In-text citations are brief parenthetical references in the body of your work. They should be used whenever you use another author’s words, facts, or ideas. All in-text citations will have a complete citation listed alphabetically in the Works Cited page.
The MLA uses an Author-Page Number format for in-text citations. (Example: Weston 22). This allows readers to look up the full citation listed in the Works Cited page and find the exact page of the quote or idea used. There are some exceptions to this rule, but for the most part you should always cite both the author and page number of any source materials used in your paper.
If simply quoting a word or phrase that is grammatically correct within your sentence, it will be obvious that you left out some of the original source:
In the opening lines of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen says it is “a truth universally acknowledged” that all single men with money want to find a wife (1).
If your quotation is longer, however, and you leave out pieces of the original source, you must use an ellipsis (three spaced periods with a space on either side) to indicate that your quotation does not completely reproduce the original:
Austen goes on to emphasize the entrenchment of this social norm by observing that, “this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of . . . their daughters” (1).
The same rule applies if the piece you omit is at the end of your sentence:
In discussing I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Manora notes that “during this period, Black women were consigned to a particular place in the social order . . .” (364).
If you omit the end of a sentence and your quotation continues past the omission, however, or if you omit an entire sentence, you must include a fourth period:
Manora goes on to discuss other scholars’ take on Angelou’s novel: “Sondra O’Neale is one early Angelou scholar whose scholarship centered upon the way race and gender intersect . . . . She credits Angelou with . . . combating negative stereotypes that prevail in the cultural imagination” (365).
For the most part, the rules for omission and using an ellipsis are the same for prose and poetry. When omitting one or more entire line(s), however, you must use a line of spaced periods approximately the length of a complete line of the quoted poem:
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)