Citing a Long Direct Quotation in MLA Format

Contributor: Melissa Kowalski. Lesson ID: 11721

Although it's best to summarize a source's ideas, sometimes a direct quote says it best. The case of a long quote is different from a short quote. Learn the easy steps for MLA formatting long quotes!



English / Language Arts
learning style
personality style
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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Quotation marks mark quotations, and that's that, right? Not necessarily! Lengthy quotations require different formattting in MLA style, so read on to learn the professional way to cite long direct quotations!

In the previous Related Lessons in our MLA In-text Citations series, found in the right-hand sidebar, you learned that a short and long quote are determined based on the number of lines the quotation occupies in your paper or project.

If a quotation is comprised of four or fewer lines, it is considered a short direct quotation, and if a quotation takes up more than four typed or handwritten lines in the paper or project, then it is considered a long direct quotation.

It is important to differentiate between the lengths of quotations when writing in the MLA format because a short quote is formatted differently from a long quote. However, there is one main similarity between the way both types of quotations are cited: both a short and long quotation use the same material inside the parenthetical citation. Do you remember what these two pieces of information are? Tell your parent or teacher.

If you said the parenthetical citation contains the author's name and the page number where the quotation can be found in the source being used, then you are correct.

The same rules concerning the variations for an in-text citation of a short direct quote when an author's last name or the page numbers are unknown also apply to long direct quotations. You can review these variations in the second of the Related Lessons.

A long direct quote is often called a block quote because of the way it looks on a page. The terms "long" and "block" are used interchangeably, so you may see one or both terms used to refer to a long direct quotation.

Look at the graphic below. Even if you couldn't read the graphic, by just looking at the page, can you pick out where the long or block quote is used?

If you said the long or block quote is in the middle, you are correct. What do you notice about the format of the long or block quote? Name as many features as you can for your parent or teacher.

A long or block quote is formatted in the following manner in MLA format:

  1. The quote must be started with your own words, followed by a colon.
  2. The entire quote is indented by one full tab. Indenting the full quote is where the term "block" originates, because the quote now looks like a block of text.
  3. There are NO quotation marks placed around the quotation (the reader knows the material is a direct quote because it is indented).
  4. The period is placed BEFORE the parenthetical citation. This is the only case where the period is placed before the parentheses.
  5. The next line of text following the long or block quote starts flush to the margin if it's in the same paragraph.

Like short direct quotations, a long direct quotation should not begin or end a body paragraph. A long direct quotation also cannot start an introductory paragraph or end a conclusion paragraph. These are places you should be introducing or concluding your ideas in your paper or project in your own words.

Now that you know the format for a long direct quotation, move on to the Got It? section to practice formatting a long direct quotation yourself.

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