Block Quote – A 3-Step Guide

03.02.23 Including sources Time to read: 5min

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There are several rules to be followed in academic writing. One of such rules is using block quotes. When writing an academic paper, block quotes are used when the quote consists of more than 40 words.

Block Quote – In a Nutshell

Block quotes are an essential part of writing. The quotes are formatted and cited differently depending on the style guide such as MLA, APA style and Chicago style. Some basic rules for formatting the quote include:

  • It begins on a new line
  • Must be indented from the left
  • It is not placed within quotation marks

Definition: Block quote

A block quote is a direct quotation that should not be placed inside quotation marks but separated from the rest of the text by starting it on a new line and indenting it from the left margin. The serve the purpose of improving readability, indicating that the quote is not original content, and illustrating specially formatted content such as letters or song lyrics.1 2

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The length of block quotes

The size of a block quote depends on the style guide you use. The styles do not specify the minimum length of a quote. However, quotations that are too long and exceed five lines are usually avoided.

Each of those style guides has their own rules that must be followed. The style guides include APA, MLA, Chicago, and AMA as discussed below.

Style guide Maximum length
MLA Four lines
APA 40 words or four lines
Chicago 100 words or five lines

Step 1: Introducing the block quote

When material is quoted in academic writing, it is vital to indicate the underlying purpose of the quote. Thus, it is essential to introduce block quotes in your own words explaining how the quote may support your arguments and may be applied in your analysis.

If the block quote begins with a full sentence you should introduce it with a full sentence. When introducing a quote in a full sentence, you must end the sentence with a colon.2


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If the introductory phrase of the quote merges into a quote that does not begin with a full sentence then punctuation is not needed.

Step 2: Formatting and citing a block quote

As block quotes are not placed within quotation marks, it is important to format them in a certain way so the quote can be differentiated from original content and the rest of the text. These are the general rules that are used when formatting a block quote:

The quote must start on a new line • It should not merge into the rest of the text.
• Instead, it should start on its line.
It should be indented from the left margin • Ensure it is indented from the left margin.
• The indentation should be about 0.5 inches.
• The indentation is usually double spaced.
Is not enclosed in quotation marks • The block quotations should not be enclosed in quotation marks.
The punctuations at the end go before the citation • The punctuations at the end of the quotes go before the citations.
The text after the block quote starts on its line • The following sentence of the quote is set on a new line

Formatting Block quotes in different styles

There are different guidelines to formatting a block quote in the various citation styles.


The Modern Language Association Style Guide is commonly used by researchers. In this case, the block quotes do not always go beyond four lines. They are:

  • Introduced with a colon
  • The indentation is 1 inch from the left margin
  • They are typed with double spacing
  • They do not stand within quotation marks

APA style

APA stands for American Psychological Association and is widely used to format texts, mainly in the field of social sciences. Their quotes do not always exceed four lines, however, when they do there are specific rules to be followed. Such rules include:

  • Beginning the quote in a new line
  • Typing it double-spaced
  • No quotation marks
  • Indenting it 1 inch from the left margin

Chicago Style

This type of style is mainly used for writing humanities. It was created at the Chicago University and is now in its 17th edition. The quotes in this format should not be longer than five lines with no quotation marks. 3

Formatting more than one paragraph as a block quote

If you have to format a quote that is more than one paragraph, you must indent the entire first paragraph and indent the first line of the second paragraph as well. Also, use line spacing between the two paragraphs.


Citing a block quote

Citing a block quotation differs when using different style guides.

APA style

To cite the quote in APA style, you need to write the last name of the author, page number and the year. All must be separated by commas.

MLA style

Citing a quote in MLA style requires only the last name of the author and a page number. Also, a period should be included after the last citation.

Chicago Style

This involves giving specifications on the author’s title and page number. Sometimes you may also use fuller information.

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Step 3: Analyzing and discussing a block quote

Something you should note is to avoid ending a paragraph with a quote. This should be avoided as an analysis should always follow after any quotation you include in your academic writing.

When should you use a block quote

The quotes are primarily used in academic and content writing, e.g. in journalistic writing. They are especially useful and relevant to use when the quote contains points that explain or support your arguments. The frequency of using block quotes depends on the field of study.

Arts and Humanities High frequency for elaborative textual analyses
Social Sciences Often useful in participant analyses
Scientific Writing Barely relevant to use


Block quotes are relevant to use to prove and support an argument.

A direct quote is taken from a text word-for-word, while a block quote defines a longer direct quote that is separated from the rest of the text.

Unique characteristics of a block quote are:

  • They start on a new line
  • They are indented from the left margin.
  • They are separated from the rest of the text

In most cases, the quote should not exceed three lines of verse. However, this depends on which style guide you use for your paper.


1 Walden University. “When should I use block quotations?” Accessed January 5, 2023.
2 Wright, Erin. “Block Quotations, Part 1: How to Introduce Block Quotations.” Erin Wright Writing. Accessed January 5, 2023.
3 Wright, Erin. “Block Quotations, Part 2: How to Format Block Quotations.” Erin Wright Writing. Accessed January 5, 2023.