Different style sheets (MLA, Chicago, etc.) have different conventions for quoting in literary essays. Normally I am tolerant of variations, but many students do not seem aware of some features shared by all for quoting poetry. Please follow the guidelines below (and your other professors will appreciate it if you do this in other classes).
Cite page numbers for prose and line numbers for poetry. If you are quoting a poem translated into prose, cite line numbers if possible; otherwise cite page numbers. If you aren't sure about the difference between poetry and prose, click here.
If you are citing The Canterbury Tales from The Riverside Chaucer, you may replace the name of the tale with the fragment number. Hence you may cite line 1 of the Knight's Tale as "(Knight's Tale, 1)" or as "(I.859)" (that is, line 859 of Fragment I).
When citing poetry indicate the line breaks you find in the edition you are quoting from. Do not cite the text as continuous prose.
If you are quoting under four lines of poetry, indicate the line breaks with "/". Here is an example from an essay on Chaucer:
[Chaucer's] images are simple and direct. They are for the most part introduced with nothing more than a "like to", or "as", and cover all phases of human activity, and make their effect by their homely and immediate appeal. The bells on the Monk's bridle ring "in a whistlynge wynd als cleere, / And eek as loude as dooth the chapel belle" (General Prologue, 170-171).
Remember to separate the "/" from any other text or punctuation with spaces on either side.
If your quotation is longer than four lines, you must indicate line breaks as they are printed in the text from which you are quoting--without slashes. The quotation must be indented and formatted as described below.
If your quotation consists of four or more lines or prose or poetry, follow the guidelines below:
- Separate the quotation from the main text of your essay by indenting it. You may single space the quotation, but do not centre the text and do not change the font.
- The indentation indicates that the text is a quotation; you do not need quotations marks. However, if the quotation contains but does not consist entirely of dialogue, use quotation marks for the dialogue portions of the quotation.
- You must indicate the line breaks in poetry as they are printed in the text from which you are quoting. Do not use slashes.
Here are two examples:
The arming scene calls our attention to the difficulties of judging Gawain's actions. Hollis nicely states the problem:
The poem itself prompts us to ask questions about the process involved in Gawain's action. The arming scene, in its interpretation of the pentangle symbol, presents us with an apparently perfect hero, one whose virtues are so preeminent and so tightly integrated that it appears impossible for evil to find entry (619-65, esp. 656-61). How, then, does it happen that, much as Gawain and the Green Knight differ in their judgement, Gawain acts in such a way that both agree he has fallen short of perfection? (1)
It is thus important to consider in what ways Gawain considers himself to have failed. Gawain makes four attempts to explain his failing, each quite distinct in kind. His initial reaction to the Green Knight's revelation is to regard his action in terms of specific vices causing the destruction of virtue:
"Corsed worth cowarddyse and couetyse bothe!
In yow is vylany and vyse that vertue disstryez."
Thenne he ka3t to the knot, and the kest lawsez,
Brayde brothely the belt to the burne seluen"
"Lo! ther the falssyng, foule mot his falle!" (2374-84)
Gawain's account of his behaviour here is reminiscent of the action of a morality play.
Here is an example without any dialogue:
First we may take his work in rhyme royal and look at a passage in which a sense of considerable emotion has to be conveyed:
The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne,
Th'assay so hard, so sharp the conquerynge,
The dredful joye, alwey that slit so yerne:
Al this mene I by Love, that my felynge
Astonyeth with his wonderful werkynge
So sore iwis, that whan I on hym thynke,
Nat wot I wel where that I flete or synke. (The Parliament of Fowls, ll. 1-7)
Now while it is true, as Professor Manly points out that his passage in an example of the rhetorical method of beginning a poem with a sententia, it is even more important to observe how Chaucer has given the bare idea a life and emotion of his own.
Commas before Quotations
Comma placement before a quotation also causes people trouble. Notice that in 'The bells on the Monk's bridle ring "in a whistlynge wynd als cleere…"' there is no comma after "ring" and before the beginning of the quote? This is because the quotation works grammatically in the sentence. In this case, the first letter of the quotation should be lower case (unless the first word is a proper noun). With shorter quotations you should attempt to do this wherever possible on stylistic grounds. Here are some examples of quotations integrated into the grammar of the sentence.
The next step is his alliance with covetousness -- he identifies himself with a vice, forsaking his true nature to become "fawty and falce" (2382).
Gawain has very good reasons besides modesty to decline the Lady's offer to "take the toruayle to myself to trwluf expoun" (1540).
The Lady of the Castle appeals to Gawain's "manhod" when she reminds him that he is "stif innoghe to constrayne wyth strenkthe" (1497).
Putter argues that "the poet's commitment to ideals of courtoisie, the high standards of refinement and delicacy imperative at court, inevitably entails emphasis on coarseness and locus to which it is intrinsic" (47-48).
Both versions introduce Tom Bombadil without further explanation as "a merry fellow" (646). Both also give Tom four adventures, or encounters with malignant powers.
Eomer says that "wanderers in the Riddermark would be wise to be less haughty in these days of doubt" (645-55).
Shippey argues that "Tolkien knew (none better) that dwarf-names he had used in The Hobbit came from Old Norse" (55).
If you are quoting dialogue, or a statement made by an author, and you are drawing attention to it as a statement, a comma normally precedes the quote. This almost always comes after a verb like "says", "asks", "responds", "states", "screams", etc. In these instances, the quotation begins with a capital letter. Consider the following examples:
At the end of the first part of the Knight's Tale, Chaucer asks, "Who hath the worse, Arcite or Palamoun?" (Knight's Tale, 1348).
The narrator's own summing up is, indeed, a slightly tempered view of the absolute perfection put forward in 632-35. Hearing the Green Knight's challenge, Arthur responds, "Sir cortays knyght, / If thou crave batayl bare, / Here faylez thou not to fyght" (276-78).
He says, "This pure fyue / Were harder happed on that hathel then on any other" (645-55).
According to Putter, "The great Ricardian poets bequeathed to modern criticism a suspicion about the literary seriousness of Arthurian romance" (1).
Both versions introduce Tom Bombadil without further explanation: "Old Tom Bombadil was a merry fellow; / bright blue his jacket was, and his boots were yellow" (646). Both also give Tom four adventures, or encounters with malignant powers.
Eomer says, "Wanderers in the Riddermark would be wise to be less haughty in these days of doubt" (645-55).
According to Shippey, "Tolkien knew (none better) that dwarf-names he had used in The Hobbit came from Old Norse" (55).
When you include a quotation to illustrate a point you have made, the quotation should be followed by an explanation of how the material in the quotation illustrates your point.
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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.
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.
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.
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 (Address, Lecture, Keynote speech, Reading), 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