Block Quotes Made Easy: MLA Citation and Format

Have you ever wanted to put a block quote in your essay, but you don’t know how? If your answer is “yes”, then you just came to the right place.

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This aspect of academic writing might be tricky for first timers. However, you will get better once you practice and apply what you have learned.

Here’s the scope of your guide:

  1. MLA: What is it about?
  2. What is a Block Quotation/Quote?
  3. How to Make a Block Quote?
  4. How to Cite a Block Quote?
  5. When Do You Use a Block Quote?

Read carefully because every point I make here is essential. Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy today’s lecture.

What is MLA?

MLA or Modern Language Association is a citation style used by the liberal arts and humanities fields. On MLA’s official website, the purpose of the said citation is to record the sources used in academic/scholarly writing. It is taught in classrooms and used “…by scholars, journal publishers, and academic and commercial presses.

MLA was founded in 1883 — and over the last century — it has been utilized to enhance “…the study and teaching of languages and literatures.” In their website, it was revealed that the Association has been an advocate of the aforementioned studies.

It was updated in 2016 to cater to researchers. The MLA (8th edition) now offers a universal guideline for writers to follow. Here they are:

  1. Author
  2. Title of source
  3. Title of container
  4. Other contributors
  5. Version
  6. Number
  7. Publisher
  8. Publishing date
  9. Location

Sure, we use it in the academic field, but do you really know what it is? With that, I hope my brief lecture on MLA made you gain a deeper insight about it.

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What is a Block Quotation/Quote?

In MLA, a block quotation is defined as a text consisting of more than four lines.

Here are the formatting guidelines you need to know about MLA block quotations:

  1. ½ Inch from the left margin
  2. Double-spaced
  3. Parenthetical citation after the closing punctuation mark
  4. Maintain original line breaks (in the case of poetry and verses)
  5. Omission of quotation marks
  6. The text should be a free-standing block of text

You might have a hard time visualizing a direct quote. Don’t worry, the following examples will help you.

For those who are interested in learning more, this is an example of a block quotation from Tocqueville’s Democracy in America:

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I would like to elaborate more on direct quotations in MLA format. To illustrate, this is another example of a block quotation:

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If you want to cite two or more paragraphs, you have to indent the second paragraph an extra ¼ Inch. This signifies that the second paragraph is a new paragraph.

This is how a block quotation looks like when you are citing two or more paragraphs of texts:

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Okay, what if you want to write your thoughts about the direct quotation? That’s simple! Keep an eye on the format of the paragraph.

In this example, I would like to demonstrate another case of formatting a block quotation in MLA style:

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In this case, the line after the block quote is flushed left because it signifies the continuation of the paragraph. The text in bold marks the beginning of the paragraph, while the last sentence concludes the paragraph.

For poems, try to replicate the original format as close as you can.

This is William Shakespeare’s All the World’s a Stage from his play As You Like It:

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything. (2.7.142–165)

How to Make a Block Quote?

This section is reserved for people who do not know how to properly format block quotations. Trust me, it’s not that difficult. In fact, it’s a lot easier than what you think!

First things first, a block quotation consists of more than four lines. Make sure that the text you are going to place in your paper meets MLA’s definition of a block quote.

If you carefully observe my examples, you will see that I have introduced my quotes before placing them on a separate line. You can use a comma or colon at the end of your introductory sentence.

As per the guidelines, you are required to place the block quotation on a separate line. Once you do, you are ready to make the finishing touches.

Press “Enter” to create a new line. Then press “Tab”. It is important to double check your settings if the indent is at ½ Inch. If not, then it’s probably the reason why can’t format your block quote properly. It should look like the example below:

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Of course, we are not finished yet. Let’s move on to the next step.

Place your cursor at the beginning of the second line. Then, press “Tab” until the succeeding lines are aligned with the introductory sentence. That’s it! Your formatted block quotation should look like:

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Don’t forget the citation!

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How to Cite a Block Quote?

Find out the author, page number/lines and publishing year. If the source you are citing has no author (in the case of web pages), then write the title instead.

Note: This is will only be a general tutorial on how to cite block quotations. It is best to consult the MLA Handbook or your instructor for clarifications.

Example #1:

I will mention the author’s name for this example. To demonstrate, I cited a paragraph from John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government:

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I did not mention the author’s name at the end of the quote because his name was already mentioned earlier.

Example #2:

Let us rephrase the paragraph a bit. I will add a block quotation here, but I will not mention the author’s name. This is an example:

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Notice that I mentioned the author in the in-text citation. When you did not state the author’s name at the beginning, you have to write his/her name in the citation.

When Do You Use a Block Quote?

I rarely use block quotes in my academic papers. If I do, I use it for the following reasons:

  1. The quote is too difficult to be paraphrased
  2. When I want to make my point clearer to my reader
  3. When I want to emphasize my argument
  4. When I fear that I would lose the essence of the author’s statements when paraphrasing

Given my experience, I believe you should add block quotations to your essay for the aforementioned reasons. Of course, a student’s dirty secret would be to use it to make your paper lengthier — been there done that. While that is true, do not abuse it!

Your professor might prescribe a limit on the length of block quotes (Ex: Quotes should not exceed 10% of the word count). Use it wisely!

Have too many tasks to handle? We have 1’000s of Nerds ready to help. No apps, no forms. Messaging is all it takes to get help with you tasks at Nerdify.

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Thank you for reading my guide on MLA block quotations. Quotes are a great addition to your essay, but you should use them intelligently. Keep this guide (and your teacher’s as well) in mind, and I’m sure you can do it flawlessly.

Have fun placing block quotations and don’t forget to cite. Till next time, dear readers!

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