MLA Guidelines for Quoting

MLA Guidelines for Quoting

For a printable copy, click here: Guidelines for Quoting

Purposes for Quoting

  1. 1.     To lend support to your ideas
  2. 2.     To give credit to your source for his or her ideas
  3. 3.     To enliven the readability of your own writing
  4. 4.     To add emphasis to an idea
  5. 5.     To state another person’s idea beautifully, clearly, or succinctly

How Much to Quote

  1. 1.     As little as is necessary to fulfill the purpose
  2. 2.     Only what you cannot say as well in your own voice
  3. 3.     Only enough to make an idea clear

Where to Place a Quote

  1. 1.     Integrated with your own words and voice
  2. 2.     In positions where they support your ideas

What Attribution to Include in Your Sentence

  1. 1.     The author’s name
  2. 2.     The author’s position if relevant to credibility
  3. 3.     The occasion where it was said or written if relevant

What Attribution to Include in Parenthetical Citation

  1. 1.     In MLA style, use author’s last name and page number (without comma)
  2. 2.     In APA style, use author’s last name, date, and page number (with commas)

Integrating Quotations into Your Writing

            There are two types of direct quotations.

a. The first is simply to write the author’s statement in your own paper and use quotation marks to separate it from your own writing. In this type of direct quotes, name the person who said or wrote the words in order to introduce the quote. For example:

John Leo has said, “Fairness and manners in the workplace have become purely legal issues.”


Shakespeare once wrote, “To thine own self be true.”

Notice that the first letter of the quoted sentence is capitalized and that a comma separates the introductory words from the quote.

            b. In another type of direct quotation, the words of the author are incorporated into your own sentence. The only punctuation used are the quotation marks and the first letter of the quote is not capitalized.

John Leo has said that “fairness and manners in the workplace have become purely legal issues.”


Shakespeare once wrote that you must “to thine own self be true.”

            c. In an effective variation of the second type of direct quotation, you, the writer, keep only the words you think are the most important for the meaning of your paper. You use those phrases that retain the meaning and intention of the original and also support your ideas. For example,

Like John Leo, we begin to see here in our own company that much of what used to be common virtues at work have now turned into merely “legal issues.”


As I make a decision for my career, I will remember to be true “to [mine] own self.”

Writing Activity #1

Use the following quotes to practice each of the three ways to put the following statement in your own writing. (a) Use a comma and quotation marks to separate the quote from your own writing. (b) Incorporate the quote into your own writing by using “that.” (c) Use only part of the quotation in a sentence of your own. You may wish to find quotes from your own research or from articles in the readings chapters printed later in this book.

  1. 1.     Oh for a book and a shady nook, either in door or out. (John Wilson)
  2. 2.     Whether they will or no, Americans must begin to look outward. (Alfred Thayer Mahan)
  3. 3.     Have you had a kindness shown? Pass it on. (Henry Burton)


Placing Quotations

            Where you place direct quotations in relation to your ideas is an important decision. In English writing, important positions are usually first and last. Readers tend to notice and remember information at the beginnings and endings of paragraphs. Consider the organization of the following student paragraphs.  Whose ideas are emphasized in each?  Which paragraphs let the reader know that the student writer has thought through the information found in the sources?  Why do you think so? How would you advise these students to allow their own knowledge and voice to shine through?

  1. 1.     “Cutting down tropical forests produces dramatically different results from the deforestation of America a century ago.  Rain forests contain most of the insect and plant life in the entire world, perhaps as much as 75% of all species” (Karns and Khera 1993).  “As their habitats are destroyed, these species often become extinct, with a unique and sometimes devastating impact on the biosphere” (Norton 1986).  So, I think we should preserve the rain forests to preserve the planet.
  2. 2.     We should halt the destruction of the rain forests in order to preserve our planet.  We should not continue the devastation our forefathers wreaked on North America on their trek west. And more than that, we have to stop the deforestation of South America because it will have more drastic effects on the world environment (Karns and Khera).  As we systematically destroy rain forests we affect the lives and habitats of “perhaps as much as 75% of all species of insect and plant life” (Norton).  We could in a few short years change the entire biosphere of this earth.
  3. 3.     We need to look into what we are doing to the rain forests in South America because “[w]hen a habitat is destroyed, it is rare that only one species is affected.  The importance of these ‘lost’ species cannot be fully quantified” and “[s]pecies eradication in the last 20 years has been at a pace never before experienced on the planet” (Prance 1990).


Beginning and ending places in paragraphs are important and emphasis bearing.  To accentuate your own ideas rather than the ideas of your source, try to limit direct quotations to un-emphasized areas.  One student called this “sandwiching the quote” between important ideas.  

            In addition to where a direct quotation is in your paragraph, the type of information you include about the quotation and its author indicates to readers how they are to think about the information.  Consider the following paragraphs.  All were written by the same student working through drafts.  What are the differences between her drafts?  How does each affect your reading of the paragraph?  Why?

First Draft-

I found two articles which give evidence that men are discriminated against in Elementary Education.  The first, by Robert Browning says that only 1 out of 10 elementary teachers is a man (52). In the second, “Should Men Be Allowed to Teach Kindergarten?”, Joan Smithgarth argues that since many children live with their divorced mothers only, they need a male figure in the early grades, but that because society believes otherwise, “there are too few men teaching young children” (76).


Robert Browning, President of Elementary Teachers Association (ETA) says that only 1 out of 10 elementary teachers is a man.  In “Should Men Be Allowed to Teach Kindergarten?”, Joan Smithgarth, principal at George Washington School, argues that since many children live with their divorced mothers only, they need a male figure in the early grades, but that because society believes otherwise, “there are too few men teaching young children” (76).  These teachers give focus to the problem that men are discriminated against in Elementary Education.

Second Revision — 

Male teachers are discriminated against in Elementary Education.  In fact,  just as women seem to be excluded in higher-paying business positions, males may be having a difficult time getting into teaching. Only 1 out of 10 elementary teachers is a man (Browning 52).  Whether they are not encouraged to become elementary teachers or whether they leave for higher paying jobs elsewhere, we should look at the phenomenon.  We need more men in the earlier grades, since women are usually awarded custody in divorces. And “children who are being raised by single mothers don’t get the benefit of a male role model.”  We can conclude then that “there are too few men” teaching our children today  (Smithgarth 76).

Each version emphasizes a different angle of the student’s research. How might she use them to serve different purposes? In the first version, what activity does she emphasize? In the second, notice how she includes relevant information about the authors whose words she cites. How do you think she hopes this will affect her readers? In the third version, whose ideas does she emphasize? In what situations would each of the paragraphs be appropriate and effective?

Writing Activity #2

With your instructor’s help, select a passage of approximately two pages from one of the readings in the text book.  Select one or two statements made by the author and incorporate them into a paragraph of your own.  Exchange papers with several classmates and examine how they integrated the quotes. Select several versions to write on a chalkboard or overhead and determine with your class members which are effective in emphasizing the original author’s credibility and your class members’ individual ideas. Check a style manual or the information in this chapter to be sure you are punctuating the quotes correctly.


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