Quotations are a way to communicate ideas and concepts. Writing and ideas are linked over time and across disciplines through the quotations. 

This note summarizes, the who, what, why, when, where and how of USING QUOTES and also includes the basic styles for inserting quotations in APA and MLA formats.


1. Established sources are usually the sources for quotes.
2. Writers whose new work is important to the topic.
3. Writers who made statements with style and grace.


1. Any use of a writer’s exact words must be quoted.
2. Paraphrasing of a writer’s words is cited but not quoted.
3. Special, unique or especially pertinent information.


1. Copyright restrictions require it.
2. It is polite and respectful to honor the source of an idea.
3. It adds authority to the position you take.
4. It provides emphasis to points you are making.
5. It creates a point of access to the material for your readers.


1. To strengthen a point you are making.
2. To use a sentence or phrase which can’t be improved upon.
3. To establish a point of interest.
4. Only when the quote offers special information.
5. When a paraphrase would be excessively short or awkward. Paraphrase long quotations and cite the source as you would a quote.


1. Whenever you have introduced and set up the relationship of the quote to the subject of the paper or explained it after the quote.


1. Use only enough of the original to convey the desired meaning.
2. Make the quotation fit naturally into the flow of your writing.
3. Follow the requirements of the style manual you are using.


Quotations within the text of an essay, report or research paper are useful in presenting ideas. They give full credit, not only to ideas, but to the way in which they were expressed. Quoted materials do not stand alone nor are they self explanatory. Readers should be prepared for the quote by what you write before and/or come to understand its use by what follows.

There should be a connection with your ideas and a reason for quoting rather than paraphrasing. There are some minor differences among style manuals. The Publication Manual of the APA (BF 76.7 .P83 2010 REF) and MLA Style Manual (LB 2369 .G53 2009 REF) requirements are summarized here.

These guidelines will assist the student in preparing well documented papers. Use the style manuals for more detailed assistance. Sometimes the word processing software you are using may limit how closely you can follow these guidelines.


Incorporate quotes of fewer than 40 words into the text with quotation marks. Indicate the work quoted using parentheses and dates/page numbers at the end of the sentence.

Longer quotations are placed in an indented block with no quotation marks. Indent the block five to seven spaces from the left with no paragraph indentation. If there is more than one paragraph in the quotation, indent the first line in the second and subsequent paragraphs.

Use double quotation marks around quotes in long quotations. Use single quotation marks within short quotations.

Use ellipses to indicate that material has been omitted from the quote. Three periods with spaces before, after and in between each are used within sentences. Four periods are used to indicate omitted material between sentences.

Use brackets around material inserted into a quotation not by the original author. This is often explanatory information.

Use colons and commas to grammatically indicate the author.


Place quotations of no more than four typed lines within the text enclosed in quotation marks. Indicate the author, date and pages as you would for a description or paraphrase. A short quotation may be given special emphasis by being blocked as longer quotations are.

Indent the block ten spaces and type double spaced with no quotation marks. Use a colon on the previous line to introduce the block quote. If more than one paragraph is in the quote, indent the first line of each three more spaces.

Part of a line and up to three lines may be incorporated in the text enclosed in quotation marks. Separate lines of poetry in the text with slash marks. You may emphasize two or three lines as for a longer quotation.

More than three lines should be indented ten spaces with no quotation marks around the block  If the poem has long lines, indent the block fewer spaces to maintain layout balance. If feasible you should retain the poets original line and word spacing.

When deciding to omit material from a quote, do not alter the author’s meaning by the omission. You must balance this with the need to write gracefully and grammatically. Use an ellipsis of three periods with spaces before, between and after each period for omissions within a sentence.
Use four periods for an ellipsis at the end of a sentence. If there is a date and/or pages in parentheses after the quoted material, put it before the last of the four periods.
Use four periods when omitting one or more sentences in the middle of a paragraph.

If you underline or italicize for emphasis in a quote, state this in parentheses before the period at the end of the sentence, e.g. (emphasis added). If you cite a date and/or page, put it in the same parentheses. Use brackets when you add other explanations or clarifications inside a quote. Sometimes this is necessary to make the quote more grammatical.

You may indicate the author of the quotation at the beginning, within or end of the sentence. Your style and grammar will govern the placement. Colons and commas are used to separate the author from the quote itself.

NOTE:  Literary quotes, proverbs and sayings are not usually used in the body of a paper. They may be used to get attention and establish a tone at the beginning. Many writers keep a commonplace book or journal of quotes which they find inspirational, amusing, succinct and clever.