This is the Quick MLA Citation Guide also known as “Quotation Mechanic’s” guide.  MLA refers to the Modern Language Association. 

Part one is published here.

Prose

Notice the different ways the following passage from D. W. McPheeters’ Camilo José Cela can be introduced into your text:

After twenty-five years, La Familia de Pascual Duarte continues to attract attention. The extent of its influence can be measured by the number of articles about it–not all favorable–which are printed, some, in fact, even giving plausible evidence that it is a bad novel. (31)

Version 1:
According to D. W. McPheeters, Cela’s first novel, La Familia de Pascual Duarte, “continues to attract attention” (31).

Version 2:
One critic has suggested that Camilo José Cela’s first novel “continues to attract attention” (McPheeters 31).

In both versions, all the necessary information is provided. In the first, you would never include the author’s name in parentheses because you have already included it in the text. In the second, it is needed because the author is not identified in the text.

Quotations should be used selectively, and, generally, it is not a good idea to use many lengthy quotations. You should focus as much as possible upon the specific words which prove your point. However, if a prose quote should run for more than four lines of your text, you must set it off in block form. (The block form is used in the original McPheeters passage above.)

Remember that with the block form you never use quotation marks (unless they appear in the cited text itself). You have visually separated the quoted text from the body of the paper; the use of quotation marks would be overkill. When you incorporate the quotation into the body of your text, the period comes after the parentheses. When you use the block form the period comes before the parentheses.

Poetry

With quotations of poetry, the mechanics are a bit different. When you incorporate the quote within the body of your text, you must use a slash mark to indicate line breaks. Consider, for example, the following from Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s “Ulysses”:

That Ulysses is dissatisfied with his life is evident when he tells us “I will not rest from traveling; I will be drinking / Life up to the lees” (6-7).

You may use up to three lines of poetry in this manner. If a passage includes more than three lines, you must set it off in block form. Unlike prose in block form, poetry must be copied exactly as it appears in your source.

I will not rest from traveling; I will be drinking
Life up to the lees: all the times I enjoyed
Greatly, did suffer greatly, both with the ones
That have loved me, and also alone; (6-9)

Note that with the block form, no slash marks are used.

Drama

With drama you use either of the above forms, depending on whether the play is in verse or prose. If a play is divided into acts and scenes (e.g., Hamlet), you indicate them in parentheses like this: (1.2.25). [This means act 1, scene 2, line 25.] Always use Arabic numerals, and notice that you don’t capitalize either “act” or “scene.”

Other Stuff

  • Always introduce your quotations in some way–either by using something like According to John Smith, ” . . .” or by working a part of the quote into one of your own sentences. Don’t just slap a quote on a paper like a BandAid.
  • Make certain that the way you use the quote makes good sentence sense. (That is, don’t do any of the things we talked about in Big Dog’s Grammar!)
    Double space throughout your essay, including block quotes and your “Works Cited” page.
  • Use the present tense when writing about literature.
  • Put your last name and the page number in the upper right-hand corner of each page (including the first page).
  • You do not need a separate title page (unless instructed otherwise). Click here for a sample title page.
  • Titles of short stories, poems, and one-act plays are placed within quotation marks.
  • Titles of books, plays, magazines, and other periodicals are underlined or italicized.
  • Don’t put quotation marks around the title of your essay.
  • “For ‘quotations within quotations,’ use single marks.”
  • Use an ellipsis (three spaced periods) to show omission within a quotation. (Usually, you don’t need one at the beginning or end of a quote.)
  • Put square brackets [ ]–not ( )–around words or letters that you add to clarify a quotation or change the verb tense.

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