When writing a research article or other report, you probably want to directly quote a source. The MLA (Modern Language Association) style has specific formatting guidelines for including direct citations in an article. These guidelines vary depending on the extent of the material cited. Also, there are some additional guidelines that you should apply if you want to change or omit words from the quoted material in order for it to flow well with your own writing.
Method 1 of 3: Include Short Quotes
Step 1. Include short quotes in double quotes
In the case of citations that are less than 4 typed lines or 3 lines of a poem, write the information literally from the original text, enclosing it in double quotation marks. If the original text has its own punctuation marks, enclose them within the quotation marks.
- If the original text includes material in quotation marks, change the quotation marks to single quotation marks.
- For example, you could write the following: Freud considered a dream to be "the fulfillment of a wish."
the length of a citation refers to the length it is in your document, not how long it is printed in the original source.
Step 2. Place the quotation in parentheses immediately after the quoted text
Even if the quoted passage is in the middle of a sentence, the quotation should follow immediately afterward. Generally, a text citation in MLA format includes the author's name and the page number. If the author's name appears in your text, all you need is the page number.
- For example, you could write the following: Freud considered a dream to be "the fulfillment of a wish" (154).
- Don't forget to include a full citation from the source in your list of bibliographic references at the end of the article.
Step 3. Place the punctuation marks after the quotation in parentheses
Any punctuation marks that follow the quoted text must follow the quotation in parentheses. If the quoted text includes a closing punctuation mark inside it, place a period after the closing parentheses.
For example, you could write: "Is it possible that dreams can express deep aspects of the personality?" (Foulkes 184)
Step 4. Use a slash between lines of poetry
When quoting fewer than 3 lines from a poem, the forward slash (/) is used between lines to preserve line breaks. If a stanza break occurs in the part you quote, use two slashes (//).
For example, you could write the following: In his poem, "Harlem," he wondered what happens to a delayed dream, wondering if it could "dry up / like a raisin in the sun" (24)
Method 2 of 3: Create Bulk Citations
Step 1. Make a separate block citation for appointments that are more than 4 lines long
Begin the quote on a new line and write it as it appears in the original text, including punctuation. Do not enclose block quotes in double quotes.
- The entire block citation is indented 1.5 inches (1.3 cm) from the left margin.
- Keep the double space in the block quote as in the rest of the article.
If you use Microsoft Word, write the entire citation in bulk in the article, starting on a new line. Then highlight the entire quote and hit the tab key once to indent properly.
Step 2. Write a cue phrase before starting the quote
Before including a block quote in your article, introduce it using a phrase that tells the reader what information it conveys. In general, it is appropriate to include the author's name in the sentence that introduces the block citation.
Generally, the sentence immediately before a quote ends with a colon instead of a period
Step 3. Include character names and French indents for dramatic texts
Dramatic texts, including plays or scripts, have a different format in block quotes than in other prose. Write the character's name in capital letters, followed by a period. Then write your lines. Use a French indent on each character's line after the lines, leaving an additional 0.25 inches (0.64 cm) from the left margin.
As with all block quotes, indent the first line with the character's name 1.5 inches from the left margin
Step 4. Use a block citation format when citing more than one paragraph
Even if the citation is less than 4 lines, in the MLA style you must use a block citation format if there is a paragraph break in the middle of the text you want to cite. This will preserve the paragraph break.
When citing more than one paragraph, indent the first line of any new paragraph an additional 0.64 cm (0.25 inches) from the left margin
Step 5. Keep the format similar to the original in case you quote poetry
Indent the entire cited section about 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) from the left margin, just as you would a block citation. If the poet uses more lines with indentation or other spacing, try to imitate that as much as possible. Copy all line breaks and punctuation exactly as they appear in the original text.
If you are citing specific poetry or another way in which spacing is important to understanding the entire poem, it is probably better to include a digital image of it rather than trying to reproduce it yourself
Step 6. Place the quotation in parentheses after the closing punctuation
Because the closing punctuation is part of the citation, it stays with the quoted text. No punctuation mark is placed after the closing of the quotation in parentheses.
- As with short citations, if you included the author's name in the introduction to the block citation, you don't need to include it again in the parenthetical citation. Just type in the page number or page range where the quoted text can be found.
- When citing poetry, put the quotation in parentheses at the end of the last line quoted, regardless of punctuation. If that line does not have a closing punctuation, it is not necessary to add one before or after the quotation in parentheses.
Method 3 of 3: Edit citations to fit your writing
Step 1. Use square brackets to clarify the reference to the name
If the part of the original text that you want to cite uses a pronoun, you may need to explain to your readers who or what the text refers to. Keep the description short and enclose it in quotation marks immediately after the pronoun you want to clarify.
For example, suppose you want to cite a source that says "While they excelled in individual projects, they struggled in group ones." The sentences above indicate that "they" refers to "introverted students." Therefore, the quote should read as follows: "While they excelled in individual projects, they [introverted students] had trouble in group ones."
Step 2. Include the word “sic” in brackets after any mistakes
If there are any grammatical or spelling errors in the original text that you quote, do not correct them. Rather, add the word "sic" in brackets immediately after the error. This will alert readers that the error occurred in the original text and is not the result of your own writing error.
- Grammar errors arise more frequently in a quoted speech than in a written and edited text. If a font has a lot of errors in the text, it could be an indicator that it is unreliable and that you probably should not use it as a font.
- Avoid using "sic" to make a political or editorial statement about the language the source uses. For example, if the source includes the word "ceviche," you would make a political or editorial statement to include a "sic" after that word. Even though the word "seviche" may be more appropriate for you, "cebiche" is not grammatically incorrect.
Step 3. Note the emphasis added in the parenthetical citation
There is a possibility that you want to emphasize a specific part of something quoted, usually by placing it in italics. The MLA style standards allow this, as long as you include the phrase “emphasis added” in the citation in parentheses, after the page number where the quoted text can be found.
For example, you could write the following: “Students who described themselves as 'highly introverted' liked group projects less” (Briggs 24, emphasis added)
Step 4. Indicate omissions with 3 spaced ellipsis points
When citing source text, include only the material you need. You can omit any unnecessary word and replace it with ellipsis points (…).
- If the material you omitted appears at the end of the sentence, keep the period at the end. It will appear that there are 4 ellipsis points instead of 3.
- If there are any other punctuation marks, such as a comma or semicolon, in the original text, keep it after the ellipsis. For example, a quote could be written as follows: “Students liked individual projects…; However, they did not like working in groups”. Note that a space must be included before the first ellipsis point, as well as another space after the last.
- If you are citing a source that uses ellipsis points, such as "suspension points," that indicate a doubt or a pause in speech instead of omitted words, place those ellipsis points in parentheses to distinguish them from the original text.
Step 5. Place brackets around any changes made to the original text
Especially in the case of short quotes, you probably need to modify the quoted passage so that it flows smoothly with your own text. This may include changing an initial capital letter with a lowercase letter, using different pronouns, or modifying the verb type or plurality of the subject.
For example, suppose you want to use the beginning of a sentence in the middle of one written by you. To change the capital letter, you can write "Percy, Bysshe Shelley argued that 'poets are unrecognized legislators of the world."
If you need to make too many changes to the source text, this could give it a cluttered appearance and negatively affect readability. Consider rephrasing your sentence or quoting only excerpts from the original text instead of using the whole sentence.