how to use literary quotations.


 

For further information, check out Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Acknowledging Sources, or you may wish to see when the Writing Center is next offering its workshop entitled Intro to Literary Analysis.

Incorporating Quotations

  • As you choose quotations for a literary analysis, remember the purpose of quoting.

  • Your paper develops an argument about what the author of the text is doing--how the text "works."

  • You use quotations to support this argument; that is, you select, present, and discuss material from the text specifically to "prove" your point--to make your case--in much the same way a lawyer brings evidence before a jury.

  • Quoting for any other purpose is counterproductive.

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Punctuating and Indenting Quotations

For the most part, you must reproduce the spelling, capitalization, and internal punctuation of the original exactly.

The following alterations are acceptable:

Changing the closing punctuation

You may alter the closing punctuation of a quotation in order to incorporate it into a sentence of your own:

"Books are not life," Lawrence emphasized.

Commas and periods go inside the closing quotation marks; the other punctuation marks go outside.

Lawrence insisted that books "are not life"; however, he wrote exultantly about the power of the novel.

Why does Lawrence need to point out that "Books are not life"?

Using the slash when quoting poetry

When quoting lines of poetry up to three lines long (which are not indented, see Indenting quotations), separate one line of poetry from another with a slash mark (see examples in Incorporating Quotations into Sentences).

Using Ellipsis Points for Omitted Material

If for the sake of brevity you wish to omit material from a quoted passage, use ellipsis points (three spaced periods) to indicate the omission.

(See this sample paragraph. The writer quoted only those portions of the original sentences that related to the point of the analysis.)

Using Square Brackets when Altering Material

When quoting, you may alter grammatical forms such as the tense of a verb or the person of a pronoun so that the quotation conforms grammatically to your own prose; indicate these alterations by placing square brackets around the changed form.

In the following quotation "her" replaces the "your" of the original so that the quote fits the point of view of the paper (third person):

When he hears Cordelia's answer, Lear seems surprised, but not dumbfounded. He advises her to "mend [her] speech a little." He had expected her to praise him the most; but compared to her sisters', her remarks seem almost insulting (1.1.95).

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Indenting Quotations

Prose or verse quotations less than four lines long are not indented. For quotations of this length, use the patterns described above.

Indent "longer" quotations in a block about ten spaces in from the left margin; when a quotation is indented, quotation marks are not used.

The MLA Handbook (1995) recommends that indented quotations be double-spaced, but many instructors prefer them single-spaced. The meaning of "longer" varies slightly from one style system to another, but a general rule is to indent quotations that are more than two (or three) lines of verse or three (or four) lines of prose.

Indent dialogue between characters in a play. Place the speaker's name before the speech quoted:

CAESAR: Et tu, Brute! Then, fall, Caesar!

CINNA: Liberty! Freedom! Tyranny is dead! (3.1.77-78)

For more information see Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Acknowledging Sources - How to Quote a Source.

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Emphasizing Your Ideas

What to include in literary analysis

Take a look at this sample paragraph. It includes 3 basic kinds of materials:

  1. statements expressing the student's own ideas about the relationship Woolf is creating;

  2. data or evidence from the text in summarized, paraphrased, and quoted form; and

  3. discussion of how the data support the writer's interpretation.

The quotations are used in accordance with the writer's purpose, i.e. to show how the development of Mrs. Ramsey's feelings indicates something about her personality.

Should I quote?

Quoting is only one of several ways to present textual material as evidence.

You can also refer to textual data, summarize, and paraphrase. You will often want merely to refer or point to passages (as in the third sentence in the sample paragraph) that contribute to your argument.

In other cases you will want to paraphrase, i.e. "translate" the original into your own words, again instead of quoting. Summarize or paraphrase when it is not so much the language of the text that justifies your position, but the substance or content.

Quote selectively

Similarly, after you have decided that you do want to use material in quoted form, quote only the portions of the text specifically relevant to your point.

Think of the text in terms of units--words, phrases, sentences, and groups of sentences (paragraphs, stanzas)--and use only the units you need.

If it is particular words or phrases that "prove" your point, you do not need to quote the sentences they appear in; rather, incorporate the words and phrases into sentences expressing your own ideas.

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Maintaining Clarity and Readability

Introduce your quotations

Introduce a quotation either by indicating what it is intended to show or by naming its source, or both.

For non-narrative poetry, it's customary to attribute quotations to "the speaker"; for a story with a narrator, to "the narrator."

For plays, novels, and other works with characters, identify characters as you quote them.

Do not use two quotations in a row, without intervening material of your own.

For further information see Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Acknowledging Sources - How to Quote a Source.

Pay attention to verb tense

Tense is a tricky issue. It's customary in literary analysis to use the present tense; it is at the present time that you (and your reader) are looking at the text.

But events in a narrative or drama take place in a time sequence. You will often need to use a past tense to refer to events that took place before the moment you are presently discussing:

When he hears Cordelia's answer, Lear seems surprised, but not dumbfounded. He advises her to "mend [her] speech a little." He had expected her to praise him the most; but compared to her sisters', her remarks seem almost insulting (1.1.95).

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Documenting Quotations

Follow your course instructor's guidelines for documenting sources. If your instructor hasn't told you which system to use to document sources, ask.

Keep in mind that when you are writing a paper about the same text and quoting from the same edition that everyone else in the class is, instructors will often allow you to use informal documentation. In this case just include the page number in parentheses after the quotation or reference to the text. To be sure, though, you should ask your course instructor.

The documentation style used in this pages is that presented in the 1995 MLA Handbook, but other style systems are commonly used. The Writing Center has information about the rules of documentation in general and about a number of the most common systems, such as APA, APSA, CBE, Chicago/Turabian, MLA, and Numbered References.

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Q & A: Using Quotations, Citing Sources, and Formatting the Works Cited Page

Q. How can I integrate a quotation into my own sentence?

1. Using a full sentence to introduce the quotation.

Quotations need to be introduced appropriately using a signal phrase or sentence rather than being "dropped" into the paragraph with no context.A dropped quotation is a quotation inserted into the text without a signal phrase. Note how the quotation in this example is "dropped" into the paragraph so that the reader is unsure who is speaking. Instead, dropped quotations must be integrated grammatically into the text through the use of a signal phrase.

  • Incorrect: The Swede feared for his life. "You are all out to get me" (Crane 97). Note that the quotation is not linked grammatically with the preceding sentence.
  • Incorrect: The Swede feared for his life, "You are all out to get me" (Crane 87). This is a comma splice, since two complete sentences are linked just by a comma.
  • Correct: The Swede feared for his life: "You are all out to get me" (Crane 97). The colon links the preceding sentence with the quotation. Because both parts of this example are complete sentences, the colon (not the comma) is the appropriate mark to link them.

2. Using an explanatory sentence to introduce the quotation.

  • Correct: The Swede showed that he feared for his life when he shouted, “You are all out to get me" (Crane 97). This example combines an explanatory sentence with the quotation.

3. Using a "tag" to introduce the quotation.

  • Correct: The Swede shouted, "You are all out to get me" (Crane 97). This example uses a simple "tag" (a sentence using wrote, said, shouted, remarked, etc.) to introduce the quotation.

Q. How long does the quotation have to be?

Use only as much quotation as you absolutely need. There are three general types of quotations:

1. Block Quotations. Quotations comprising more than four lines of text are usually set off as block quotations. Here are a few hints for using block quotations:

  • Indent 10 spaces. Indent the text 10 spaces from the left margin (in Word, hit the Increase Indent button twice).
  • Use a colon. Block quotations are usually introduced with a full sentence with a colon before the quotation.
  • No quotation marks. Do not use quotation marks around the quotation. The fact that it is set apart from the text shows that it is a quotation.
  • MLA. In MLA format, put the citation information (Smith 123) after the period at the end of the quotation.
  • Inside paragraphs . Block quotations are usually used within paragraphs; it is not necessary to start a new paragraph after using a block quotation.
  • Be sparing with quotations . Most important: use only as much of the quotation as you need. The reader will expect to see an analysis of the passage that is about the same length as the passage itself.

2. Full Sentence Quotation. A quotation that is a full sentence in length is set off either with a signal phrase or with an introductory sentence.

Example: John F. Kennedy inspired a generation with these words: "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."
Example: As John F. Kennedy once said, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."

3. Partial Sentence Quotation. Use only as much of the quotation as you need. Here are some examples based on the following quotation from William Faulkner's short story "A Rose for Emily": "Alive, she was a tradition, a duty, and a care, a sort of hereditary obligation on the town" (Faulkner 237).

  • Correct (first use in the paper) In William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily," the townspeople view Miss Emily as "a tradition, a duty, and a care, a sort of hereditary obligation on the town" (237).
  • Correct: Miss Emily Grierson was "a sort of hereditary obligation on the town" (Faulkner 237).

Q. What if I want to cut something out of the middle of a quotation?

Ellipsis. If you need to omit material from the middle of a quotation, use an ellipsis, which is indicated by three spaced dots (. . . ). The plural of “ellipsis” is “ellipses."

Here is an example from William Faulkner's short story "A Rose for Emily": "Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town, dating from that day in 1894 when Colonel Sartoris, the mayor--he who fathered the edict that no Negro woman should appear on the streets without an apron-remitted her taxes, the dispensation dating from the death of her father on into perpetuity."

  • Correct: In William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily," the townspeople view Miss Emily as "a tradition . . .  a sort of hereditary obligation on the town" (237).

Q. Do I need to use an ellipsis at the beginning and end of the quotation?

No. With few exceptions, you should not use ellipses at the beginning and end of a quotation. According to the Chicago Manual of Style , ellipses are typically not used at the beginning or end of a quotation (see 11.57 ff) unless the quotation begins "with a capitalized word (such as a proper name) that did not appear at the beginning of a sentence in the original" (11.65).

  • Incorrect: For the townspeople, Miss Emily Grierson was “ . . . a hereditary obligation on the town . . .” (Faulkner 237).
  • Correct: For the townspeople, Miss Emily Grierson was “a hereditary obligation on the town” (Faulkner 237).

If the material you’re omitting includes the end of a sentence, you can include the period along with the ellipsis (four periods instead of three).

Q. How many quotations does this paper have to have?

There is no set number of quotations. Use as many as you need to support your argument, but be sure that you analyze and explain their significance.

Citing Sources

Q. How do I cite the quotations in my paper?

Use the author's (not the editor's) last name and the page number in parentheses.

For your first citation, include a signal phrase (the author's name and the title) when you introduce the quotation, and use the page number in parentheses after the quotation. Put the period after the page number in parentheses.

  • Correct: In William Faulkner's short story "A Rose for Emily," Miss Emily Grierson is an important figure to the townspeople: "Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care, a sort of hereditary obligation on the town" (237).

For subsequent citations, include the author's name and the page number after the quotation but before the period.

Q. Which is right: (Author 12), (Author, p. 12), or (Author, 12)?

The first one is correct. MLA style uses the author's last name and page number with no comma in between for in-text citations. The name can be omitted if it's given in the signal phrase. Do not put a comma between the author's name and the page number or use "p." in the in-text citation.

  • Correct: For the townspeople, Miss Emily Grierson was “a hereditary obligation on the town” (Faulkner 237).
  • Incorrect: For the townspeople, Miss Emily Grierson was “a hereditary obligation on the town” (Faulkner, 237).
  • Incorrect: For the townspeople, Miss Emily Grierson was “a hereditary obligation on the town” (Faulkner, p. 237).

Q. Where do I put the period at the end of the sentence if I'm citing something?

Put the period after the parenthetical citation, unless you're using a block quotation.

  • Correct: For the townspeople, Miss Emily Grierson was “a hereditary obligation on the town” (Faulkner 237).
  • Incorrect: For the townspeople, Miss Emily Grierson was “a hereditary obligation on the town.” (Faulkner 237)

Q. How do I cite quotations from poetry?

When citing lines of poetry, use line numbers rather than page numbers.

Correct: In "The World is Too Much With Us," Wordsworth contends that industrialization and commerce have resulted in a loss of closeness to nature:

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon! (lines 1-4)

Use (lines 1-4) for the first reference; after that, just use the line numbers (1-4).

If you are quoting up to three lines of poetry, put them in the text (rather than as a block quotation) and use a slash (/) to separate the lines

Q. Do I use quotation marks or italics for the titles?

It depends on the type of work: is it short (essay, poem, short story) or long, like a book (play, movie, book, novel)?

Titles should be marked with italics (underlining) or quotation marks, depending on the work being discussed.

    1. Titles of works that appear within a volume, such as short stories, poems, and essays, should be placed in quotation marks: " Araby," "The Prophecy," "Dulce et Decorum Est."

    2. Titles of works that are a volume in themselves, such as books, magazines, newspapers, plays, and movies, should be set off with underlining or italics: Hamlet, Little Women, The Awakening.

    3. Your own title should neither be underlined nor placed in quotation marks unless it contains the title of the work you're discussing. In that case, only the title of the work should be punctuated as a title.

Q. Do I need to put commas around all the titles?

Usually no. It depends on whether the title is a restrictive or nonrestrictive element. (Note: For some good examples, go to Ben Yagoda's explanation in the New York Times.)

Nonrestrictive clauses and phrases are "extra information"; if they are removed, the meaning of the sentence remains the same. Memory tip: Try putting your thumb over the information within the commas. If the sentence changes without that information, the information restricts the meaning of the sentence, and you don't need the commas.

Incorrect example: In Louisa May Alcott's novel, Work, Christie Devon declares her independence from convention.

This is incorrect because the commas imply that Alcott wrote only one novel, which isn't true. If you put your thumb over what's between the commas (the "extra information"), the sentence would read like this: In Louisa May Alcott's novel, Christie Devon declares her independence from convention. That doesn't have the same meaning, and anyway, we know that Louisa May Alcott wrote more than one novel.

Correct: In Louisa May Alcott's novel Work, Christie Devon declares her independence from convention.

The comma is there because of the introductory phrase.

  • Incorrect: In his story, "Araby," James Joyce writes of a young boy's initiation.
  • Correct: In his story "Araby," James Joyce tells the story of a young boy's initiation.

Q. Do I need a Works Cited page?

Yes, you do. All papers must have a Works Cited page, even if you're using your textbook as the source for the works you'll be discussing. The Works Cited page is a list of the references you actually discussed in your paper, not a list of all the sources consulted.

  • Works should be listed alphabetically by the author's last name.
  • The list should not be numbered.
  • The list should use a "hanging indent" style (in Word: Format -> Paragraph-> Special: Hanging).

The general format for entries is as follows:

Short story, poem, or essay:

Author Last Name, Author First Name. "Title of Poem, Essay, or Story." Title of Volume. Edited by Firstname Lastname, Publisher, Year, pp. Page Numbers.

Novel:

Author Lastname, Author Firstname. Title of Novel. Publisher, Year.

Novel with editors:

Wharton, Edith. The House of Mirth. Edited by Janet Beer and Elizabeth Nolan, Broadview Press, 2005.

Essay:

Fetterley, Judith. "The Resisting Reader." Feminist Literary Theory and Criticism, edited by Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, Norton, 2007, pp. 443-447.

For other examples, go to The Purdue OWL .

Q. Should I number the references in my Works Cited Page?

No. Although some scientific citation formats do this, MLA does not.

Q. How do I cite the course pack or course handouts?

Here is some information on citing the course pack:

Author. “Title of Part.” Title of Original Book/Periodical. Original Publication Information. Rpt. in Title of Course Reader. Comp. Instructor’s Name. Publication Information of Reader. Pages in Reader. Medium of Publication.

Q. Where can I find more information on how to set up a Works Cited page?

You can find examples of citation formats here: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/. Newer versions of Word also have built-in citation managers.

If you're using a reference manager (Zotero, Endnote, Mendeley, etc.), you can automatically generate a Works Cited page and correct in-text citations. Other resources to help you format your references in MLA style include the following: EasyBib, WorksCited4U, and Word 2007 and 2010.

Q. How can I cite an electronic edition, such as a Kindle edition?

The medium is the type of electronic file, such as Kindle file, Nook file, EPUB file, or PDF file. If you cannot identify the file type, use Digital file. For example:

Rowley, Hazel. Franklin and Eleanor: An Extraordinary Marriage. New York: Farrar, 2010. Kindle file.

If the work presents electronic and print publication information, the electronic information should usually be cited.

Most electronic readers include a numbering system that tells users their location in the work. Do not cite this numbering, because it may not appear consistently to other users. If the work is divided into stable numbered sections like chapters, the numbers of those sections may be cited, with a label identifying the nature of the number (6.4.2):

According to Hazel Rowley, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt began their honeymoon with a week’s stay at Hyde Park (ch. 2).

Q. How can I cite a PowerPoint or class notes?

Both the print and online versions of the MLA Handbook 7 are silent on the issue of how to cite PowerPoint presentations, a question that several of you asked about today.

In the absence of other information, cite it as you would a lecture or class notes (MLA Handbook 7 5.7.11)

5.7.11.A LECTURE, A SPEECH, AN ADDRESS, OR A READING

In a citation of an oral presentation, give the speaker’s name; the title of the presentation (if known), in quotation marks; the meeting and the sponsoring organization (if applicable); the location; and the date. Use an appropriate descriptive label (AddressLectureKeynote speechReading), neither italicized nor enclosed in quotation marks, to indicate the form of delivery.

Alter, Robert, and Marilynne Robinson. “The Psalms: A Reading and Conversation.” 92nd Street Y, New York. 17 Dec. 2007. Reading.

Matuozzi, Robert. “Archive Trauma.” Archive Trouble. MLA Annual Convention. Hyatt Regency, Chicago. 29 Dec. 2007. Address.

Your citation for a class PowerPoint would look like this in your Works Cited:

Campbell, Donna. "Romantic and Byronic Heroes." English 372: 19th-Century British and American Global Literature. Washington State University. 16 September 2014. PowerPoint.

For in-text citation, use either the last name, or, if you're using two PowerPoints, the last name and a short title.

The Romantic hero "XXXXX" (Campbell). 

Q. How do I cite a blog post, a tweet, a YouTube video, or other online source?

Cite these as you would any web source. The Purdue OWL has a helpful guide to this at https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/08/

Last updated Tuesday, March 13, 2018 10:06 AM

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