MLA Formatting and Style Guide
Quoting and Citing Literary GenresCreated April 2012
Information came fromMLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers
In MLA documentation style, place the author’s name in the parenthetical citation if the author is not mentioned in the sentence.The aesthetic and ideological orientation of jazz underwent considerable scrutiny in the late 1950s and early 1960s (Anderson 7).
If the author is mentioned in the sentence, do not include the author’s name in the parenthetical citation.According to Anderson, the aesthetic and ideological orientation of jazz underwent considerable scrutiny in the late 1950s and early 1960s (7).
Quoting Prose with Question Marks
Place a question mark inside a closing quotation mark if a question mark occurs there in the quoted passage.Peetaasks, “Where isHaymitch, anyway? Isn’t he supposed to protect us from this sort of thing?”If the quotation ends a sentence that is a question, place a question mark outside the quotation.WillKatnissturn into anAvoxand “wait on future tributes ofPanem”?If a question mark occurs where a comma or period would normally be required, omit the comma or period.“And what did they say?” saysCinnacarefully.
If a prose quotation runs no more than four lines and requires no special emphasis, put it in quotation marks and incorporate it into the text.Hashimand his wife “had successfully sought to inculcate the virtues of thrift, plain dealing and a healthy independence of spirit” (Rushdie 2856).The “glassy contentment” ofHashim’shousehold is destroyed “beyond all hope of repair” (Rushdie 2856).
If a quotation extends to more than four lines, set it off from your text by beginning a new line, indenting one inch from the left margin, and typing it double-spaced, without adding quotation marks.The Magistrate in J.M. Coetzee’sWaiting for the Barbarianscomplicates the notion of justiceas he translates the natives’ wooden slips:See, there is only a single character. It is the barbarian characterwar, but it has other senses too. It can stand forvengeance, and, if you turn it upside down like this, it can be made to readjustice. There is no knowing which sense is intended. That is part of barbarian cunning. (112)
If you quote two or more paragraphs, indent the first line of each paragraph an additionalquarter inch. If the first sentence quoted does not begin a paragraph in the source, however,do not indent it the additional amount.Margaret Atwood artfully weaves dialogue and striking details throughout her short story,“Hairball”:“Is this abnormal?” Kat asked the doctor, who smiled. Now that he had gone in and come out again, unscathed, he was less clenched.“Abnormal? No,” he said carefully, as if breaking the news to a mother about a freakish accident to her newborn. “Let’s just say it’s fairly common.” Kat was a little disappointed. She would have preferred uniqueness. (34)
If you quote a single line, put it in quotation marks within your text.Auden ironically ends his poem: “Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard” (30).If incorporating two or three lines, use a slash with a space on each side to separate them.Auden ironically ends his poem: “Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd: / Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard” (29-30).
Verse quotations of more than three lines should begin on a new line. Indent each line one inch from the left margin and double-space between lines, adding no quotation marks that do not appear in the original.Elizabeth Bishop’s “In the Waiting Rom” is rich in evocative detail:It was winter. It got darkearly. The waiting roomwas full of grown-up people,arcticsand overcoats,lamps and magazines. (6-10)
Alterations of Sources
You can provide supplementary information, but keep them to a minimum and make sure to distinguish them from the original text.A comment or an explanation that immediately follows the closing quotation mark appears in parentheses.Lincoln specifically advocated a government “forthe people” (emphasis added).Shaw admitted, “Nothing can extinguish my interest inShakespear” (sic).
Alterations of Sources
A comment or an explanation that goes inside the quotation must appear within square brackets, not parentheses.Milton’s Satan speaks of his “study [pursuit] of revenge.”He claimed he could provide “hundreds of examples [of court decisions] to illustrate the historical tension between church and state.”
Alterations of Sources
If a pronoun in a quotation seems unclear, you may add an identification in square brackets.Okonkwois forewarned by the elderEzuedu: “Do not bear a hand in his [Ikemefuna’s] death” (Achebe 40).Certainly, Achebe considers his novelThings Fall Apartto be “an act of atonement with [his] past” (193).In the first act he soliloquies, “Why she would hang on him [Hamlet’s father] / As if increase of appetite had grown / By what it fed on. . . .”
Whenever you omit words from a quotation, the resulting passage—your prose and the quotation integrated into it—should be grammatically complete and correct.For an ellipsis within a sentence, use three periods with a space before each and a space after the last( . . . ).In surveying various responses to plagues in theMiddle Ages, Barbara W. Tuchman writes,“Medical thinking . . . stressed air as thecommunicator of disease, ignoring sanitation orvisible carriers” (101-02).
When the ellipsis coincides with the end of your sentence, use three periods with a space before each following a sentence period—that is, four periods, with no space before the first or after the last.While describing his experiences in Africa, Marlowexplains, “We were wanderers on prehistoric earth,on an earth that wore the aspect of an unknownplanet. We could have fancied ourselves the first ofmen taking possession of an accursed inheritance,to be subdued at the cost of profound anguish and ofexcessive toil. . . .”
If a parenthetical reference follows the ellipsis at the end of your sentence, however, use three periods with a space before each, and place the sentence period after the final parenthesis.While describing his experiences in Africa, Marlowexplains, “We were wanderers on prehistoric earth,on an earth that wore the aspect of an unknownplanet. We could have fancied ourselves the first ofmen taking possession of an accursed inheritance,to be subdued at the cost of profound anguish and ofexcessive toil . . .” (Conrad 31-32).