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  • How to Quote | Citing Quotes in APA, MLA & Chicago

How to Quote | Citing Quotes in APA, MLA & Chicago

Published on April 15, 2022 by Shona McCombes and Jack Caulfield. Revised on May 31, 2023.

Quoting means copying a passage of someone else’s words and crediting the source. To quote a source, you must ensure:

  • The quoted text is enclosed in quotation marks or formatted as a block quote
  • The original author is correctly cited
  • The text is identical to the original

The exact format of a quote depends on its length and on which citation style you are using. Quoting and citing correctly is essential to avoid plagiarism which is easy to detect with a good plagiarism checker .

How to Quote

Table of contents

How to cite a quote in apa, mla and chicago, introducing quotes, quotes within quotes, shortening or altering a quote, block quotes, when should i use quotes, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about quoting sources.

Every time you quote, you must cite the source correctly . This looks slightly different depending on the citation style you’re using. Three of the most common styles are APA , MLA , and Chicago .

Citing a quote in APA Style

To cite a direct quote in APA , you must include the author’s last name, the year, and a page number, all separated by commas . If the quote appears on a single page, use “p.”; if it spans a page range, use “pp.”

An APA in-text citation can be parenthetical or narrative. In a parenthetical citation , you place all the information in parentheses after the quote. In a narrative citation , you name the author in your sentence (followed by the year), and place the page number after the quote.

Punctuation marks such as periods and commas are placed after the citation, not within the quotation marks .

  • Evolution is a gradual process that “can act only by very short and slow steps” (Darwin, 1859, p. 510) .
  • Darwin (1859) explains that evolution “can act only by very short and slow steps” (p. 510) .

Complete guide to APA

Citing a quote in mla style.

An MLA in-text citation includes only the author’s last name and a page number. As in APA, it can be parenthetical or narrative, and a period (or other punctuation mark) appears after the citation.

  • Evolution is a gradual process that “can act only by very short and slow steps” (Darwin 510) .
  • Darwin explains that evolution “can act only by very short and slow steps” (510) .

Complete guide to MLA

Citing a quote in chicago style.

Chicago style uses Chicago footnotes to cite sources. A note, indicated by a superscript number placed directly after the quote, specifies the author, title, and page number—or sometimes fuller information .

Unlike with parenthetical citations, in this style, the period or other punctuation mark should appear within the quotation marks, followed by the footnote number.

Complete guide to Chicago style

Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.

Make sure you integrate quotes properly into your text by introducing them in your own words, showing the reader why you’re including the quote and providing any context necessary to understand it.  Don’t  present quotations as stand-alone sentences.

There are three main strategies you can use to introduce quotes in a grammatically correct way:

  • Add an introductory sentence
  • Use an introductory signal phrase
  • Integrate the quote into your own sentence

The following examples use APA Style citations, but these strategies can be used in all styles.

Introductory sentence

Introduce the quote with a full sentence ending in a colon . Don’t use a colon if the text before the quote isn’t a full sentence.

If you name the author in your sentence, you may use present-tense verbs , such as “states,” “argues,” “explains,” “writes,” or “reports,” to describe the content of the quote.

  • In Denmark, a recent poll shows that: “A membership referendum held today would be backed by 55 percent of Danish voters” (Levring, 2018, p. 3).
  • In Denmark, a recent poll shows that support for the EU has grown since the Brexit vote: “A membership referendum held today would be backed by 55 percent of Danish voters” (Levring, 2018, p. 3).
  • Levring (2018) reports that support for the EU has grown since the Brexit vote: “A membership referendum held today would be backed by 55 percent of Danish voters” (p. 3).

Introductory signal phrase

You can also use a signal phrase that mentions the author or source, but doesn’t form a full sentence. In this case, you follow the phrase with a comma instead of a colon.

  • According to a recent poll, “A membership referendum held today would be backed by 55 percent of Danish voters” (Levring, 2018, p. 3).
  • As Levring (2018) explains, “A membership referendum held today would be backed by 55 percent of Danish voters” (p. 3).

Integrated into your own sentence

To quote a phrase that doesn’t form a full sentence, you can also integrate it as part of your sentence, without any extra punctuation .

  • A recent poll suggests that EU membership “would be backed by 55 percent of Danish voters” in a referendum (Levring, 2018, p. 3).
  • Levring (2018) reports that EU membership “would be backed by 55 percent of Danish voters” in a referendum (p. 3).

When you quote text that itself contains another quote, this is called a nested quotation or a quote within a quote. It may occur, for example, when quoting dialogue from a novel.

To distinguish this quote from the surrounding quote, you enclose it in single (instead of double) quotation marks (even if this involves changing the punctuation from the original text). Make sure to close both sets of quotation marks at the appropriate moments.

Note that if you only quote the nested quotation itself, and not the surrounding text, you can just use double quotation marks.

  • Carraway introduces his narrative by quoting his father: “ “ Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, ” he told me, “ just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had ” ” (Fitzgerald 1).
  • Carraway introduces his narrative by quoting his father: “‘Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone,’ he told me, ‘just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had ” (Fitzgerald 1).
  • Carraway introduces his narrative by quoting his father: “‘Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone,’ he told me, ‘just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had’” (Fitzgerald 1).
  • Carraway begins by quoting his father’s invocation to “remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had” (Fitzgerald 1).

Note:  When the quoted text in the source comes from another source, it’s best to just find that original source in order to quote it directly. If you can’t find the original source, you can instead cite it indirectly .

Often, incorporating a quote smoothly into your text requires you to make some changes to the original text. It’s fine to do this, as long as you clearly mark the changes you’ve made to the quote.

Shortening a quote

If some parts of a passage are redundant or irrelevant, you can shorten the quote by removing words, phrases, or sentences and replacing them with an ellipsis (…). Put a space before and after the ellipsis.

Be careful that removing the words doesn’t change the meaning. The ellipsis indicates that some text has been removed, but the shortened quote should still accurately represent the author’s point.

Altering a quote

You can add or replace words in a quote when necessary. This might be because the original text doesn’t fit grammatically with your sentence (e.g., it’s in a different verb tense), or because extra information is needed to clarify the quote’s meaning.

Use brackets to distinguish words that you have added from words that were present in the original text.

The Latin term “ sic ” is used to indicate a (factual or grammatical) mistake in a quotation. It shows the reader that the mistake is from the quoted material, not a typo of your own.

In some cases, it can be useful to italicize part of a quotation to add emphasis, showing the reader that this is the key part to pay attention to. Use the phrase “emphasis added” to show that the italics were not part of the original text.

You usually don’t need to use brackets to indicate minor changes to punctuation or capitalization made to ensure the quote fits the style of your text.

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If you quote more than a few lines from a source, you must format it as a block quote . Instead of using quotation marks, you set the quote on a new line and indent it so that it forms a separate block of text.

Block quotes are cited just like regular quotes, except that if the quote ends with a period, the citation appears after the period.

To the end of his days Bilbo could never remember how he found himself outside, without a hat, a walking-stick or any money, or anything that he usually took when he went out; leaving his second breakfast half-finished and quite unwashed-up, pushing his keys into Gandalf’s hands, and running as fast as his furry feet could carry him down the lane, past the great Mill, across The Water, and then on for a mile or more. (16)

Avoid relying too heavily on quotes in academic writing . To integrate a source , it’s often best to paraphrase , which means putting the passage in your own words. This helps you integrate information smoothly and keeps your own voice dominant.

However, there are some situations in which quoting is more appropriate.

When focusing on language

If you want to comment on how the author uses language (for example, in literary analysis ), it’s necessary to quote so that the reader can see the exact passage you are referring to.

When giving evidence

To convince the reader of your argument, interpretation or position on a topic, it’s often helpful to include quotes that support your point. Quotes from primary sources (for example, interview transcripts or historical documents) are especially credible as evidence.

When presenting an author’s position or definition

When you’re referring to secondary sources such as scholarly books and journal articles, try to put others’ ideas in your own words when possible.

But if a passage does a great job at expressing, explaining, or defining something, and it would be very difficult to paraphrase without changing the meaning or losing the weakening the idea’s impact, it’s worth quoting directly.

If you want to know more about ChatGPT, AI tools , citation , and plagiarism , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • ChatGPT vs human editor
  • ChatGPT citations
  • Is ChatGPT trustworthy?
  • Using ChatGPT for your studies
  • What is ChatGPT?
  • Chicago style
  • Paraphrasing
  • Critical thinking

 Plagiarism

  • Types of plagiarism
  • Self-plagiarism
  • Avoiding plagiarism
  • Academic integrity
  • Consequences of plagiarism
  • Common knowledge

A quote is an exact copy of someone else’s words, usually enclosed in quotation marks and credited to the original author or speaker.

In academic writing , there are three main situations where quoting is the best choice:

  • To analyze the author’s language (e.g., in a literary analysis essay )
  • To give evidence from primary sources
  • To accurately present a precise definition or argument

Don’t overuse quotes; your own voice should be dominant. If you just want to provide information from a source, it’s usually better to paraphrase or summarize .

Every time you quote a source , you must include a correctly formatted in-text citation . This looks slightly different depending on the citation style .

For example, a direct quote in APA is cited like this: “This is a quote” (Streefkerk, 2020, p. 5).

Every in-text citation should also correspond to a full reference at the end of your paper.

A block quote is a long quote formatted as a separate “block” of text. Instead of using quotation marks , you place the quote on a new line, and indent the entire quote to mark it apart from your own words.

The rules for when to apply block quote formatting depend on the citation style:

  • APA block quotes are 40 words or longer.
  • MLA block quotes are more than 4 lines of prose or 3 lines of poetry.
  • Chicago block quotes are longer than 100 words.

If you’re quoting from a text that paraphrases or summarizes other sources and cites them in parentheses , APA and Chicago both recommend retaining the citations as part of the quote. However, MLA recommends omitting citations within a quote:

  • APA: Smith states that “the literature on this topic (Jones, 2015; Sill, 2019; Paulson, 2020) shows no clear consensus” (Smith, 2019, p. 4).
  • MLA: Smith states that “the literature on this topic shows no clear consensus” (Smith, 2019, p. 4).

Footnote or endnote numbers that appear within quoted text should be omitted in all styles.

If you want to cite an indirect source (one you’ve only seen quoted in another source), either locate the original source or use the phrase “as cited in” in your citation.

In scientific subjects, the information itself is more important than how it was expressed, so quoting should generally be kept to a minimum. In the arts and humanities, however, well-chosen quotes are often essential to a good paper.

In social sciences, it varies. If your research is mainly quantitative , you won’t include many quotes, but if it’s more qualitative , you may need to quote from the data you collected .

As a general guideline, quotes should take up no more than 5–10% of your paper. If in doubt, check with your instructor or supervisor how much quoting is appropriate in your field.

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If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.

McCombes, S. & Caulfield, J. (2023, May 31). How to Quote | Citing Quotes in APA, MLA & Chicago. Scribbr. Retrieved April 9, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/working-with-sources/how-to-quote/

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  • How to Quote | Citing Quotes in Harvard & APA

How to Quote | Citing Quotes in Harvard & APA

Published on 15 April 2022 by Shona McCombes and Jack Caulfield. Revised on 3 September 2022.

Quoting means copying a passage of someone else’s words and crediting the source. To quote a source, you must ensure:

  • The quoted text is enclosed in quotation marks (usually single quotation marks in UK English, though double is acceptable as long as you’re consistent) or formatted as a block quote
  • The original author is correctly cited
  • The text is identical to the original

The exact format of a quote depends on its length and on which citation style you are using. Quoting and citing correctly is essential to avoid plagiarism , which is easy to detect with a good plagiarism checker .

How to Quote

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Table of contents

How to cite a quote in harvard and apa style, introducing quotes, quotes within quotes, shortening or altering a quote, block quotes, when should i use quotes, frequently asked questions about quoting sources.

Every time you quote, you must cite the source correctly . This looks slightly different depending on the citation style you’re using.

Citing a quote in Harvard style

When you include a quote in Harvard style, you must add a Harvard in-text citation giving the author’s last name, the year of publication, and a page number if available. Any full stop or comma appears after the citation, not within the quotation marks.

Citations can be parenthetical or narrative. In a parenthetical citation , you place all the information in brackets after the quote. In a narrative citation , you name the author in your sentence (followed by the year), and place the page number after the quote.

  • Evolution is a gradual process that ‘can act only by very short and slow steps’ (Darwin, 1859, p. 510) . Darwin (1859) explains that evolution ‘can act only by very short and slow steps’ (p. 510) .

Complete guide to Harvard style

Citing a quote in APA Style

To cite a direct quote in APA , you must include the author’s last name, the year, and a page number, all separated by commas. If the quote appears on a single page, use ‘p.’; if it spans a page range, use ‘pp.’

An APA in-text citation can be parenthetical or narrative. In a parenthetical citation , you place all the information in parentheses after the quote. In a narrative citation , you name the author in your sentence (followed by the year), and place the page number after the quote.

Punctuation marks such as full stops and commas are placed after the citation, not within the quotation marks.

  • Evolution is a gradual process that ‘can act only by very short and slow steps’ (Darwin, 1859, p. 510) .
  • Darwin (1859) explains that evolution ‘can act only by very short and slow steps’ (p. 510) .

Complete guide to APA

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Make sure you integrate quotes properly into your text by introducing them in your own words, showing the reader why you’re including the quote and providing any context necessary to understand it.  Don’t  present quotations as stand-alone sentences.

There are three main strategies you can use to introduce quotes in a grammatically correct way:

  • Add an introductory sentence
  • Use an introductory signal phrase
  • Integrate the quote into your own sentence

The following examples use APA Style citations, but these strategies can be used in all styles.

Introductory sentence

Introduce the quote with a full sentence ending in a colon . Don’t use a colon if the text before the quote isn’t a full sentence.

If you name the author in your sentence, you may use present-tense verbs, such as “states’, ‘argues’, ‘explains’, ‘writes’, or ‘reports’, to describe the content of the quote.

  • In Denmark, a recent poll shows that: ‘A membership referendum held today would be backed by 55 percent of Danish voters’ (Levring, 2018, p. 3).
  • In Denmark, a recent poll shows that support for the EU has grown since the Brexit vote: ‘A membership referendum held today would be backed by 55 percent of Danish voters’ (Levring, 2018, p. 3).
  • Levring (2018) reports that support for the EU has grown since the Brexit vote: ‘A membership referendum held today would be backed by 55 percent of Danish voters’ (p. 3).

Introductory signal phrase

You can also use a signal phrase that mentions the author or source but doesn’t form a full sentence. In this case, you follow the phrase with a comma instead of a colon.

  • According to a recent poll, ‘A membership referendum held today would be backed by 55 percent of Danish voters’ (Levring, 2018, p. 3).
  • As Levring (2018) explains, ‘A membership referendum held today would be backed by 55 percent of Danish voters’ (p. 3).

Integrated into your own sentence

To quote a phrase that doesn’t form a full sentence, you can also integrate it as part of your sentence, without any extra punctuation.

  • A recent poll suggests that EU membership ‘would be backed by 55 percent of Danish voters’ in a referendum (Levring, 2018, p. 3).
  • Levring (2018) reports that EU membership ‘would be backed by 55 percent of Danish voters’ in a referendum (p. 3).

When you quote text that itself contains another quote, this is called a nested quotation or a quote within a quote. It may occur, for example, when quoting dialogue from a novel.

To distinguish this quote from the surrounding quote, you enclose it in double (instead of single) quotation marks (even if this involves changing the punctuation from the original text). Make sure to close both sets of quotation marks at the appropriate moments.

Note that if you only quote the nested quotation itself, and not the surrounding text, you can just use single quotation marks.

  • Carraway introduces his narrative by quoting his father: ‘ ‘ Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, ‘ he told me, ‘ just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had ‘ ‘ (Fitzgerald 1).
  • Carraway introduces his narrative by quoting his father: ‘”Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had “  (Fitzgerald 1).
  • Carraway introduces his narrative by quoting his father: ‘“Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had”’ (Fitzgerald 1).
  • Carraway begins by quoting his father’s invocation to ‘remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had’ (Fitzgerald 1).

Note:  When the quoted text in the source comes from another source, it’s best to just find that original source in order to quote it directly. If you can’t find the original source, you can instead cite it indirectly .

Often, incorporating a quote smoothly into your text requires you to make some changes to the original text. It’s fine to do this, as long as you clearly mark the changes you’ve made to the quote.

Shortening a quote

If some parts of a passage are redundant or irrelevant, you can shorten the quote by removing words, phrases, or sentences and replacing them with an ellipsis (…). Put a space before and after the ellipsis.

Be careful that removing the words doesn’t change the meaning. The ellipsis indicates that some text has been removed, but the shortened quote should still accurately represent the author’s point.

Altering a quote

You can add or replace words in a quote when necessary. This might be because the original text doesn’t fit grammatically with your sentence (e.g., it’s in a different tense), or because extra information is needed to clarify the quote’s meaning.

Use brackets to distinguish words that you have added from words that were present in the original text.

The Latin term ‘ sic ‘ is used to indicate a (factual or grammatical) mistake in a quotation. It shows the reader that the mistake is from the quoted material, not a typo of your own.

In some cases, it can be useful to italicise part of a quotation to add emphasis, showing the reader that this is the key part to pay attention to. Use the phrase ’emphasis added’ to show that the italics were not part of the original text.

You usually don’t need to use brackets to indicate minor changes to punctuation or capitalisation made to ensure the quote fits the style of your text.

If you quote more than a few lines from a source, you must format it as a block quote . Instead of using quotation marks, you set the quote on a new line and indent it so that it forms a separate block of text.

Block quotes are cited just like regular quotes, except that if the quote ends with a full stop, the citation appears after the full stop.

To the end of his days Bilbo could never remember how he found himself outside, without a hat, a walking-stick or any money, or anything that he usually took when he went out; leaving his second breakfast half-finished and quite unwashed-up, pushing his keys into Gandalf’s hands, and running as fast as his furry feet could carry him down the lane, past the great Mill, across The Water, and then on for a mile or more. (16)

Avoid relying too heavily on quotes in academic writing . To integrate a source , it’s often best to paraphrase , which means putting the passage into your own words. This helps you integrate information smoothly and keeps your own voice dominant.

However, there are some situations in which quotes are more appropriate.

When focusing on language

If you want to comment on how the author uses language (for example, in literary analysis ), it’s necessary to quote so that the reader can see the exact passage you are referring to.

When giving evidence

To convince the reader of your argument, interpretation or position on a topic, it’s often helpful to include quotes that support your point. Quotes from primary sources (for example, interview transcripts or historical documents) are especially credible as evidence.

When presenting an author’s position or definition

When you’re referring to secondary sources such as scholarly books and journal articles, try to put others’ ideas in your own words when possible.

But if a passage does a great job at expressing, explaining, or defining something, and it would be very difficult to paraphrase without changing the meaning or losing the weakening the idea’s impact, it’s worth quoting directly.

A quote is an exact copy of someone else’s words, usually enclosed in quotation marks and credited to the original author or speaker.

To present information from other sources in academic writing , it’s best to paraphrase in most cases. This shows that you’ve understood the ideas you’re discussing and incorporates them into your text smoothly.

It’s appropriate to quote when:

  • Changing the phrasing would distort the meaning of the original text
  • You want to discuss the author’s language choices (e.g., in literary analysis )
  • You’re presenting a precise definition
  • You’re looking in depth at a specific claim

Every time you quote a source , you must include a correctly formatted in-text citation . This looks slightly different depending on the citation style .

For example, a direct quote in APA is cited like this: ‘This is a quote’ (Streefkerk, 2020, p. 5).

Every in-text citation should also correspond to a full reference at the end of your paper.

In scientific subjects, the information itself is more important than how it was expressed, so quoting should generally be kept to a minimum. In the arts and humanities, however, well-chosen quotes are often essential to a good paper.

In social sciences, it varies. If your research is mainly quantitative , you won’t include many quotes, but if it’s more qualitative , you may need to quote from the data you collected .

As a general guideline, quotes should take up no more than 5–10% of your paper. If in doubt, check with your instructor or supervisor how much quoting is appropriate in your field.

If you’re quoting from a text that paraphrases or summarises other sources and cites them in parentheses , APA  recommends retaining the citations as part of the quote:

  • Smith states that ‘the literature on this topic (Jones, 2015; Sill, 2019; Paulson, 2020) shows no clear consensus’ (Smith, 2019, p. 4).

Footnote or endnote numbers that appear within quoted text should be omitted.

If you want to cite an indirect source (one you’ve only seen quoted in another source), either locate the original source or use the phrase ‘as cited in’ in your citation.

A block quote is a long quote formatted as a separate ‘block’ of text. Instead of using quotation marks , you place the quote on a new line, and indent the entire quote to mark it apart from your own words.

APA uses block quotes for quotes that are 40 words or longer.

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the ‘Cite this Scribbr article’ button to automatically add the citation to our free Reference Generator.

McCombes, S. & Caulfield, J. (2022, September 03). How to Quote | Citing Quotes in Harvard & APA. Scribbr. Retrieved 9 April 2024, from https://www.scribbr.co.uk/working-sources/quoting/

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MLA Formatting Quotations

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MLA (Modern Language Association) style is most commonly used to write papers and cite sources within the liberal arts and humanities. This resource, updated to reflect the MLA Handbook (8 th ed.), offers examples for the general format of MLA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the Works Cited page.

When you directly quote the works of others in your paper, you will format quotations differently depending on their length. Below are some basic guidelines for incorporating quotations into your paper. Please note that all pages in MLA should be double-spaced .

Short quotations

To indicate short quotations (four typed lines or fewer of prose or three lines of verse) in your text, enclose the quotation within double quotation marks. Provide the author and specific page number (in the case of verse, provide line numbers) in the in-text citation, and include a complete reference on the Works Cited page. Punctuation marks such as periods, commas, and semicolons should appear after the parenthetical citation.

Question marks and exclamation points should appear within the quotation marks if they are a part of the quoted passage, but after the parenthetical citation if they are a part of your text.

For example, when quoting short passages of prose, use the following examples:

When using short (fewer than three lines of verse) quotations from poetry, mark breaks in verse with a slash, ( / ), at the end of each line of verse (a space should precede and follow the slash). If a stanza break occurs during the quotation, use a double slash ( // ).

Long quotations

For quotations that are more than four lines of prose or three lines of verse, place quotations in a free-standing block of text and omit quotation marks. Start the quotation on a new line, with the entire quote indented 1/2   inch  from the left margin while maintaining double-spacing. Your parenthetical citation should come  after the closing punctuation mark . When quoting verse, maintain original line breaks. (You should maintain double-spacing throughout your essay.)

For example, when citing more than four lines of prose, use the following examples :

Nelly Dean treats Heathcliff poorly and dehumanizes him throughout her narration: They entirely refused to have it in bed with them, or even in their room, and I had no more sense, so, I put it on the landing of the stairs, hoping it would be gone on the morrow. By chance, or else attracted by hearing his voice, it crept to Mr. Earnshaw's door, and there he found it on quitting his chamber. Inquiries were made as to how it got there; I was obliged to confess, and in recompense for my cowardice and inhumanity was sent out of the house. (Bronte 78)

When citing long sections of poetry (four lines of verse or more), keep formatting as close to the original as possible.

In his poem "My Papa's Waltz," Theodore Roethke explores his childhood with his father:

The whiskey on your breath Could make a small boy dizzy; But I hung on like death: Such waltzing was not easy. We Romped until the pans Slid from the kitchen shelf; My mother's countenance Could not unfrown itself. (qtd. in Shrodes, Finestone, Shugrue 202)

When citing two or more paragraphs, use block quotation format, even if the passage from the paragraphs is less than four lines. If you cite more than one paragraph, the first line of the second paragraph should be indented an extra 1/4 inch to denote a new paragraph:

In "American Origins of the Writing-across-the-Curriculum Movement," David Russell argues,

Writing has been an issue in American secondary and higher education since papers and examinations came into wide use in the 1870s, eventually driving out formal recitation and oral examination. . . .

From its birth in the late nineteenth century, progressive education has wrestled with the conflict within industrial society between pressure to increase specialization of knowledge and of professional work (upholding disciplinary standards) and pressure to integrate more fully an ever-widening number of citizens into intellectually meaningful activity within mass society (promoting social equity). . . . (3)

Adding or omitting words in quotations

If you add a word or words in a quotation, you should put brackets around the words to indicate that they are not part of the original text:

If you omit a word or words from a quotation, you should indicate the deleted word or words by using ellipses, which are three periods ( . . . ) preceded and followed by a space. For example:

Please note that brackets are not needed around ellipses unless they would add clarity.

When omitting words from poetry quotations, use a standard three-period ellipses; however, when omitting one or more full lines of poetry, space several periods to about the length of a complete line in the poem:

how to shorten a quote in an essay

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Video Transcripts: Using Quotations: Shortening Quotations With Ellipses

Using quotations: shortening quotations with ellipses.

Last updated 5/6/2020

Visual: Screen opens to a background image with a person typing on a laptop and a notebook and pencil, along with the Walden University Writing Center logo. The title Walden University Writing Center and tagline “Your writing, grammar, and APA experts” appears on the screen. The screen changes to show the series title “Using Quotations” and the video title “Shortening Quotations with Ellipses.”

Audio: Guitar music

Visual: Slide changes to the title “Shortening Quotations with Ellipses” and the following:

Quotations over 40 words require block quote formatting

  • “The unmarked hierarchies in US college composition have long assumed basic writing and second language writing were ancillary activities and institutions at the margins, orbiting around the mainstream English” (Trimbur, 2016, para. 19).

Audio : When using quotations to integrate sources into your writing, one shortcut you can use to keep quotations under 40 words, which is considered a block quotation in APA, is ellipses. Ellipses are three periods, one right after another. You can use ellipses to cut out extraneous information and wording from a quotation and to indicate to your reader that you have done so.

Visual: The following example is added to the screen:

  • According to Trimbur (2016), “the unmarked hierarchies in US college composition have long assumed basic writing and second language writing were...orbiting around the mainstream English” (para. 19).

Audio: Here's an example of a quotation that's over 40 words, and then here is an example of how I have shortened it by cutting out words and replaced them with ellipses. I cut out the extra phrasing that wasn't important to the point that I was trying to make here, which helps it become more concise so I’m not including extra information that isn’t relevant for my reader.

Keep this trick of using ellipses in mind when you’re using quotations to ensure you’re including only the essential information in the quotation.

Visual: The screen changes to an ending slide with slide a background image with a person typing on a laptop and a notebook and pencil, along with the Walden University Writing Center logo. The email address [email protected] appears on the screen.

  • Previous Page: Using Quotations: When to Use a Quotation
  • Next Page: Using Quotations: How to Cite a Quotation
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Home / Guides / Citation Guides / MLA Format / Using short quotes and block quotes in MLA

Using short quotes and block quotes in MLA

Quotations (also known as quotes) are the exact words that are taken directly from a text and repeated by someone other than the original author. When you use the exact words and sentence structure as your source, you are quoting that source. When using quotes in your writing, you need to copy the words exactly as they appear in the source.

Quotes should be used sparingly because the majority of the text should be your own ideas. Keep quotations short and to the point to keep your readers interested. Quotes are most effective when the exact words of the source are particularly well suited for your purposes and back up your own ideas.

Short quotes vs. block quotes

There are several ways to incorporate quotations into your text. You can include short quotes of four lines or less, which are incorporated into your text and are set off from the text with quotation marks.

If the section you wish to quote is longer than four lines, you can use a block quote . Block quotes are set off from the text in a separate paragraph that has larger indents at the left margin.

The MLA Handbook says this about quotes:

Construct a clear, grammatically correct sentence that allows you to introduce or incorporate a quotation accurately. When you quote, reproduce the source text exactly. Do not make changes in the spelling, capitalization, interior punctuation, italicization, or accents that appear in the source. Generally place citations at the end of your sentence or quotation. (253)

The quote above from the MLA Handbook is formatted in block quote style.

When using quotes in your papers, you must include the author’s last name and the page number(s) from which the quotation is taken as an in-text citation, unless you have named the author is the sentence preceding the quote. A full reference should appear in your Works Cited page.

Using short quotes in MLA

When you want to cite a section of your source that is four lines or less, you set off the quote in the text with double quotation marks directly before and after the quoted material. End punctuation goes before the final quotation mark.

Quotations can be integrated into a text in several ways.

1. Use the quote as a sentence

She recalled the moment of her husband’s passing. “John was talking, then he wasn’t” (Didion 10).

2. Directly integrate the quote into the sentence

Didion writes that for many months, “there has been occasions on which I was incapable of thinking rationally” and that she was “thinking as small children think, as if my thoughts or wishes had the power to reverse the narrative, change the outcome” (35).

3. Place the quotation in the middle of the sentence

Joan Didion says that after returning to her apartment after her husband’s death, she felt that, “there must be certain things I needed to do,” when she got home from the hospital (28).

Guidelines that apply to all short quote formats:

  • All punctuation should be the same in the quote as in the source text.
  • The MLA in-text citation should always appear in parentheses at the end of your sentence, regardless of the location of the quote within the sentence.
  • If the source does not use page numbers, do not include a number in the parenthetical citation.
  • If the source does not have an author’s name, you should use the title of the work or the first item listed in the full reference in the parenthetical citation instead.
  • Punctuation such as periods, commas, and semicolons are placed after the parenthetical citation.

Quoting poetry

When quoting up to three short lines of poetry, indicate breaks in verse by placing a forward slash at the end of each verse line. A space should precede and follow the slash. If there is a stanza break within the quotation, indicate this with a double slash ( // ).

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?” (Oliver 94).

“What is my name? // What is the name of the deep breath I would take / over and over” (Oliver 125).

Block quotes

If you want to quote a section of text that is longer than four lines or a section of poetry that is longer than three lines, use a block quote. Block quotes are also used when quoting lines from a play.

You introduce the block quote with a sentence in your own words. You want to let your reader know who the quote is from and why you are including it.

Joan Didion ends her first chapter by laying out her goal for writing the book:

This is my attempt to make sense of the period that followed, the weeks and then months that cut loose any fixed idea I had ever had about death, about illness, about probability and luck, about good fortune and bad, about marriage and children and memory, about grief, about the ways in which people do and do not deal with the fact that life ends, about the shallowness of sanity, about life itself. (7)

How to format a block quote

  • Lead into the quote with a summary sentence that lets the reader know why you are including the quote.
  • End the sentence before quote with a colon (unless the grammatical connection between the sentence leading into the quote requires some other punctuation or none at all).
  • Start a new line.
  • Indent the quote ½ inch or five spaces from the left margin for the entire quote (not just the first line).
  • Do not use quotation marks.
  • Double space the quote.
  • Put the parenthetical citation after the final punctuation mark in the quote.
  • Comment on the quote after using it. Do not end a paragraph with a block quote. You should always have text after it.

Adding or omitting words in quotations

  • If you add words to a quotation, enclose them in brackets like [this].
  • If you omit words in a quotation, use an ellipsis, which is three periods separated by spaces ( . . . ) to show where the words were removed.

You may want to add or omit words in quotations to make them clearer, shorten them, or help them to fit grammatically into your sentence.

Additional block quote formatting for prose

  • If you are directly quoting one paragraph or part of one, do not indent the first line of the block quote more than the rest of the quote.
  • If you are quoting two or more paragraphs and the first sentence of the quote is also the first sentence of a paragraph in the source, indent the first line of each paragraph an additional ½ inch or five spaces.
  • If the first sentence of a multi-paragraph quote is not the first sentence of a paragraph in the source, indent only the first line of the second paragraph ½ inch or five spaces.

Formatting block quotes for poetry

Format it as you would prose unless the poem has unusual spacing or formatting.

  • Indent ½ inch or five spaces from the left margin.
  • Do not add any quotation marks unless they appear in the source.
  • If the line of poetry does not fit on one line in the paper, continue it on the next line, but indent that line an additional ½ inch or five spaces (like a hanging indent).
  • When citing longer sections of poetry, keep the formatting as close to the original as possible.

In her poem, Rain, Mary Oliver describes the sensation of rain on a tree:

All afternoon it rained, then

such power came down from the clouds

on a yellow thread,

as authoritative as God is supposed to be.

When it hit the tree, her body

Opened forever. (3)

Formatting block quotes for drama/plays

Formatting quotes from plays has slightly different rules than prose and poetry.

To format dialogue from plays:

  • Begin with the name of the character speaking printed in all capital letters followed by a period.
  • Start the quotation. If the line a character is saying needs more than one line, indent the subsequent lines a ½ inch or five spaces.
  • Some lines of dialogue start with extra spaces between the character name and the first line of dialogue. Print the dialogue exactly as it appears in the play, including the extra spaces.
  • When the dialogue shifts to a new character, follow the pattern above.
  • For the in-text citation, cite the act, scene, and line of the quote instead of the page number.

ROMEO.                                     By a name

I know not how to tell thee who I am.

My name, dear saint, is hateful to myself,

Because it is an enemy to thee.

Had I it written, I would tear the word.

JULIET. My ears have yet not drunk a hundred words

Of thy tongue’s uttering, yet I know the sound.

Art thou not Romeo, and a Montague?

ROMEO. Neither, fair maid, if either thee dislike. (Shakespeare 2.2.54-61)

  • Works Cited

Didion, Joan. A Year of Magical Thinking . Vintage International, 2006.

MLA Handbook.  9th ed., Modern Language Association of America, 2021.

Oliver, Mary. New and Selected Poems. Vol. 1, Beacon Press, 2004.

Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet . Arden Shakespeare , edited by René Weis, Bloomsbury, 2012, 118–338. Drama Online , https://doi.org/10.5040/9781408160152.00000039.

Published October 27, 2020. Updated July 18, 2021.

By Catherine Sigler. Catherine has a Ph.D. in English Education and has taught college-level writing for 15 years.

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7.6 Editing Focus: Quotations

Learning outcomes.

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Explain the role direct quotations play in writing.
  • Select and integrate direct quotations into your writing.

Direct quotation , or someone’s exact words, provide specific, concrete evidence from your primary and secondary sources. When reviewing a film or book, for example, you are likely to incorporate a number of direct quotations into your writing. Quotations are effective when they are used appropriately and correctly. For example, a general statement of observation such as “The candidate for senate gave a disastrous interview on TV last night” should be backed up with concrete evidence from the interview. To demonstrate how and why the interview was “disastrous,” you might give examples such as these: “When asked whether she supported ethics reform, Ms. Simpson did not give a direct answer. She stated, ‘I think ethics are important, and I hold myself to a high ethical standard.’”

While quotations are covered more extensively in Punctuation , this section will introduce you to using quotations in a review.

When to Use Quotations

Use quotations to support a point you are making. Avoid using them to present a point. Don’t pepper your essay with randomly selected quotations because you think they make your essay look well researched. Instead, present your point, and back it up with a quotation.

Using a direct quotation is effective in the following instances:

Wearing a mask is the easiest thing we can do as individuals to stop the spread of COVID-19. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, “There should be universal wearing of masks.” (Castillejo and Yang)

Because Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), his statement on mask wearing is credible evidence that supports the point.

In his review of the Microclimate Air Helmet, critic Drew Magary injects humor by quipping, “No one at the vape shop cared that I was dressed like I was in an old Moby video.”

Using a direct quotation from Magary’s review illustrates his style of humor more effectively than a description or paraphrase of the joke.

Hurricane Harvey brought a record amount of flooding when it hit the Houston, Texas, area in 2017. Harvey’s rainfall “dumped an estimated 27 trillion gallons of rain over Texas and Louisiana during a 6-day period.” (Griggs)

The direct quotation contains the exact statistics that show the record amount of flooding.

  • Because the quotation adds variety to the language and voice of the essay, it makes the most impact on the audience in its original form. For example, quote directly from a person you are writing about so that the audience imagines them speaking.

A teacher may have suggested you use details to “show instead of tell.” Quotations are one way to show your audience what you mean rather than tell them.

Practice finding quotations to illustrate the following point. You can search the web or your college library’s article databases.

Personal computing has evolved from a single desktop computer for the whole family to a truly “personal” relationship each individual has with their devices.

Hint: Look for information about how the size of personal computers has changed, how the industry has introduced new devices, how many Internet-connected devices an average person owns, and how many different people use an Internet-connected device on average.

Embedding Quotations

In reviews particularly, you may want to use dialogue or narration as evidence to support a point. Because a quotation should illustrate or support your point, be sure to state clearly and in your own words the point you are making. A properly formatted quotation will contain the following:

  • Original Quotation: “Cybersecurity is an important issue for businesses of all sizes. Every business from Fortune 500 companies to mom-and-pop stores has an obligation to protect customers’ sensitive data. Data breaches, such as the Target breach in 2014, have been known to erode trust.” (Flynn)
  • Quotation using ellipses and brackets: “Cybersecurity is an important issue for businesses . . . Data breaches, such as the Target breach in 2014, have been known to erode [consumers’] trust [in the company].” (Flynn)
  • Correct punctuation: Use quotation marks (“”) to show exactly where the quotation begins and ends. This punctuation helps separate the quotation from your words and ideas and helps you avoid plagiarism.
  • Example 1: Smith shows us the importance of good time management skills when she says, “90% of A and B students begin their essays at least two weeks before they are due” (Flynn).
  • Example 2: “Many students,” Smith says, “leave insufficient time for writing assignments” (Flynn).
  • Parenthetical citation: Cite the source of your quotation with a correct parenthetical citation. See the MLA Documentation and Format to learn more about citation.

Practice using a quotation you found in the previous exercise by introducing the quotation with a signal phrase, stating the quotation, and punctuating it correctly. Then introduce the signal phrase in the middle of the quotation, and punctuate it correctly.

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How to Put a Quote in an Essay

Last Updated: November 28, 2022 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Christopher Taylor, PhD and by wikiHow staff writer, Danielle Blinka, MA, MPA . Christopher Taylor is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College in Texas. He received his PhD in English Literature and Medieval Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014. There are 11 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 2,635,184 times.

Using a direct quote in your essay is a great way to support your ideas with concrete evidence, which you need to support your thesis. To select a good quote , look for a passage that supports your argument and is open to analysis. Then, incorporate that quote into your essay, and make sure you properly cite it based on the style guide you’re using.

Sample Quotes

how to shorten a quote in an essay

Incorporating a Short Quote

Step 1 Incorporate short direct quotes into a sentence.

  • For instance, let's say this is the quote you want to use: "The brown leaves symbolize the death of their relationship, while the green buds suggest new opportunities will soon unfold."
  • If you just type that sentence into your essay and put quotes around it, your reader will be disoriented. Instead, you could incorporate it into a sentence like this: "The imagery in the story mirrors what's happening in Lia's love life, as 'The brown leaves symbolize the death of their relationship, while the green buds suggest new opportunities will soon unfold.'"

Step 2 Use a lead-in...

  • "Critic Alex Li says, 'The frequent references to the color blue are used to suggest that the family is struggling to cope with the loss of their matriarch.'"
  • "According to McKinney’s research, 'Adults who do yoga at least three times a week have lower blood pressure, better sleeping patterns, and fewer everyday frustrations.'"
  • "Based on several recent studies, people are more likely to sit on the park benches when they're shaded by trees."

Step 3 Put quotation marks...

  • You still need to use quotation marks even if you're only quoting a few words.
  • If you're in doubt, it's best to be cautious and use quotes.

Step 4 Provide commentary after...

  • For example, let’s say you used the quote, “According to McKinney’s research, ‘Adults who do yoga at least three times a week have lower blood pressure, better sleeping patterns, and fewer everyday frustrations.’” Your commentary might read, “This shows that yoga can have a positive impact on people’s health, so incorporating it into the workplace can help improve employee health outcomes. Since yoga makes employees healthier, they’ll likely have reduced insurance costs.”

Step 5 Paraphrase

  • When you use a paraphrase, you still need to provide commentary that links the paraphrased material back to your thesis and ideas.

Using a Long Quote

Step 1 Introduce a long direct quote, then set it off in a block.

  • The reader will recognize that the material is a direct quote because it's set off from the rest of the text. That's why you don't need to use quotation marks. However, you will include your citation at the bottom.

Step 2 Write an introductory lead-in to tell the reader what the quote is about.

  • "In The Things They Carried , the items carried by soldiers in the Vietnam war are used to both characterize them and burden the readers with the weight they are carrying: The things they carried were largely determined by necessity. Among the necessities or near-necessities were P-38 can openers, pocket knives, heat tabs, wristwatches, dog tags, mosquito repellent, chewing gum, candy cigarettes, salt tablets, packets of Kool-Aid, lighters, matches, sewing kits, Military Payment Certificates, C rations, and two or three canteens of water." (O'Brien 2)

Variation: When you're citing two or more paragraphs, you must use block quotes, even if the passage you want to quote is less than four lines long. You should indent the first line of each paragraph an extra quarter inch. Then, use ellipses (…) at the end of one paragraph to transition to the next.

Step 3 Indent the block quote by .5 inches (1.3 cm) from the left margin.

  • Your block quote will use the same spacing as the rest of your paper, which will likely be double-spacing.

Step 4 Use an ellipsis to omit a word or words from a direct quote.

  • For example, “According to Li, “Rosa is the first sister to pick a rose because she’s the only one who’s begun to move on after their mother’s death” might become “According to Li, “Rosa is the first sister to pick a rose because she’s … begun to move on after their mother’s death.”
  • Don’t eliminate words to change the meaning of the original text. For instance, it’s not appropriate to use an ellipsis to change “plants did not grow faster when exposed to poetry” to “plants did … grow faster when exposed to poetry.”

Step 5 Put brackets around words you need to add to a quote for clarification.

  • For example, let’s say you want to use the quote, “All of them experienced a more relaxed, calmer disposition after doing yoga for 6 months.” This doesn’t tell the reader who you’re talking about. You could use brackets to say, “All of [the teachers in the study] experienced a more relaxed, calmer disposition after doing yoga for 6 months.”
  • However, if you know the study is talking about teachers, you couldn’t use brackets to say, “All of [society experiences] a more relaxed, calmer disposition after doing yoga for 6 months.”

Step 6 Provide commentary after a quote to explain how it supports your ideas.

  • If you don't explain your quote well, then it's not helping your ideas. You can't expect the reader to connect the quote back to your thesis for you.

Step 7 Paraphrase the quote to condense it to 1 or 2 sentences, if you can.

  • For instance, you may prefer to use a long block quote to present a passage from a literary work that demonstrates the author's style. However, let's say you were using a journal article to provide a critic's perspective on an author's work. You may not need to directly quote an entire paragraph word-for-word to get their point across. Instead, use a paraphrase.

Tip: If you’re unsure about a quote, ask yourself, “Can I paraphrase this in more concise language and not lose any support for my argument?” If the answer is yes, a quote is not necessary.

Citing Your Quote

Step 1 Cite the author’s...

  • An MLA citation will look like this: (Lopez 24)
  • For sources with multiple authors, separate their names with the word “and:” (Anderson and Smith 55-56) or (Taylor, Gomez, and Austin 89)
  • If you use the author’s name in your lead-in to the quote, you just need to provide the year in parentheses: According to Luz Lopez, “the green grass symbolizes a fresh start for Lia (24).”

Step 2 Include the author’s...

  • An APA citation for a direct quote looks like this: (Ronan, 2019, p. 10)
  • If you’re citing multiple authors, separate their names with the word “and:” (Cruz, Hanks, and Simmons, 2019, p. 85)
  • If you incorporated the author’s name into your lead-in, you can just give the year and page number: Based on Ronan’s (2019, p. 10) analysis, “coffee breaks improve productivity.”

Step 3 Use the author’s last name, date, and page number for Chicago Style.

  • For instance, a Chicago Style citation will look like this: (Alexander 2019, 125)
  • If you’re quoting a source with multiple authors, separate them with the word “and:” (Pattinson, Stewart, and Green 2019, 175)
  • If you already incorporated the author’s name into your quote, then you can just provide the year and page number: According to Alexander, “the smell of roses increases feelings of happiness” (2019, 125).

Step 4 Prepare a Works...

  • For MLA, you'd cite an article like this: Lopez, Luz. "A Fresh Blossom: Imagery in 'Her Darkest Sunshine.'" Journal of Stories , vol. 2, no. 5, 2019, p. 15-22. [17] X Trustworthy Source Purdue Online Writing Lab Trusted resource for writing and citation guidelines Go to source
  • In APA, you'd cite an article like this: Lopez, Luz. (2019). A Fresh Blossom: Imagery in "Her Darkest Sunshine." Journal of Stories , 2(5), 15-22. [18] X Trustworthy Source Purdue Online Writing Lab Trusted resource for writing and citation guidelines Go to source
  • For Chicago Style, your article citation would look like this: Lopez, Luz. "A Fresh Blossom: Imagery in 'Her Darkest Sunshine.'" Journal of Stories 2 no. 4 (2019): 15-22. [19] X Trustworthy Source Purdue Online Writing Lab Trusted resource for writing and citation guidelines Go to source

Selecting a Quote

Step 1 Select a quote that backs up the argument you’re making.

Tip: Quotes are most effective when the original language of the person or text you’re quoting is worth repeating word-for-word.

Step 2 Make sure the quote is something you can analyze.

  • If you’re struggling to explain the quote or link it back to your argument, then it’s likely not a good idea to include it in your essay.

Step 3 Avoid using too many direct quotes in your paper.

  • Paraphrases and summaries work just like a direct quote, except that you don’t need to put quotation marks around them because you’re using your own words to restate ideas. However, you still need to cite the sources you used.

Community Q&A

wikiHow Staff Editor

  • Always cite your quotes properly. If you don't, it is considered plagiarism. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

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Write an Essay

  • ↑ https://www.ursinus.edu/live/files/1160-integrating-quotespdf
  • ↑ https://lsa.umich.edu/sweetland/undergraduates/writing-guides/how-do-i-incorporate-quotes-.html
  • ↑ https://helpfulprofessor.com/quotes/
  • ↑ https://advice.writing.utoronto.ca/using-sources/quotations/
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/mla_style/mla_formatting_and_style_guide/mla_formatting_quotations.html
  • ↑ https://guides.libraries.psu.edu/apaquickguide/intext
  • ↑ https://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide/citation-guide-2.html
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/mla_style/mla_formatting_and_style_guide/mla_formatting_and_style_guide.html
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/apa_style/apa_formatting_and_style_guide/reference_list_articles_in_periodicals.html
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/chicago_manual_17th_edition/cmos_formatting_and_style_guide/periodicals.html
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/quotations/

About This Article

Christopher Taylor, PhD

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To put a quote in an essay, incorporate it directly into a sentence if it's shorter than 4 typed lines. For example, you could write "According to researchers," and then insert the quote. If a quote is longer than 4 typed lines, set it off from the rest of the paragraph, and don't put quotes around it. After the quote, include an in-text citation so readers know where it's from. The right way to cite the quote will depend on whether you're using MLA, APA, or Chicago Style formatting. For more tips from our English co-author, like how to omit words from a quote, scroll down! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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How to use Quotes in an Essay in 7 Simple Steps

How to use Quotes in an Essay

A quote can be an effective and powerful literary tool in an essay, but it needs to be done well. To use quotes in an essay, you need to make sure your quotes are short, backed up with explanations, and used rarely. The best essays use a maximum of 2 quotes for every 1500 words.

Rules for using quotes in essays:

  • Avoid Long Quotes.
  • Quotes should be less than 1 sentence long.
  • Match Quotes with Explanations and Examples.
  • Use Max. 2 Quotes for 1500 words.
  • Use page numbers when Citing Quotes.
  • Don’t Italicize Quotes.
  • Avoid quotes inside quotes.

Once you have mastered these quotation writing rules you’ll be on your way to growing your marks in your next paper.

How to use Quotes in an Essay

1. avoid long quotes.

There’s a simple rule to follow here: don’t use a quote that is longer than one line. In fact,  four word quotes  are usually best.

Long quotes in essays are red flags for teachers. It doesn’t matter if it is an amazing quote. Many, many teachers don’t like long quotes, so it’s best to avoid them.

Too many students provide quotes that take up half of a paragraph. This will lose you marks – big time.

If you follow my  perfect paragraph formula , you know that most paragraphs should be about six sentences long, which comes out to about six or seven typed lines on paper. That means that your quote will be a maximum of one-sixth (1/6) of your paragraph. This leaves plenty of space for discussion in your own words.

One reason teachers don’t like long quotes is that they suck up your word count. It can start to look like you didn’t have enough to say, so you inserted quotes to pad out your essay. Even if this is only your teacher’s perception, it’s something that you need to be aware of.

Here’s an example of over-use of quotes in paragraphs:

Avoid Quotes that are Too Long

Children who grow up in poverty often end up being poor as adults. “Many adult Americans believe that hard work and drive are important factors on economic mobility. When statistics show that roughly 42% of children born into the bottom level of the income distribution will likely stay there (Isaacs, 2007), this Is a consequence of structural and social barriers.” (Mistry et al., 2016, p. 761). Therefore poverty in childhood needs to be addressed by the government.

This student made the fatal mistake of having the quote overtake the paragraph.

Simply put, don’t use a quote that is longer than one line long. Ever. It’s just too risky.

Personally, I like to use a 4-word quote in my essays. Four-word quotes are long enough to constitute an actual quote but short enough that I have to think about how I will fit that quote around my own writing. This forces me to write quotations that both show:

  • I have read the original source, but also:
  • I know how to paraphrase

2. Do not use a Quote to that takes up a full Sentence, Starts a Sentence, or Ends a Paragraph

These are three common but fatal mistakes.

Essay quotes that start sentences or end paragraphs make you appear passive.

If you use a quotation in an essay to start a sentence or end a paragraph, your teacher automatically thinks that your quote is replacing analysis, rather than supporting it.

You should instead start the sentence that contains the quote with your own writing. This makes it appear that you have an  active voice .

Similarly, you should end a paragraph with your own analysis, not a quote.

Let’s look at some examples of quotes that start sentences and end paragraphs. These examples are poor examples of using quotes:

Avoid Quotes that Start Sentences The theorist Louis Malaguzzi was the founder of the Reggio Emilia Approach to Education. “Children have the ability to learn through play and exploration. Play helps children to learn about their surroundings” (Malaguzzi, 1949, p. 10). Play is better than learning through repetition of drills or reading. Play is good for all children.

Avoid Quotes that End Paragraphs Before Judith Butler gender was seen as being a binary linked to sex, men were masculine and women were feminine. Butler came up with this new idea that gender is just something society has made up over time. “Gender is a fluid concept” (Butler, 1990, p. 136).

Both these quotes are from essays that were shared with me by colleagues. My colleagues marked these students down for these quotes because of the quotes:

  • took up full sentences;
  • started sentences; and
  • were used to end paragraphs.

It didn’t appear as if the students were analyzing the quotes. Instead, the quotes were doing the talking for the students.

There are some easy strategies to use in order to make it appear that you are actively discussing and analyzing quotes.

One is that you should make sure the essay sentences with quotes in them  don’t start with the quote . Here are some examples of how we can change the quotes:

Example 1: Start Quote Sentences with an Active Voice The theorist Louis Malaguzzi was the founder of the Reggio Emilia Approach to Education. According to Malaguzzi (1949, p. 10), “children have the ability to learn through play and exploration.” Here, Malaguzzi is highlighting how to play is linked to finding things out about the world. Play is important for children to develop. Play is better than learning through repetition of drills or reading. Play is good for all children.

Here, the sentence with the quote was amended so that the student has an active voice. They start the sentence with According to Malaguzzi, ….

Similarly, in the second example, we can also insert an active voice by ensuring that our quote sentence does not start with a quote:

Example 2: Start Quote Sentences with an Active Voice In 1990, Judith Butler revolutionized Feminist understandings of gender by arguing that “gender is a fluid concept” (p. 136). Before Butler’s 1990 book  Gender Trouble , gender was seen as being a binary linked to sex. Men were masculine and women were feminine. Butler came up with this new idea that gender is just something society has made up over time.

In this example, the quote is not at the start of a sentence or end of a paragraph – tick!

How to Start Sentences containing Quotes using an Active Voice

  • According to Malaguzzi (1949, p. 10), “…”
  • Malaguzzi (1949, p. 10) argues that “…”
  • In 1949, Malaguzzi (p. 10) highlighted that “…”
  • The argument of Malaguzzi (1949, p. 10) that “…” provides compelling insight into the issue.

3. Match Quotes with Explanations and Examples

Earlier on, I stated that one key reason to use quotes in essays is so that you can analyze them.

Quotes shouldn’t stand alone as explanations. Quotes should be there to be analyzed, not to do the analysis.

Let’s look again at the quote used in Point 1:

Example: A Quote that is Too Long Children who grow up in poverty often end up being poor as adults.  “Many adult Americans believe that hard work and drive are important factors in economic mobility. When statistics show that roughly 42% of children born into the bottom level of the income distribution will likely stay there (Isaacs, 2007), this Is a consequence of structural and social barriers.”  (Mistry et al., 2016, p. 761). Therefore poverty in childhood needs to be addressed by the government.

This student has included the facts, figures, citations and key details in the quote. Essentially, this student has been lazy. They failed to paraphrase.

Instead, this student could have selected the most striking phrase from the quote and kept it. Then, the rest should be paraphrased. The most striking phrase in this quote was “[poverty] is a consequence of structural and social barriers.” (Mistry et al., 2016, p. 761).

So, take that one key phrase, then paraphrase the rest:

Example: Paraphrasing Long Quotes Children who grow up in poverty often end up being poor as adults. In their analysis, Mistry et al. (2016) highlight that there is a misconception in American society that hard work is enough to escape poverty. Instead, they argue, there is evidence that over 40% of people born in poverty remain in poverty. For Mistry et al. (2016, p. 761), this data shows that poverty is not a matter of being lazy alone, but more importantly  “a consequence of structural and social barriers.”  This implies that poverty in childhood needs to be addressed by the government.

To recap,  quotes shouldn’t do the talking for you . Provide a brief quote in your essay, and then show you understand it with surrounding explanation and analysis.

4. Know how many Quotes to use in an Essay

There’s a simple rule for how many quotes should be in an essay.

Here’s a good rule to follow: one quote for every five paragraphs. A paragraph is usually 150 words long, so you’re looking at  one quote in every 750 words, maximum .

To extrapolate that out, you’ll want a maximum of about:

  • 2 quotes for a 1500-word paper;
  • 3 quotes for a 2000-word paper;
  • 4 quotes for a 3000-word paper.

That’s the maximum , not a target. There’s no harm in writing a paper that has absolutely zero quotes in it, so long as it’s still clear that you’ve closely read and paraphrased your readings.

The reason you don’t want to use more quotes than this in your essay is that teachers want to see you saying things in your own words. When you over-use quotes, it is a sign to your teacher that you don’t know how to paraphrase well.

5. Always use page numbers when Citing Quotes in Essays

One biggest problem with quotes are that many students don’t know how to cite quotes in essays.

Nearly every referencing format requires you to include a page number in your citation. This includes the three most common referencing formats: Harvard, APA, and MLA. All of them require you to provide page numbers with quotes.

Citing a Quote in Chicago Style – Include Page Numbers

  • Incorrect: “Gender is a fluid concept” (Butler 1990).
  • Correct: “Gender is a fluid concept” (Butler 1990, 136).

Citing a Quote in APA and Harvard Styles – Include Page Numbers

  • Incorrect: “Gender is a fluid concept” (Butler, 1990).
  • Correct: “Gender is a fluid concept” (Butler, 1990, p. 136).

Citing a Quote in MLA Style – Include Page Numbers

  • Incorrect: “Gender is a fluid concept” (Butler).
  • Correct: “Gender is a fluid concept” (Butler 136).

Including a page number in your quotation makes a huge difference when a marker is trying to determine how high your grade should be.

This is especially true when you’re already up in the higher marks range. These little editing points can mean the difference between placing first in the class and third. Don’t underestimate the importance of attention to detail.

6. Don’t Italicize Quotes

For some reason, students love to use italics for quotes. This is wrong in absolutely every major referencing format, yet it happens all the time.

I don’t know where this started, but please don’t do it. It looks sloppy, and teachers notice. A nice, clean, well-formatted essay should not contain these minor but not insignificant errors. If you want to be a top student, you need to pay attention to minor details.

7. Avoid quotes inside quotes

Have you ever found a great quote and thought, “I want to quote that quote!” Quoting a quote is a tempting thing to do, but not worth your while.

I’ll often see students write something like this:

Poor Quotation Example: Quotes Inside Quotes Rousseau “favored a civil religion because it would be more tolerant of diversity than Christianity. Indeed ‘no state has ever been founded without religion as its base’ (Rousseau, 1913: 180).” (Durkheim, 1947, p. 19).

Here, there are quotes on top of quotes. The student has quoted Durkheim quoting Rousseau. This quote has become a complete mess and hard to read. The minute something’s hard to read, it loses marks.

Here are two solutions:

  • Cite the original source. If you really want the Rousseau quote, just cite Rousseau. Stop messing around with quotes on top of quotes.
  • Learn the ‘as cited in’ method. Frankly, that method’s too complicated to discuss here. But if you google it, you’ll be able to teach yourself.

When Should I use Quotes in Essays?

1. to highlight an important statement.

One main reason to use quotes in essays is to emphasize a famous statement by a top thinker in your field.

The statement must be  important. It can’t be just any random comment.

Here are some examples of when to use quotes in essays to emphasize the words of top thinkers:

  • The words of Stephen Hawking go a long way in Physics ;
  • The words of JK Rowling go a long way in Creative Writing ;
  • The words of Michel Foucault go a long way in Cultural Studies ;
  • The words of Jean Piaget go a long way in Education Studies .

2. To analyze an Important Statement.

Another reason to use quotes in essays is when you want to analyze a statement by a specific author. This author might not be famous, but they might have said something that requires unpacking and analyzing. You can provide a quote, then unpack it by explaining your interpretation of it in the following sentences.

Quotes usually need an explanation and example. You can unpack the quote by asking:

  • What did they mean,
  • Why is it relevant, and
  • Why did they say this?

You want to always follow up quotes by top thinkers or specific authors with discussion and analysis.

Quotes should be accompanied by:

  • Explanations of the quote;
  • Analysis of the ideas presented in the quote; or
  • Real-world examples that show you understand what the quote means.
Remember: A quote should be a stimulus for a discussion, not a replacement for discussion.

What Bad Quotes Look Like

Many teachers I have worked with don’t like when students use quotes in essays. In fact, some teachers absolutely hate essay quotes. The teachers I have met tend to hate these sorts of quotes:

  • When you use too many quotes.
  • When you use the wrong citation format.
  • When you don’t provide follow-up explanations of quotes.
  • When you used quotes because you don’t know how to paraphrase .

how to use quotes in an essay

Be a minimalist when it comes to using quotes. Here are the seven approaches I recommend for using quotes in essays:

  • Avoid Long Quotes in Essays
  • Do not use a Quote that takes up a full Sentence, Starts a Sentence, or Ends a Paragraph
  • Match Quotes with Explanations and Examples
  • Use a Maximum of 2 Quotes for every 1500 words
  • Always use page numbers when Citing Quotes in Essays
  • Don’t Italicize Quotes
  • Avoid quotes inside quotes

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Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

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Using Long Quotations – Harvard Style

2-minute read

  • 3rd January 2016

When writing an essay, we quote sources to support a point we’re making or to attribute particular ideas to a particular thinker. Using quotations judiciously is thus a vital study skill for every university student.

However, many people format longer quotations incorrectly in their work. Herein, we focus on Harvard style conventions for using quotations, in particular longer passages of text.

Quoting Sources – The Basics

Ideally, when quoting shorter passages, you should integrate them into the main body of your text. This is done by simply enclosing the quoted material inside ‘quotation marks’ and providing the relevant page numbers in your citation:

J. R. Irons (1948, p.1) says of bread that ‘there really is no other food to take its place’.

It’s worth noting that ‘single inverted commas’ are traditionally favoured in Australian English, but this has become more fluid lately, so you might want to check your university style guide on this matter.

Longer Quotations

Sometimes, however, you’ll need to quote a source more extensively. To do this, you can use a ‘block quote’. This is where the quoted text is separated from the main body of your work.

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Harvard conventions suggest doing this when quoting passages of 40-50 words (approximately four lines). To block quote, the quoted text must begin on a separate line after a colon and be inset from the rest of your essay, somewhat like this:

We must realise that bread is made to eat, and that the palate and not the eye must always be the deciding factor in how much is consumed. Bread will always have a place in the diet, but… there are signs that the bread of today is lacking – often dry, mostly under-fermented – and such is not likely to maintain sales. (Irons, 1948, p.4)

You’ll notice that indenting the text already distinguishes it from your own work, so quotations marks are not required in block quotations.

Depending on your style guide, you may also need to adjust the formatting of block quotes (e.g. changing the line spacing for quoted text). Whichever style you use, though, the important thing is that block quotes are:

a) Distinct from the main body of your work b) Clearly cited with the author name, year of publication and relevant page number(s) c) Presented consistently throughout your document

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Put a Quote in an Essay

Home / Blog / How To Put A Quote In An Essay (with Examples)

How to Put a Quote in an Essay (with Examples)

Introduction

When writing an essay , it is essential to incorporate quotes from reputable sources to support your arguments and ideas. However, knowing how to use quotes effectively is crucial in maintaining the flow and clarity of your essay. This blog will discuss the proper ways to put a quote in an essay with examples.

Why Use Quotes in an Essay?

Quotes are used in an essay to support or reinforce the writer's arguments and ideas. They provide evidence for your claims and demonstrate that your argument is backed up by research and authority. Incorporating quotes also helps to provide context and depth to your writing and can add a unique perspective to your essay.

Types of Quotes

There are two types of quotes you can use in your essay: direct quotes and indirect quotes.

Direct Quotes: Direct quotes are the exact words used by the source that you are quoting. When using direct quotes, you need to use quotation marks and indicate the source.

Example: According to John Smith, "The Earth is round."

Indirect Quotes: Indirect quotes are a paraphrase of the original source. When using indirect quotes, you do not need to use quotation marks.

Example: John Smith claims that the Earth is round.

How to Put a Quote in an Essay

When using quotes in an essay, there are several rules that you need to follow to ensure that your writing is clear, accurate, and appropriate. Here are the steps to follow:

Step 1: Choose a Relevant Quote

Before you start writing your essay, identify the quotes that you want to use to support your arguments. Ensure that the quotes you select are relevant, reliable, and add value to your essay.

Step 2: Introduce the Quote

Introduce the quote by providing context and indicating who the source is. This will help the reader understand the significance of the quote and its relevance to your argument.

Example: According to Jane Doe, a renowned climate scientist, "Climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity."

Step 3: Use Quotation Marks

When using a direct quote, use quotation marks to indicate that you are using the exact words of the source.

Example: According to Jane Doe, "Climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity."

Step 4: Provide the Source

Provide the source of the quote, including the author's name, the title of the book or article, and the page number. This will help the reader find the source if they want to read it.

Example: According to Jane Doe, a renowned climate scientist, "Climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity." (Doe, The State of the Climate, p. 25)

Step 5: Punctuate Correctly

Punctuate the quote correctly by placing the comma or period inside the quotation marks, depending on whether it is a part of the quote or your sentence.

Step 6: Explain the Quote

Explain the significance of the quote in your own words. This will help the reader understand how the quote supports your argument.

Example: Jane Doe's quote highlights the urgency of addressing climate change as it poses a significant threat to human survival.

Step 7: Cite Your Sources

Ensure that you cite your sources correctly using the citation style specified by your instructor or the style guide for your discipline.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using Quotes in an Essay

Using quotes in an essay can be tricky, and many students make mistakes that can impact the quality of their writing. Here are some common mistakes to avoid when using quotes in an essay:

Failing to provide context: It is essentialto provide context when using a quote in an essay. Failure to do so can confuse the reader and make the quote appear out of place. Always introduce the quote and provide some background information about the source and why you are using the quote.

Overusing quotes: While quotes can add value to your essay, it is essential not to overuse them. Use quotes sparingly and only when necessary. Overusing quotes can make your writing appear lazy, and it may give the impression that you are not confident in your own ideas.

Incorrectly citing sources: Always cite your sources correctly using the citation style specified by your instructor or the style guide for your discipline. Failure to do so can lead to accusations of plagiarism , which can have serious consequences.

Misquoting or altering a quote: When using a direct quote, it is essential to use the exact words of the source. Do not alter the quote or misquote the source as this can distort the meaning and accuracy of the quote.

Failing to explain the quote: When using a quote, it is important to explain its significance and how it supports your argument. Failure to do so can make the quote appear irrelevant and disconnected from your essay.

Examples of Quotes in an Essay

Here are some examples of how to use quotes in an essay:

Example 1: Argumentative Essay

Topic: Should students be required to wear school uniforms?

Quote: "School uniforms promote a sense of unity and equality among students, and they help to reduce instances of bullying based on clothing." (Johnson, School Uniforms, p. 10)

Explanation: The quote supports the argument that school uniforms can have a positive impact on student behavior and reduce instances of bullying. It is introduced with the source and provides context for the argument.

Example 2: Persuasive Essay

Topic: The importance of recycling

Quote: "Every ton of paper that is recycled saves 17 trees, 7,000 gallons of water, and 463 gallons of oil." (Environmental Protection Agency)

Explanation: The quote provides a powerful statistic that supports the importance of recycling. It is introduced with the source, and its significance is explained in the following sentences.

Example 3: Expository Essay

Topic: The history of the American Civil War

Quote: "Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." (Lincoln, Gettysburg Address)

Explanation: The quote is an iconic line from Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, which is a significant event in American history. It is introduced with the source, and its significance is explained in the following sentences.

Incorporating quotes in an essay can add depth, context, and authority to your writing. However, it is important to use quotes effectively and appropriately. Always choose relevant and reliable quotes, introduce them with context, use the correct punctuation, explain their significance, and cite your sources correctly. By following these guidelines, you can effectively use quotes in your essay and improve the quality of your writing.

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Using Ellipses to Omit Words From a Quotation

Do you have a quotation that is too long and mostly meaningless? You can use an ellipsis—three consecutive periods, with one space around each ( . . . )—to leave out extra or unnecessary words. The ellipsis represents information that you are omitting from a quotation.

What to Remember . . .

When omitting words from quotations, remember to be fair to the author. Don't use the quotation in a way that implies an alternate meaning from the one the author intended.

Let's take a look at some examples that will show you . . .

Say you were reading “Civil Disobedience” by Henry David Thoreau and you found that this sentence would be beneficial in your paper:

  • “I do not hesitate to say, that those who call themselves Abolitionists should at once effectually withdraw their support, both in person and property, from the government of Massachusetts, and not wait till they constitute a majority of one, before they suffer the right to prevail through them.”

You could use an ellipsis to omit words from the beginning of the sentence . . .

  • Thoreau feels, “. . . Abolitionists should at once effectually withdraw their support, both in person and property, from the government of Massachusetts, and not wait till they constitute a majority of one, before they suffer the right to prevail through them.”

. . . or to omit words from the middle of a sentence . . .

  • “I do not hesitate to say, that those who call themselves Abolitionists should at once effectually withdraw their support . . . from the government of Massachusetts, and not wait till they constitute a majority of one, before they suffer the right to prevail through them” Thoreau stated.

Using an ellipsis to omit words from the end of a sentence:

Thoreau writes, “I do not hesitate to say, that those who call themselves Abolitionists should at once effectually withdraw their support, both in person and property, from the government of Massachusetts, and not wait till they constitute a majority of one . . . .”

Notice that when using an ellipsis at the end of a sentence you must place a period after the ellipsis. When using a parenthetical notation at the end of a sentence, with an ellipsis, place a period after the citation. For example:

  • “. . . and not wait till they constitute a majority of one . . .” (Thoreau 20).

Quotation with an omission from the middle of one sentence to the end of another:

In order to signify that a sentence is missing, MLA (Modern Language Association) uses brackets to separate the ellipsis and the period that ends the sentence. For instance:

  • William L. Rivers notes, “Presidential control reached its zenith under Andrew [ . . . ]. For a time, the United States Telegraph and the Washington Globe were almost equally favored as party organs, and there were fifty-seven journalists on the government payroll” (7).

Omitting an entire sentence or more from a poem:

When removing an entire line from a poem, use a complete line of periods, or a series of ellipses, as shown below.

  • Elizabeth Bishop's “In the Waiting Room” is rich in evocative detail: In Worcester, Massachusetts. I went with Aunt Consuelo to keep her dentist's appointment ................................ It was winter. It got dark early. (1-3, 6-7)

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how to shorten a quote in an essay

How to Shorten an Essay: 4 Techniques to Reduce Word Count

If you need to shorten your essay by 100-500 words, or even more, you can use one or more of four techniques. You can clean up your sentences, remove repetition, summarize your examples, and/or cut out an entire section.

One of my subscribers recently asked me, “ How do I compress an essay of 700-1000 words, or even more, to just 300 words? ”

In this tutorial I will show you four easy ways to shorten your essay by as much or as little as you wish. I am giving them to you in the order you should try them out.

Here are four techniques to shorten your essay:

Technique #1: Sentence Cleanup

When I taught essay writing in college, I noticed that students wrote sentences that were just too wordy. 

They used 20 words where 10 would have probably done the trick. If you examine your sentences, you’ll often find that you can say the same thing in much fewer words.

“In my opinion, there are many people who want to lose weight.”

This sentence contains 12 words. 

Here’s how we can shorten it by performing a Sentence Cleanup.

First, you never have to say, “ In my opinion, ” because if it were not your opinion, you wouldn’t be stating it. Okay? So, let’s cross out “ in my opinion. ”

“ In my opinion, there are many people who want to lose weight.”

We just cut out three words. 

Next, the phrase “ there are ” is usually unnecessary, and if you take it out, your sentence will become more elegant. So, let’s do it. Let’s just cross it out.

“ There are many people who want to lose weight.”

We also have to cross out the extra word “ who ” because it is only needed if you use “ there are. ”

We just got rid of three more words. 

And so our sentence becomes:

“Many people want to lose weight.”

How many words is that? That is now a six word sentence. Guess what – we just cut this sentence in half. 

how to shorten a quote in an essay

Do this enough times in your essay, and it will get a lot shorter.

“How do I cut out 200 words from my essay to make it shorter?”

This sentence contains 14 words. Let’s perform a Sentence Cleanup.

Notice that it is pretty obvious that to cut out 200 words from an essay will make it shorter. Therefore, stating that you want to do it “ to make it shorter ” is unnecessary. 

If we get rid of that phrase, we’ll cut out 4 words from this sentence and make it a lot more elegant. 

“How do I cut out 200 words from my essay to make it shorter ?”

Technique #2: Removing Repetition

Repetition can be found on all levels – in a sentence, in a paragraph, or a section. When you reduce or eliminate repetition in your essay, you are making it less redundant. “Redundant” just means repetitive and therefore useless.

In the last example we just did, we eliminated a redundancy from a sentence. And that’s part of a Sentence Cleanup. But you can also find and eliminate entire redundant sentences.  

Look for repetitive phrases, sentences, and even passages in your content and remove them. 

Students often repeat things over and over, using different words, thinking that they’re writing great content. Those are your opportunities to significantly shorten your essay while improving it at the same time.

Here’s an example from a fictitious student essay. Let’s say the student writes about his trip to Paris and states:

“ I found that Parisians are very nice if you talk to them in French. ”

And then, in the same or even a different paragraph or section, the following sentence would appear:

“Parisians can be very nice people, but they really prefer that you speak French with them.”

Well, the two sentences say the same thing, just using different words. 

So, what do you do? 

Pick the longer sentence and just delete it.

how to shorten a quote in an essay

Sometimes you will find a whole paragraph in your essay that is repetitive and can be removed without the essay losing any meaning. If you find such a paragraph, just delete it.

Technique #3: Zooming Out

Make sure that you go through your essay using the first two techniques before you employ this and the next one. 

The only case where you would do Zooming Out first would be if you had to shorten your essay drastically – by 30% or more. 

If you’ve cleaned up all your sentences and removed all repetitive content, and you still need to lose hundreds of words, the Zooming Out technique will really help. 

Here’s how it works. 

You may have heard that in essay writing, you are supposed to proceed from general to specific. Whether you stick to this rule really well in your essay or not, I want you to notice something. 

In your essay, you make statements that are:

  • very general
  • less general
  • somewhat specific
  • very specific

The most general statement in your essay is the thesis because it summarizes the entire essay. And the most specific parts of your essay are examples .

So, in order to shorten your essay, you can summarize your examples. I call this Zooming Out because you are taking something that was very specific (zoomed in) and making it more general (zoomed out). 

how to shorten a quote in an essay

Let’s say you’re writing about the harms of second-hand smoking. And in one of the sections you provide an example of your friend or someone in the news who became seriously ill because she lived with a smoker for a long time:

“My friend Isabelle was married to a chain smoker. Her husband refused not only to give up his habit but even to reduce it. As years went by, Isabelle began to notice some respiratory symptoms. At first, she developed a light but persistent cough. Then, she started to feel out of breath more and more often. When she finally went to a pulmonologist, a test revealed that she had COPD, a serious lung disease.”

This example is 74 words long. And this is your opportunity to shorten your essay dramatically. 

You can simply contract this example into one short sentence and write something like this:

“A friend of mine developed lung disease after having lived with a chain smoker for twelve years.”

Now, this sentence contains only 17 words. We just cut out 57 words just by Zooming Out on one example. 

We are Zooming Out because we are no longer exploring this example in detail. We simply provide a fact without giving a lot of specific information. 

So, look for these detailed examples in your essay and just summarize each of them into one short sentence.

Technique #4: Cutting out a Section

This technique works very well to cut out a big chunk of your essay in one fell swoop.

Let’s say that you wrote an essay in which you have four supporting points to prove your main point, your thesis. 

how to shorten a quote in an essay

If this is a 2,000-word essay, then each section is approximately 500 words long. But do you really need four reasons/sections to support your point?

Is it possible that if you provide only three supporting points, your essay will still work very well?

how to shorten a quote in an essay

For example, if you argue that apples are a great food, you could have four supporting points, claiming that apples are:

But what if you simply took out one of these points? Let’s say that you eliminate the section about the portability of apples.

Will your essay still work? Sure it will. It will work just fine with the three remaining supporting points. And you just cut out 500 words (in a 2,000-word essay). 

After you have cut out a section, make sure to go back to your thesis statement and edit it to reflect the change.

I’ll leave you with one final tip. When trying to choose which sentence, paragraph, or section to cut out from your essay, go for the content that you know is not the best.

For example, you may have a section in your essay where you quote too much. Or, perhaps you were not very careful in paraphrasing, and your passage sounds too much like the original source. These would be great bits of content to get rid of.

I hope this was helpful. Now go ahead and shorten your essay to your heart’s desire!

How to Write a 300 Word Essay – Simple Tutorial

How to expand an essay – 4 tips to increase the word count, 10 solid essay writing tips to help you improve quickly, essay writing for beginners: 6-step guide with examples, 6 simple ways to improve sentence structure in your essays.

Tutor Phil is an e-learning professional who helps adult learners finish their degrees by teaching them academic writing skills.

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In an in-text citation, how do I shorten a title that appears in quotation marks when it starts with a title in quotation marks?

Note: This post relates to content in the eighth edition of the MLA Handbook . For up-to-date guidance, see the ninth edition of the MLA Handbook .

If you need to shorten a title within quotation marks that begins with a title in quotation marks, use the title within the title as the short form and retain the single quotation marks within double quotation marks:

Karen Ford argues that Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” is “replete with contradictions” (“‘Yellow Wallpaper’” 311). Works Cited Ford, Karen.  Gender and the Poetics of Excess: Moments of Brocade . UP of Mississippi, 1997. —. “‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ and Women’s Discourse.”  Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature , vol. 4, no. 2, 1985, pp. 309-14.

In the example above, note that you still omit the introductory article, just as you would with any shortened title in an in-text citation.

A similar issue occurs when shortening titles that begin with quotations. See our post for examples.

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How to Shorten an Essay: Reduce Word Count but keep Points

Shortening an Essay

Shortening an Essay

When writing an essay, you may need to shorten it by reducing its word count to the number required by your instructor. In this case, you might have some words you need to eliminate in the essay. Also, you may have to shorten the paragraphs.

Read on for a comprehensive guide on 7 ways how you can shorten your essay but still make the points you intended to keep in the paper. If you need help to shorten your essay, just get in touch with our online essay writers, and the team will help you score an A

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How Do I Make My Essay Shorter

It is possible to shorten your essay or reduce the word count to meet the requirements during the editing process. The editing process should be the last step in writing your essay. The following are some of the most effective techniques to shorten your essay.

When it comes to writing essays, there are two types of students; those who write beyond the word count and those who write below the word count.

For those who write beyond the word count, you can use simple techniques to shorten an essay.

1. Rank your Arguments’ strengths and weakness 

The first technique for making your essay shorter is by ranking your arguments. If your essay is longer than the requirement, rank the points used to support your arguments.

Use Strong Arguments only

A good essay should contain only the most vital and valid points.

If you find some of your weak supporting points, eliminate them while removing the unnecessary wording.

Students will often be tempted to present a multifaceted point of view to support a single point.

While this may demonstrate your knowledge of the subject, it will add unnecessary content to your essay.

To avoid this and reduce the essay’s length, carefully select the most relevant and vital points.

However, if you still want to include all the points, you can minimize the details, especially within weaker points. This will make your essay shorter.

2. Focus on the Main Point of your Essay

This is a very practical technique for making your essay shorter. When given an essay to complete, the instructor expects you to come up with a topic and support it throughout your essay.

Focus on Essay's Main Point

Valid arguments within each paragraph of your essay should support the topic and the thesis statement.

Therefore, if your essay is longer than recommended, look for sentences or entire paragraphs that do not address or support your essay’s main point or topic.

Students may find themselves accidentally going off-topic and including other unnecessary wordings and arguments to make their essays appear “smarter” or well-written.

This can result in unnecessary words and sentences beyond the required word count.

If you identify such unnecessary arguments within your essay while editing, eliminate them to focus more on your main point and achieve the target word count.

3. Eliminate the use of Verbiage

You should eliminate the verbiage if you want to make your essay shorter. This is especially relevant when writing academic essays where you are required to present your arguments professionally and straightforwardly.

Eliminate any extra information or words that do not add value to your point or overall argument. Such verbiage is some of the weak words to avoid in writing essays and research papers.

You can eliminate unnecessary adjectives, adverbs, generalizations, clichés, and lengthy verb phrases here. You can do this while performing the first and second techniques mentioned above.

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4. Write Short Sentences using the Active Voice

As we have noted, academic essays will require you to present your arguments straightforwardly. Using the active voice while constructing your sentences will help you achieve this while keeping them brief.

Use short sentences to shorten essays

While this may not apply to all sentences within your essay, try to begin most of your sentences using the subject.

In this case, the subject is the thing or person performing an action. This should be followed by the action the subject performs.

If you use the passive voice, where you describe how the object is acted upon, then your sentences will be longer and contribute to the unwanted length of the essay.

For example, take a simple sentence like, “John plays basketball regularly.”

This sentence is in the active voice because John (subject) performs the action of playing basketball (object).

Now take a sentence like, “basketball is regularly played by John.” The second sentence is in passive voice because it describes how the object (basketball) is acted upon.

The first sentence in the active voice comprises 4 words, while the second sentence in the passive voice comprises 6 words. Therefore, you can see that writing in an active voice shortens your essay.

5. Utilize the most Applicable Strong Verbs

This may seem obvious, but many students cannot find the most applicable verbs. They find those that are close instead of using the perfect verb.

If you want to shorten your essay, find the best verb that conveys a precise meaning.

apply strong verbs to shorted paragraphs

This is because when you use an imperfect verb, you will end up using more words to clarify the meaning.

Here is an example to clarify what is meant by using the most applicable verb:

“John’s team defeated the opposing team by several points.”

Using “defeated” in the above sentence is not grammatically wrong. However, it is not the best verb to use because John’s team not only defeated the opposing team, they all defeated them by several points.

If you wish to reduce the word count while maintaining the same meaning, you can use the verb “trounce” in place of “defeat.” The new sentence will be:

“John’s team trounced the opposing team.”

6. Quote from the most Relevant Sources

In academic essays, you may be required to provide quotes from secondary sources to support your essay. The number of sources needed depends on the length of the paper. For instance, a 4-page paper may require more secondary sources than a 2-page one.

However, if you find that you have used several quotes that are lengthening your essay, retain quotes from secondary sources that are most related to your topic, and eliminate the rest. Again, only cite the sources that are most relevant to your topic.

7. Avoid Block Quotes

The best way to avoid longer essays is by avoiding direct quotations from other authors. This can be done by paraphrasing their content and just citing the sources without using many words.

Avoiding block quotes will make the paragraphs short and your arguments more captivating to the reader. Therefore, avoid using essay or sentence generators, as these will quote other sources.

However, note that using external sources to support your points and arguments is always advisable when writing an essay. Such supporting content is important for the grades and to back up your claims.

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Weak Words to Avoid in Writing an Essay

Now that we have explored the most applicable methods or techniques that can help make your essay shorter, it is important to identify the unnecessary things to avoid in an essay to avoid going beyond the word count.

1. The passive voice

As we have noted, the passive voice makes your sentences unnecessarily lengthy. On the other hand, the active voice makes the sentences more compelling and clear because they are straight to the point.

Consequently, the active voice uses lesser words compared to the passive voice. Therefore, it is important to avoid the passive voice in an essay.

2. Adverbs and Adjectives

adverbs and adjectives

While adjectives modify nouns while adverbs modify verbs, good and well-utilized words in a sentence do not require modifying.

In most cases, adjectives and adverbs weaken strong nouns and verbs, thus weakening your overall writing.

Such weak words add no value to your paragraphs; you must avoid them when writing an essay.

When editing your essay and you find adverbs with “ly” as their endings, you can eliminate them because they act as filler words that add no value to the point you are trying to communicate.

When it comes to adjectives, they do not add meaning to the sentence and are, therefore, unnecessary.

3. Conjunctions

Conjunctions such as and, or, however, but, and, e.g., connect two different sentences that can be written independently. They are unnecessary when you want to make an essay shorter.

These are some of the words that make an essay ridiculously long and create the need to be precise. Eliminating them reduces the word count and shortens the essay.

4. Running Starts and Needless Transitions

Running starts are commonly used phrases that act as an introduction to the sentence. They include “it is, “there is, “the fact that, “and so on. This is basically the opposite of what we discussed in our post on making an essay longer, as we outlined.

Those phrases add unnecessary words to your essay. Needless transitions can be “furthermore,” “then,” indeed,” “however,” and so on.

The bottom line is that when you are told to write a specific number of pages or meet a particular word count, it is imperative to meet the requirements because you will lose some points.

5. First-Person Language

This is a common thing in any essay writing task. It is always advisable that one should avoid using first-person language when writing an essay. This is because the first person is not formal and tends to be confrontational.

Instead of first-person or second-person language, always use a third-person approach. While this does not contribute i reducing the word count, it gives a lot of formality to your essay and puts a warm reading tone.

In addition, using the third person promotes the objectivity of your arguments by presenting them in a manner that can relate to any person, in this case, your readers. Read our guide on avoiding the first-person language in an essay and apply that in your future writing.

Following the above tips will make it easier to shorten your essays.

Watch this video to learn more about this.

YouTube video

With over 10 years in academia and academic assistance, Alicia Smart is the epitome of excellence in the writing industry. She is our managing editor and is in charge of the writing operations at Grade Bees.

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Table of Contents

Collaboration, information literacy, writing process, inserting or altering words in a direct quotation.

  • CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 by Nancy Lewis

What punctuation should be used when words are inserted or altered in a direct quotation?

When writers insert or alter words in a direct quotation, square brackets—[ ]—are placed around the change. The brackets, always used in pairs, enclose words intended to clarify meaning, provide a brief explanation, or to help integrate the quote into the writer’s sentence.  A common error writers make is to use parentheses in place of brackets.

How are square brackets used around clarifying or explanatory words?

Let’s look at an example:

Quotation with brackets used correctly around a clarifying word:

“It [driving] imposes a heavy procedural workload on cognition that . . . leaves little processing capacity available for other tasks” (Salvucci and Taatgen 107). [1]

Note : Brackets are placed around the inserted word in this example to let the reader know that ‘driving’ clarifies the meaning of the pronoun ‘it.’

Quotation with parentheses incorrectly used in place of brackets:

“It (driving) imposes a heavy procedural workload on cognition that . . . leaves little processing capacity available for other tasks” (Salvucci and Taatgen 107).

Note : Parentheses are used incorrectly in place of brackets in this example, making the inserted word look like it could be part of the original text.

Let’s look at another example:

Quotation with brackets used correctly around an explanatory insert:

“[D]riving is not as automatic as one might think; in fact, it imposes a heavy procedural workload [visual and motor demands] on cognition that . . . leaves little processing capacity available for other tasks” (Salvucci and Taatgen 107).

Note : Brackets are placed around the inserted words in this example to provide further explanation of the “procedural workload” discussed in the original text.

“[D]riving is not as automatic as one might think; in fact, it imposes a heavy procedural workload (visual and motor demands) on cognition that . . . leaves little processing capacity available for other tasks” (Salvucci and Taatgen 107).

Note : Parentheses are used incorrectly in place of brackets in this example, making the inserted words look like they are part of the original text.

How are square brackets used to help integrate a quote properly?

Original direct quotation beginning with an upper case letter:

“The heavy cognitive workload of driving suggests that any secondary task has the potential to affect driver behavior” (Salvucci and Taatgen 108).

Integrated quotation with brackets used correctly to indicate a change in letter case:

Salvucci and Taatgen propose that “[t]he heavy cognitive workload of driving suggests that any secondary task has the potential to affect driver behavior” (108).

Note : Brackets are placed around the lower-case letter ‘t’ to indicate that the letter case has been changed. The quotation is introduced by a signal phrase, which makes the quote an integral part of the writer’s sentence; as a result of this syntactical change, the upper case ‘T’ in the original is changed to a lower case letter.

Original direct quotation written in the past tense:

“Not coincidentally, drivers have been increasingly engaging in secondary tasks while driving” (Salvucci and Taatgen 68).

Note : The authors’ words appear in the past tense in the original text.

Quotation with brackets used correctly to indicate a change in verb tense:

“Not coincidentally, drivers [are] increasingly engaging in secondary tasks while driving” (Salvucci and Taatgen 68).

Note : Brackets are placed around the word ‘are’ to indicate that the verb has been changed to the present tense, which is the preferred tense for most writing in MLA style. The past tense is preferred for APA style writing. 

A word of caution : Bracketed insertions may not be used to alter or add to the quotation in a way that inaccurately or unfairly represents the original text. Quite simply, do not use bracketed material in a way that twists the author’s meaning.

Bracket Use: Quick Summary

[1] Salvucci, Dario D., and Niels A. Taatgen. Multitasking Minds . Oxford: Oxford UP, 2011. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost) . Web. 20 Feb. 2012.

Brevity – Say More with Less

Brevity – Say More with Less

Clarity (in Speech and Writing)

Clarity (in Speech and Writing)

Coherence – How to Achieve Coherence in Writing

Coherence – How to Achieve Coherence in Writing

Diction

Flow – How to Create Flow in Writing

Inclusivity – Inclusive Language

Inclusivity – Inclusive Language

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COMMENTS

  1. How to Quote

    Citing a quote in APA Style. To cite a direct quote in APA, you must include the author's last name, the year, and a page number, all separated by commas. If the quote appears on a single page, use "p."; if it spans a page range, use "pp.". An APA in-text citation can be parenthetical or narrative.

  2. How to Edit Quotes in an Essay

    If you need to edit quotes in your writing, keep the following in mind: Use an ellipsis to indicate omissions in the text. Check your style guide for how to format ellipses (e.g., in brackets or not, spaced or unspaced). Mark additions or changes by placing the edited text in square brackets. Use the term " [Sic]" to show that you've ...

  3. PDF brackets [ ]

    1. Shorten quotes 2. Clarify the meaning of quotes by adding your own words 3. Mix your paraphrases and snippets of a direct quote in the same sentence 1. Shorten long quotes with ellipses You can shorten quotes by removing words from the middle of the quote and adding ellipses to indicate that you have removed some words.

  4. How to Quote

    Citing a quote in APA Style. To cite a direct quote in APA, you must include the author's last name, the year, and a page number, all separated by commas. If the quote appears on a single page, use 'p.'; if it spans a page range, use 'pp.'. An APA in-text citation can be parenthetical or narrative.

  5. Changes to quotations

    Some changes can be made to direct quotations without alerting readers: The first letter of the first word in a quotation may be changed to an uppercase or a lowercase letter to fit the context of the sentence in which the quotation appears. Some punctuation marks at the end of a quotation may be changed to fit the syntax of the sentence in ...

  6. MLA Formatting Quotations

    Start the quotation on a new line, with the entire quote indented 1/2 inch from the left margin while maintaining double-spacing. Your parenthetical citation should come after the closing punctuation mark. When quoting verse, maintain original line breaks. (You should maintain double-spacing throughout your essay.)

  7. Using Quotations: Shortening Quotations With Ellipses

    Keep this trick of using ellipses in mind when you're using quotations to ensure you're including only the essential information in the quotation. Visual: The screen changes to an ending slide with slide a background image with a person typing on a laptop and a notebook and pencil, along with the Walden University Writing Center logo.

  8. Using short quotes and block quotes in MLA

    Indent the quote ½ inch or five spaces from the left margin for the entire quote (not just the first line). Do not use quotation marks. Double space the quote. Put the parenthetical citation after the final punctuation mark in the quote. Comment on the quote after using it. Do not end a paragraph with a block quote.

  9. 7.6 Editing Focus: Quotations

    A properly formatted quotation will contain the following: Quote in exact words: Use ellipses (. . .) to omit irrelevant sections of a quotation or to shorten it. Use brackets ([]) to add information to a quotation to help it make sense. Original Quotation: "Cybersecurity is an important issue for businesses of all sizes.

  10. How to Put a Quote in an Essay (with Pictures)

    If you use the author's name in your lead-in to the quote, you just need to provide the year in parentheses: According to Luz Lopez, "the green grass symbolizes a fresh start for Lia (24).". 2. Include the author's last name, the year, and the page number for APA format. Write the author's name, then put a comma.

  11. How to use Quotes in an Essay in 7 Simple Steps (2024)

    Required fields are marked *. How to use quotes in an essay: (1) Avoid Long Quotes, (2) Quotes should be less than 1 sentence long, (3) Match Quotes with Explanations and Examples, (4) Use Max. 2 Quotes for 1500 words, (5) Use page numbers when Citing Quotes, (6) Don't Italicize Quotes, (7) Avoid quotes inside quotes.

  12. Using Long Quotations

    Subscribe. Harvard conventions suggest doing this when quoting passages of 40-50 words (approximately four lines). To block quote, the quoted text must begin on a separate line after a colon and be inset from the rest of your essay, somewhat like this: We must realise that bread is made to eat, and that the palate and not the eye must always be ...

  13. How to Put a Quote in an Essay (with Examples)

    Step 6: Explain the Quote. Explain the significance of the quote in your own words. This will help the reader understand how the quote supports your argument. Example: Jane Doe's quote highlights the urgency of addressing climate change as it poses a significant threat to human survival.

  14. How to Quote in an Essay: A Step-by-Step Guide with Examples

    Here are some tips to effectively accomplish this: 1. Provide context and analysis: Introduce the quote by briefly explaining the background or the source; Analyze the quote by breaking it down and examining its key elements; Discuss the implications or interpretations of the quote within the context of your topic. 2.

  15. Omitting Words from a Direct Quotation

    When an omission is made from within a direct quotation, ellipsis points take the place of the omitted text. A space should appear between each of the three dots, as well as before and after the ellipsis. One of the most common ellipsis point usage errors is to omit the required spaces.

  16. Using Ellipses to Omit Words From a Quotation

    Quotation with an omission from the middle of one sentence to the end of another: In order to signify that a sentence is missing, MLA (Modern Language Association) uses brackets to separate the ellipsis and the period that ends the sentence. For instance: William L. Rivers notes, "Presidential control reached its zenith under Andrew [ . . .

  17. How to Shorten an Essay: 4 Techniques to Reduce Word Count

    Here are four techniques to shorten your essay: Technique #1: Sentence Cleanup. ... For example, you may have a section in your essay where you quote too much. Or, perhaps you were not very careful in paraphrasing, and your passage sounds too much like the original source. These would be great bits of content to get rid of.

  18. In an in-text citation, how do I shorten a title that appears in

    If you need to shorten a title within quotation marks that begins with a title in quotation marks, use the title within the title as the short form and retain the single quotation marks within double quotation marks: Karen Ford argues that Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" is "replete with contradictions" ("'Yellow Wallpaper'" 311). …

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    In most critical essays, it's better to use shorter quotations in a precise way rather than write out very long quotations. Scrooge is described as being 'Hard and sharp as flint.'. You can ...

  20. How to Shorten an Essay: Reduce Word Count but keep Points

    For those who write beyond the word count, you can use simple techniques to shorten an essay. 1. Rank your Arguments' strengths and weakness. The first technique for making your essay shorter is by ranking your arguments. If your essay is longer than the requirement, rank the points used to support your arguments.

  21. Inserting or Altering Words in a Direct Quotation

    The quotation is introduced by a signal phrase, which makes the quote an integral part of the writer's sentence; as a result of this syntactical change, the upper case 'T' in the original is changed to a lower case letter. Let's look at another example: Original direct quotation written in the past tense: