How do I write a quotation?

student on benchIn previous posts, we’ve described why and how to cite the sources you quote in your paper. Today, we’ll show how to write the quotations themselves.

There are two main ways to present quotations: (1) you can set off a long quotation as a block, or (2) you can run a shorter quotation into your text with quotation marks.

Block quotation

First, let’s write a block quotation. A quotation of five lines or more is a good candidate for setting as a block. Here’s a block quote from the young adult novel Plus One, by Elizabeth Fama:

It takes guts to deliberately mutilate your hand while operating a blister-pack sealing machine, but all I had going for me was guts. It seemed like a fair trade: lose maybe a week’s wages and possibly the tip of my right middle finger, and in exchange Poppu would get to hold his great-granddaughter before he died.
          I wasn’t into babies, but Poppu’s unseeing eyes filled to spilling when he spoke of Ciel’s daughter, and that was more than I could bear. It was absurd to me that the dying should grieve the living when the living in this case was only ten kilometers away. Poppu needed to hold that baby, and I was going to bring her to him. (Fama 2014, 3)

Some things to notice about the block quotation:

  • The whole block is indented on the left side.
  • The quote does not have quotation marks at the beginning and end.
  • This quotation starts with a capital letter, but if the quotation had begun in the middle of a sentence, it would begin lowercased.
  • The first paragraph is not indented, but the next paragraph is.
  • The block is single-spaced with one line space above and one below. (There is no space between the paragraphs in the block.)
  • A citation appears after the last sentence of the block, after the period. The citation is in author-date style. To find the title of Fama’s work, a reader would look at your reference list, where you have typed the full citation:

Fama, Elizabeth. 2014.  Plus One. New York, NY: Macmillan.

Instead of the author-date method of citation, some instructors will tell you to use the notes-bibliography method, which requires putting a footnote or endnote number at the end of the block quotation:

I wasn’t into babies, but Poppu’s unseeing eyes filled to spilling when he spoke of Ciel’s daughter, and that was more than I could bear. It was absurd to me that the dying should grieve the living when the living in this case was only ten kilometers away. Poppu needed to hold that baby, and I was going to bring her to him, even if Ciel wouldn’t.1

You would then write an endnote or footnote (whichever your instructor prefers) citing page 3 of Fama’s book. The format is the same for endnotes and footnotes:

1. Elizabeth Fama, Plus One (New York, NY: Macmillan, 2014), 3.

If you have a bibliography, the citation would look like this:

Fama, Elizabeth. Plus One. New York, NY: Macmillan, 2014.

Quotation run into the text

If your  quote is less than five lines, you can probably run it into your text. Let’s say that we’ve been discussing in our paper how Fama uses descriptions of the characters. For instance, instead of simply telling us that the grandfather is blind, she writes that his “unseeing eyes filled to spilling” (Fama 2014, 3).

Did you notice how that run-in quotation is different from the block?

  • It begins and ends with quotation marks.
  • The quotation doesn’t begin with a capital letter because it doesn’t begin a new sentence.
  • The author-date citation comes after the ending quotation mark and before the period.

If your run-in quotation is written with notes-bibliography style, the footnote or endnote number should be typed immediately after the closing quotation mark and any ending punctuation: His “unseeing eyes filled to spilling.”Were his “unseeing eyes filled to spilling”?The note and bibliography entry are exactly the same as they are for a block quotation in notes-bibliography style.

More help

You can read more about quoting in student papers at sections 7.5 and 25.2.2 of Kate Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations.

Top photo:  Tony Alter, Homework.

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CMOS vs TurabianStudents:
Many school libraries have copies of Kate Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations and provide free access to The Chicago Manual of Style Online. If you aren’t sure whether your school does, ask your librarian.

Meanwhile, our For Students pages have a lot of good advice on writing papers.

 

 

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