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Hamersly Library

MLA Style Guide: 8th Edition: Block Quote

IN-TEXT CITATIONS FOR A...

Block Quote

The block quote is used for direct quotations that are longer than four lines of prose, or longer than three lines of poetry. A block quote is always used when quoting dialogue between characters, as in a play.

The block format is a freestanding quote that does not include quotation marks. Introduce the block quote with a colon (unless the context of your quote requires different punctuation) and start it on a new line. Indent the entire quote 1-inch from the left margin and double-space it (even if the rest of your paper is not double-spaced). Include the page number at the end of your block quote outside of the ending period. Also include the author's last name, date of publication, and page number(s)/paragraph number.

Prose

If you quote a single paragraph (or just part of one), do not indent the first line of the block quote more than the rest:

It is not until near the end of The Hound of the Baskervilles that the hound itself is actually seen:

A hound it was, an enormous coal-black hound, but not such a hound as mortal eyes have ever seen. Fire burst from its open mouth, its eyes glowed with a smouldering glare, its muzzle and hackles and dewlap were outlined in flickering flame. Never in the delirious dream of a disordered brain could anything more savage, more appalling, more hellish be conceived than that dark form and savage face which broke upon us out of the wall of fog. (Doyle 82)

If you quote two or more paragraphs, indent the first line of each paragraph an additional ¼ inch. However, if the first sentence quoted does not begin a paragraph in the source, do not indent it the additional amount, only indent the subsequent paragraphs. Here is an example where the first sentence is the beginning of a paragraph:

In the aftermath of the hound sighting, Sherlock Holmes keeps his cool:

   Sir Henry lay insensible where he had fallen. We tore away his collar, and Holmes breathed a prayer of gratitude when we saw that there was no sign of a wound and that the rescue had been in time. Already our friend's eyelids shivered and he made a feeble effort to move. Lestrade thrust his brandy-flask between the baronet's teeth, and two frightened eyes were looking up at us.

   "My God!" he whispered. "What was it? What, in heaven's name, was it?"

   "It's dead, whatever it is," said Holmes. (Doyle 82)

Poetry

Just as for prose, poetry block quotations (3+ lines) should begin on a new line. Unless the quotation involves unusual spacing, format it as you would prose:  indent each line one-inch from margin and double-space the lines. Do not add any quotation marks that do not appear in the source:

Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem “To John Oliver Killens in 1975” addresses another African American writer of the day:

John,

look at our mercy, the massiveness that it is not.

look  at our “unity,” look at our

“black solidarity.”

Dim, dull, and dainty. (1-5)

A line of poetry in a block quote that is too long to fit within the right margin of the page should be continued on the next line and indented an additional ¼ inch:

Allen Ginsberg’s famous poem “Howl” begins:

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,

dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,

angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo

   in the machinery of night, (9)

Drama

When quoting dialogue from a play, begin each part with the appropriate character’s name indented 1-inch from the left margin and written in all capital letters followed by a period. Then, start the quotation and indent all subsequent lines an additional ¼ inch. In the parenthetical reference at the end of the quote, include the act, scene, and line(s) of your quote, instead of the page number(s):

At the beginning of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, chaos erupts on a ship at sea before the cast of characters ends up on Prospero’s island:

MARINERS. All lost! to prayers, to prayers! all lost!

BOATSWAIN. What, must our mouths be cold?

GONZALO. The king and prince at prayers! let’s assist them,

For our case is as theirs.

SEBASTIAN.                                        I’m out of patience.

ANTONIO. We are merely cheated of our lives by drunkards:

This wide-chapp’d rascal,—would thou mightst lie drowning

The washing of ten tides!

GONZALO.                                          He’ll be hang’d yet,

Though every drop of water swear against it,

And gape at widest to glut him.

A confused noise within: “Mercy on us!”—“We split, we

split!”—“Farewell my wife and children!”—“Farewell,

brother!”—“We split, we split, we split!” (1.5.3-14)