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MLA Style Guide: Long Quotations

Adding Words in Quotations

Use brackets around words you have inserted to a quotation to show they are not part of the original text.

EXAMPLE: In a discussion of a school’s responsibility towards teaching character, Sizer and Sizer argue that “the test of a good school is how its students behave when no [teachers] are looking, how the [students behave] in the mall as well as in the school’s classrooms and corridors” (25).

Omitting Words in Quotations

Use elipses to indicate that you have cut down the quotation and omitted words. 

EXAMPLE:

In The Crucible, Abigail asserts her power over her peers by threatening the other girls,

Now look you. All of you. We danced. And Tituba conjured Ruth Putnam’s dead sisters.  . . . Let either of you breathe a word, or the edge of a word about the other things, and I will come to you in the black of some terrible night and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you. . . . I saw Indians smash my dear parents’ heads on the pillow next to mine, and I have seen some reddish work done at night, and I can make you wish you had never seen the sun go down! (Miller 20)

General Guidelines

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. 

NOTE: The punctuation of the long quote remains with the quotation.  There should not be any punctuation after the parenthesis in this situation.  The rule for punctuating long quotes and their parenthetical citations is the opposite from punctuating shorter quotes and paraphrases with parenthetical references.

 

Long Quotations in Prose

When citing two or more paragraphs, use block quotation format, even if the passage from the paragraphs is less than four lines. When quoting a second paragraph indent the first line of each quoted paragraph an extra quarter inch.

EXAMPLE:

In The Crucible, Abigail, the queen bee, uses her power to threaten others if they do not support her version of the events.

Now look you. All of you. We danced. And Tituba conjured Ruth Putnam’s dead sisters.  And that is all. And mark this. Let either of you breathe a word, or the edge of a word about the other things, and I will come to you in the black of some terrible night and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you.  And you know I can do it; I saw Indians smash my dear parents’ heads on the pillow next to mine, and I have seen some reddish work done at night, and I can make you wish you had never seen the sun go down! (Miller 20)

Make sure to double space even long quotations of prose or poetry. (Even though the examples here aren't double spaced because the editor won't allow it).

Long Quotations with Poetry

When citing long sections (more than three lines) of poetry, keep formatting as close to the original as possible.

Note: Punctuation in long quotations comes after the quotation, not after the parenthesis. This is the opposite of punctuating short quotations.

The poem Hat evokes memories of childhood,

Teddy said it was a hat,

So I put it on.

Now Dad is saying,

“Where the heck’s

the toilet plunger gone?” (Silverstein 74)