When using direct quotations in your research, you must adhere to specific formatting rules for quotations of varied lengths. The following are general guidelines for using MLA block quotes in your paper.1
Definition and Requirements for MLA Block Quotes
When including lengthy quotations in an MLA document, they must be formatted as block quotes. The eighth edition of this style manual mandates MLA block quotes formatting for:
- Poetry quotations longer than three lines
- Prose quotes longer than four lines
MLA block quotes begin on a new line, are indented 0.5 inches, and do not contain quotation marks. The MLA in-text citation should be placed following the period after the block quotation.
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Steps to MLA Block Quotes
Follow these four basic steps to create MLA block quotes:
Step 1: Introducing the Block Quote
Always preface MLA block quotes with your words. Start with a phrase or two explaining why you’re using the quote and how it relates to your thesis. Insert a colon after the introductory statement, then begin the quotation on a new line.
Step 2: Formatting of the Block Quote
Like the rest of your document, MLA block quotes should be double-spaced. Use a half-inch indentation to the left of the page for the complete quote. All capitalization, punctuation, and line breaks must be preserved from the source material.
Step 3: Correctly Citing the Block Quote
Add an in-text MLA citation immediately before the final punctuation point after the quotation. This section includes the author(s) and the page(s) from which the quotation is drawn.
Each citation inside the text must relate to an entry in the Works Cited list.
Step 4: Analyzing the Block Quote
Underneath the block quotation, include an analysis or commentary on the quoted material. Never conclude a paragraph with a block quotation; always begin and end with your own words.
MLA Block Quoting Poetry or Plays
You should use MLA block quotes if you wish to quote a chunk of text longer than four lines or a section of poetry longer than three lines. The MLA block quote format is also utilized when citing lines from a play.
Always introduce MLA block quotes with your own words. You should inform the reader the source and purpose of the quotation.
Block Quoting Excerpts of Books
- If you are directly quoting a paragraph or part of a paragraph, the initial line of the block quote should not be indented more than the rest of the sentence.
- When quoting two or more paragraphs, indent the first sentence of each paragraph half an inch, or five spaces, if it is also the opening sentence of the source.
- It is customary to indent the first line of the second paragraph of a multi-paragraph quote by half an inch or five spaces if the first sentence of the quote is not the first sentence of a section in the source.2
Poetry Block Quotes
Unless the poetry contains irregular spacing or formatting, format it as you would any other piece of prose:3
- Indent 0.5 inches or five spaces from the left margin.
- Do not use quotation marks unless they are included in the source.
- If the line of poetry does not fit on a single line of the paper, continue it on the following line, but indent it an additional half-inch or five spaces (like a hanging indent).
- When citing more significant portions of poetry, format the citation as closely as feasible to the original.
Block Quoting Plays and Dramas
MLA block quotes from plays are formatted slightly differently than those from prose or poetry.
To format the dialogue in plays:4
- Use a half-inch (five-space) left margin indent.
- Start with the character’s name in all capital characters, followed by a period.
- Begin the quotation. If a character spans multiple lines, indent the successive lines by a half-inch or five spaces.
- There are sometimes blank lines at the beginning of a dialogue sequence after the character’s name. Include all of the extra spaces in your copy of the printed script.
- The above format should be used when the conversation moves on to a new character.
- Avoid using page numbers when referencing text and instead refer to the specific act, scene, and line.
Quotes Inside MLA Block Quotes
To block quote a passage that includes a quote, you must use quotation marks around the inner quote.
Shortening MLA Block Quotes
You can abbreviate MLA block quotes by adding ellipses (…) to denote that some material has been omitted. If you condense a quote like this, ensure that you do not alter the author’s original intent or omit crucial context.
If you wish to omit a line of poetry, you can denote this with a line of periods roughly the same length as the line.
Adjusting the format according to your university’s requirements is typically the final step. After several times of proofreading, many become blinkered to their own work and miss formatting mistakes. A preview-function representing the real-life version that can be edited virtually creates a fresh eye for formatting mistakes and helps you to detect them again.
- When citing more than four lines from a source in MLA format, use block quotes.
- Use MLA block quotes for poetry quotations longer than three lines.
To format a block quotation in MLA format:
- On a new line, introduce the quotation with a colon.
- Indent the entire quotation 0.5 inches from the left margin.
- Place the MLA in-text citation following the period after the block quotation.
- Then, proceed with writing on a new line (not indented).
Follow these instructions to format MLA block quotes correctly in Microsoft Word:
- Press Enter at the start and end of the quote.
- Select the Layout menu after highlighting the quote.
- Change the left indentation to 0.5 inches on the Indent tab.
- Include an in-text reference following the period after the quote.
1 Purdue University. “MLA Formatting Quotations.” Accessed January 27, 2023. https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/mla_style/mla_formatting_and_style_guide/mla_formatting_quotations.html.
2 Mathewson, Adrienne. “MLA Block Quote Format.” Bibliography. Accessed January 27, 2023. https://www.bibliography.com/mla/mla-block-quote-format.
3 Citation Machine. “Block quotes in MLA.” Accessed January 27, 2023. https://www.citationmachine.net/resources/citing-sources-mla/block-quote-mla.
4 Sigler, Cathrine. “Using short quotes and block quotes in MLA.” October 27, 2020. https://www.easybib.com/guides/citation-guides/mla-format/block-direct-quote-mla.