Short Quotations and Block Quotations in MLA Style

When you’re writing a paper in a humanities course, you’ll have to provide direct quotations from many of your sources in MLA style. You’ll have to incorporate in-text citations into the paper that show your reader how you’re critically engaging the other authors in the field about which you’re writing.

But there can be some confusion as to how exactly you should incoporate quotations into a paper. How long of a quotation am I allowed to use? How many do I need? How do I correctly give credit to the author?

If you need answers to these questions, then you’ve turned to the right place. Basically, there are two kinds of in-text direct quotations that you can use within an MLA style paper: a short quotation and a block quotation.

For short quotations, any quotation that runs fewer than four lines of prose or three lines of verse), simply use double quotation marks to indicate the exact quotation. Use an attributive tag if you wish and be sure to include the page number. Here are a few examples of correct short quotations in MLA style.

We should understand that Hawkes is a Gothic novelist, “one who makes terror rather than love the center of his work” (Fiedler 9), so that we might also appreciate the love we find at its edges.

According to Fiedler, Hawkes “is, in short, a Gothic novelist; but this means one who makes terror rather than love the center of his work” (9).

We read on to discover that “there can be no terror without the hope for love and love’s defeat” (Fiedler 9).

As for quotations that extend more than four lines of verse or prose, you should use the block quotation format. This essentially means that you should begin the long quotation on a new line and indent the entire block of the quotation one inch from the left margin. You don’t need to use quotation marks for a block quotation. Introduce the quotation with a colon and provide parenthetical information after the final punctuation mark.

Here is an example of a properly formatted block quotation in MLA style:

In fact, we can see a good description of how exactly the Gothic mode of terror truly works in the introduction to The Lime Twig:

He is, in short, a Gothic novelist; but this means one who makes terror rather than love the center of his work, knowing all the while, of course, that there can be no terror without the hope for love and love’s defeat. (Fiedler 9)

Hopefully, this little write-up will have cleared some basic questions you might have. If you still have questions, you should seek out the help of either your professor or a tutor at your university’s writing center. Also, search the internet for more tips. There are plenty out there.

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