Citing a Short Direct Quotation in APA Style

Contributor: Melissa Kowalski. Lesson ID: 11772

"This is a short quotation." That was a short quotation according to APA style. Long and short quotations are cited differently, so bone up on what makes a short quotation and how to properly cite it!



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

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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"How long is a long quotation, and how short is a short quotation? Which is this? Does it matter?" Oh, yes! What differentiates a short direct quotation from a long direct quotation in APA style?

If you said that length differentiates a short direct quotation from a long direct quotation in APA style, then you are on the right track.

Specifically, a short direct quotation is fewer than 40 words from an outside source in your paper or project. A long direct quotation is 40 words or more taken directly from an outside source.

Short and long direct quotations are formatted differently in APA style, so it is important to know how much text you are using word-for-word from the original source, so you can format and cite it correctly.

Remember from the last Related Lesson (right-hand sidebar) on citing summaries that a quotation is using another writer's words verbatim in your paper or project.

  • To show that a short quotation is being used, the outside source's words are put in quotation marks.
  • The in-text parenthetical citation then follows the end of the quotation immediately, regardless of where the quotation ends in the sentence.
  • There is one space placed between the closing quotation marks and the start of the parentheses for the in-text citation.
  • If the quotation ended at the end of the sentence, the punctuation mark is placed after the close of the parentheses.
  • A quotation should either be introduced or concluded with your own words to integrate the quotation into the context of the sentence and paragraph.
  • You can also both introduce and conclude a sentence containing a short direct quotation in your own words.

Do you remember what two pieces of information were used to cite summary from a source in APA style? Tell your parent or teacher.

If you said the author's last name and the year of the source's publication are used, then you are correct. Quotations, both short and long, also require a third piece of information: the page number where the quotation was used in the original source. This piece of information is placed after the year, and a comma is used between the year and the page number, just like one is used to separate the author's last name and year. The lowercase letter "p" followed by a period is placed before the page number to indicate that it is a page number. See the example below:

As many critics note, "Frozen is Disney's largest hit film with a box-office breaking record during its run in theaters both nationally and internationally" (Frasier, 2016, p. 30).

As you can see, the quotation is introduced, the quotation is placed in quotation marks, the parenthetical citation begins one space after the closing quotation marks, and the period at the end of the sentence follows the close of the parentheses. Inside the parenthetical citation, the author's last name is followed by the year of publication of the original source, which is followed by the lowercase letter "p." and the page number. All three pieces of information are separated by commas.

If the author's name is used as part of the sentence, then the year still immediately follows the author's name, but the page number still follows the end of the quotation. For example:

According to William Gatsy (2013), "Taxes have been both a source of revenue and contention as long as the American republic has existed" (p. 636).

Just like citing summary from a source, there are times when the author's name or page number will not be known. The same alternate pieces of information used for citing summary from a source — when either or both the author's name and page number are unknown — apply to the in-text parenthetical citation for a short direct quotation. The same rules for citing multiple authors also apply. Refer back to the last Related Lesson on citing summaries (right-hand sidebar) if you forget any of these formats.

If the page number is not known, use a paragraph number if the source has numbered paragraphs. Instead of using the lowercase letter "p" followed by a period, use the lowercase abbreviation "para" followed by a period to indicate is it a paragraph number. For example:

The beaches of Greece are "famous for their white sands as well as their variety of landscapes with mountains rising only steps from the beach" (Willard, n.d., para. 4).

If there are section headings instead of paragraph numbers — which will often occur on a webpage — use the name of the section heading and provide the number of the paragraph under the heading. The section heading is capitalized, but not placed in italics or quotation marks. It is followed by the word "section." For example:

"Indicators of previous wildfires include a rich, ashy top layer of soil and scarring on the inner rings of trees" (Damon, 2011, Fire Signs section, para. 2), but these are often not noticed by the casual observer.

Which information do you think is the most difficult to find for an in-text citation? Tell your parent or teacher and then move on to the Got It? section to practice these new skills!

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