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Quotations Over 40 Words Mla Bibliography

by Timothy McAdoo

Like so many aspects of writing, when formatting block quotations, the devil is in the details! Here’s everything you need to know about block quotations: 


  • When do you use block formatting? According to the Publication Manual (p. 171), “If the quotation comprises 40 or more words, display it in a freestanding block of text and omit the quotation marks.” 
  • Do you still use quotations marks around the block? No (see the previous bullet).
  • How far should you indent? Indent “about a half inch from the left margin (in the same position as a new paragraph)” (p. 171).
  • Does the citation go before or after the period? The citation should include the page(s) or paragraph number and should appear after the end punctuation (see the examples in this PDF). 
  • I’ve already cited the author in the paragraph. Do I still need to include the author name and year? Yes. All quotations, both in-line and block quotations, must include the complete citation (see earlier blog posts). The author name(s) may appear in your introductory sentence or in the parentheses (see the examples in this PDF).

  • Does the first letter have to be capitalized? Sorry, no short answer here: This is a matter of opinion, debate, and editorial judgment. The Manual says, “The first letter of the first word in a quotation may be changed to an uppercase or a lowercase letter.” Note the word may. If the block quote begins with a full sentence, keep the uppercase first letter. However, if the quote begins midsentence, you may or may not want to change the first letter to uppercase. If your introduction to the block quote leads directly into the quote, a lowercase first letter may be fine (see the examples in this PDF).
  • If I’m quoting multiple paragraphs, how should I format the second and subsequent paragraphs? The second and subsequent paragraphs within the block quote should be indented within the block (see Example 5 in this PDF).
  • My quote includes a list. Do I need to include the citation after each item? No. Just include the citation, including page or paragraph number, at the end of the quoted material.
  • What about my own text that follows the block quote: Should it be indented or flush left? Your text following the block quote should be either (a) indented, if it is a new paragraph, or (b) flush left, if it is a continuation of your paragraph (see Examples 4 and 5 in this PDF).

Click here to download this document with five sample block quotes:

Quotation Marks with Fiction, Poetry, and Titles


A rundown of the general rules of when and where to use quotation marks.

Contributors:Sean M. Conrey, Mark Pepper, Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2016-02-27 11:17:45

Block Quotations

Check your citation style guide for specific guidelines on when you should use block quotations. Typically, you should use a block quotation when the quotation extends more than four typed lines (in MLA style) or extends 40 words or longer (in APA style). Although they are allowed in any type of writing, you will likely most often use them when quoting from fiction or literature. A block quotation is removed from the main body of your text. Indent one inch from the main margin (the equivalent of two half-inch paragraph indentations) and begin your quote. Maintain double spacing throughout, but you do not need to use quotation marks.

Gatsby experiences a moment of clarity while standing with Daisy on his dock. Fitzgerald writes:

Possibly it had occurred to him that the colossal significance of that light had now to him vanished forever. Compared to the great distance that had separated him from Daisy it had seemed very near to her, almost touching her. It had seemed as close as a star to the moon. Now it was again a green light on a dock. His count of enchanted objects had diminished by one. (98)

Quoting Poetry

When you quote a single line of poetry, write it like any other short quotation. If the piece of poetry you are quoting crosses multiple lines of the poem itself, you may still type them in your text run together. Show the reader where the poem's line breaks fall by using slash marks.

In his poem, "Mending Wall," Robert Frost writes: "Something there is that doesn't love a wall,/ that send the frozen-ground-swell under it" (42-44).

If the quotation is three lines or longer, set it off like a block quotation (see above). Some writers prefer to set off two-line verse quotations for emphasis. Quote the poem line by line as it appears on the original page. Do not use quotation marks, and indent one inch from the left margin.

In his poem "Mending Wall," Robert Frost questions the building of barriers and walls:

Before I built a wall I'd ask to know

What I was walling in or walling out,

And to whom I was like to give offense.

Writing Dialogue

Write each person's spoken words, however brief, as a separate paragraph. Use commas to set off dialogue tags such as "she said" or "he explained." If one person's speech goes on for more than one paragraph, use quotation marks to open the dialogue at the beginning of each paragraph. However, do not use closing quotation marks until the end of the final paragraph where that character is speaking.

Quotation Marks with Titles

Use quotations marks for:

  • Titles of short or minor works
  • Songs
  • Short Stories
  • Essays
  • Short Poems
  • One Act Plays
  • Other literary works shorter than a three act play or complete book
  • Titles of sections from longer works
  • Chapters in books
  • Articles in newspapers, magazines, or journals
  • Episodes of television and radio series

Underlining or italics are used for the titles of long pieces or works that contain smaller sections.

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