Block Quotes

Block quotation is a method of formatting to highlight sections of directly quoted text in your writing. Direct quotes are usually integrated directly into your own text, but when quotes meet certain guidelines, block quotations are used instead. Though rules vary among citation styles, this example focuses on APA and MLA, as they are the most common styles.

Remember!

Block quotes should be used sparingly. They are not intended for shorter essays because they take up extra space. Do not use block quotes just to fill space or try to reach a certain page length. For maximum impact, use them judiciously.

Rules

Length

Block quotations are only used if the text is longer than 40 words (APA) or four lines (MLA). Shorter quotes should be integrated directly into your text.

The meaning of “four lines” for MLA can be unclear, so if you are unsure, consult with your instructor about whether a quote is four lines and if you need to use a block quote.

Context

Don’t just drop a block quote into your own text without any explanation or context. Just like any other source you are using, always provide context and a lead-in when you use a block quote. Also, just like any other source, provide some follow-up after the quote to tie the information to your own writing.

Punctuation

Place a colon at the end of the last line before the block quote. This indicates that the quotation should be read seamlessly with your own text. Punctuate the text of the quote exactly as the original source does.

TIP

Use block quotes only when the author’s original words cannot be paraphrased or summarized. If you can say it just as well, paraphrase or summarize instead.

Spacing

Double-space all lines. Do not add an extra space before or after the block quote. Just continue double spacing throughout your text.

Citation

Just like any other source, block quotes still need a citation. Note the placement of the punctuation in the example below. Typically, the punctuation would be placed after the citation, but after a block quote, the punctuation is placed first.

Quotation Marks

Unlike quotes integrated into your text, block quotes do not need quotation marks.

Indentation

Indent all lines of the block quote. For APA and MLA, indent one-half inch. Do not indent from the right side margin.

Ask yourself:

Do I need this entire section? Does every word help illustrate my point?  If you are using a block quote, make sure you really need the entire section you are using. If you don’t, choose the most important part and integrate it into your own text instead of using a block quote.

Example

Scholars have explored the facets of good and evil in parallel characters in the Harry Potter series with frequent emphasis on the protagonist and antagonist and “absolute” virtues in each. Through exploring the grey areas of morality in other characters, Chevelier (2005) asserts that each main character is acting as an “absolute” by using comparison between Harry and Voldemort and explains:

Harry is constructed as the antithesis of Voldemort and is bound to him in numerous ways: the lightning-bolt scar on his forehead is the most obvious, as are Harry’s ability to speak Parseltongue and his wand, which is an exact counterpart of Voldemort’s. Like Frodo Baggins, Harry is the reluctant hero who must act as the instrument of absolute good, even at the risk of his own life, to defeat the instrument of absolute evil. (p. 339)

Though Chevelier (2005) mentions absolutes, he fails to address the potential that Harry might not be absolutely good and Voldemort might not be absolutely evil.

 

Chevelier, N. (2005). The liberty tree and the Whomping Willow: Political justice, magical science, and Harry Potter. The Lion and the Unicorn, 29(3), 397-415. doi:          10.1353/uni.2005.0041