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How to use Quotes in an Essay in 7 Simple Steps

How to use Quotes in an Essay in 7 Simple Steps

Chris Drew (PhD)

Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

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How to use Quotes in an Essay

A quote can be an effective and powerful literary tool in an essay, but it needs to be done well. To use quotes in an essay, you need to make sure your quotes are short, backed up with explanations, and used rarely. The best essays use a maximum of 2 quotes for every 1500 words.

Rules for using quotes in essays:

  • Avoid Long Quotes.
  • Quotes should be less than 1 sentence long.
  • Match Quotes with Explanations and Examples.
  • Use Max. 2 Quotes for 1500 words.
  • Use page numbers when Citing Quotes.
  • Don’t Italicize Quotes.
  • Avoid quotes inside quotes.

Once you have mastered these quotation writing rules you’ll be on your way to growing your marks in your next paper.

How to use Quotes in an Essay

1. avoid long quotes.

There’s a simple rule to follow here: don’t use a quote that is longer than one line. In fact,  four word quotes  are usually best.

Long quotes in essays are red flags for teachers. It doesn’t matter if it is an amazing quote. Many, many teachers don’t like long quotes, so it’s best to avoid them.

Too many students provide quotes that take up half of a paragraph. This will lose you marks – big time.

If you follow my  perfect paragraph formula , you know that most paragraphs should be about six sentences long, which comes out to about six or seven typed lines on paper. That means that your quote will be a maximum of one-sixth (1/6) of your paragraph. This leaves plenty of space for discussion in your own words.

One reason teachers don’t like long quotes is that they suck up your word count. It can start to look like you didn’t have enough to say, so you inserted quotes to pad out your essay. Even if this is only your teacher’s perception, it’s something that you need to be aware of.

Here’s an example of over-use of quotes in paragraphs:

Avoid Quotes that are Too Long

Children who grow up in poverty often end up being poor as adults. “Many adult Americans believe that hard work and drive are important factors on economic mobility. When statistics show that roughly 42% of children born into the bottom level of the income distribution will likely stay there (Isaacs, 2007), this Is a consequence of structural and social barriers.” (Mistry et al., 2016, p. 761). Therefore poverty in childhood needs to be addressed by the government.

This student made the fatal mistake of having the quote overtake the paragraph.

Simply put, don’t use a quote that is longer than one line long. Ever. It’s just too risky.

Personally, I like to use a 4-word quote in my essays. Four-word quotes are long enough to constitute an actual quote but short enough that I have to think about how I will fit that quote around my own writing. This forces me to write quotations that both show:

  • I have read the original source, but also:
  • I know how to paraphrase

2. Do not use a Quote to that takes up a full Sentence, Starts a Sentence, or Ends a Paragraph

These are three common but fatal mistakes.

Essay quotes that start sentences or end paragraphs make you appear passive.

If you use a quotation in an essay to start a sentence or end a paragraph, your teacher automatically thinks that your quote is replacing analysis, rather than supporting it.

You should instead start the sentence that contains the quote with your own writing. This makes it appear that you have an  active voice .

Similarly, you should end a paragraph with your own analysis, not a quote.

Let’s look at some examples of quotes that start sentences and end paragraphs. These examples are poor examples of using quotes:

Avoid Quotes that Start Sentences The theorist Louis Malaguzzi was the founder of the Reggio Emilia Approach to Education. “Children have the ability to learn through play and exploration. Play helps children to learn about their surroundings” (Malaguzzi, 1949, p. 10). Play is better than learning through repetition of drills or reading. Play is good for all children.

Avoid Quotes that End Paragraphs Before Judith Butler gender was seen as being a binary linked to sex, men were masculine and women were feminine. Butler came up with this new idea that gender is just something society has made up over time. “Gender is a fluid concept” (Butler, 1990, p. 136).

Both these quotes are from essays that were shared with me by colleagues. My colleagues marked these students down for these quotes because of the quotes:

  • took up full sentences;
  • started sentences; and
  • were used to end paragraphs.

It didn’t appear as if the students were analyzing the quotes. Instead, the quotes were doing the talking for the students.

There are some easy strategies to use in order to make it appear that you are actively discussing and analyzing quotes.

One is that you should make sure the essay sentences with quotes in them  don’t start with the quote . Here are some examples of how we can change the quotes:

Example 1: Start Quote Sentences with an Active Voice The theorist Louis Malaguzzi was the founder of the Reggio Emilia Approach to Education. According to Malaguzzi (1949, p. 10), “children have the ability to learn through play and exploration.” Here, Malaguzzi is highlighting how to play is linked to finding things out about the world. Play is important for children to develop. Play is better than learning through repetition of drills or reading. Play is good for all children.

Here, the sentence with the quote was amended so that the student has an active voice. They start the sentence with According to Malaguzzi, ….

Similarly, in the second example, we can also insert an active voice by ensuring that our quote sentence does not start with a quote:

Example 2: Start Quote Sentences with an Active Voice In 1990, Judith Butler revolutionized Feminist understandings of gender by arguing that “gender is a fluid concept” (p. 136). Before Butler’s 1990 book  Gender Trouble , gender was seen as being a binary linked to sex. Men were masculine and women were feminine. Butler came up with this new idea that gender is just something society has made up over time.

In this example, the quote is not at the start of a sentence or end of a paragraph – tick!

How to Start Sentences containing Quotes using an Active Voice

  • According to Malaguzzi (1949, p. 10), “…”
  • Malaguzzi (1949, p. 10) argues that “…”
  • In 1949, Malaguzzi (p. 10) highlighted that “…”
  • The argument of Malaguzzi (1949, p. 10) that “…” provides compelling insight into the issue.

3. Match Quotes with Explanations and Examples

Earlier on, I stated that one key reason to use quotes in essays is so that you can analyze them.

Quotes shouldn’t stand alone as explanations. Quotes should be there to be analyzed, not to do the analysis.

Let’s look again at the quote used in Point 1:

Example: A Quote that is Too Long Children who grow up in poverty often end up being poor as adults.  “Many adult Americans believe that hard work and drive are important factors in economic mobility. When statistics show that roughly 42% of children born into the bottom level of the income distribution will likely stay there (Isaacs, 2007), this Is a consequence of structural and social barriers.”  (Mistry et al., 2016, p. 761). Therefore poverty in childhood needs to be addressed by the government.

This student has included the facts, figures, citations and key details in the quote. Essentially, this student has been lazy. They failed to paraphrase.

Instead, this student could have selected the most striking phrase from the quote and kept it. Then, the rest should be paraphrased. The most striking phrase in this quote was “[poverty] is a consequence of structural and social barriers.” (Mistry et al., 2016, p. 761).

So, take that one key phrase, then paraphrase the rest:

Example: Paraphrasing Long Quotes Children who grow up in poverty often end up being poor as adults. In their analysis, Mistry et al. (2016) highlight that there is a misconception in American society that hard work is enough to escape poverty. Instead, they argue, there is evidence that over 40% of people born in poverty remain in poverty. For Mistry et al. (2016, p. 761), this data shows that poverty is not a matter of being lazy alone, but more importantly  “a consequence of structural and social barriers.”  This implies that poverty in childhood needs to be addressed by the government.

To recap,  quotes shouldn’t do the talking for you . Provide a brief quote in your essay, and then show you understand it with surrounding explanation and analysis.

4. Know how many Quotes to use in an Essay

There’s a simple rule for how many quotes should be in an essay.

Here’s a good rule to follow: one quote for every five paragraphs. A paragraph is usually 150 words long, so you’re looking at  one quote in every 750 words, maximum .

To extrapolate that out, you’ll want a maximum of about:

  • 2 quotes for a 1500-word paper;
  • 3 quotes for a 2000-word paper;
  • 4 quotes for a 3000-word paper.

That’s the maximum , not a target. There’s no harm in writing a paper that has absolutely zero quotes in it, so long as it’s still clear that you’ve closely read and paraphrased your readings.

The reason you don’t want to use more quotes than this in your essay is that teachers want to see you saying things in your own words. When you over-use quotes, it is a sign to your teacher that you don’t know how to paraphrase well.

5. Always use page numbers when Citing Quotes in Essays

One biggest problem with quotes are that many students don’t know how to cite quotes in essays.

Nearly every referencing format requires you to include a page number in your citation. This includes the three most common referencing formats: Harvard, APA, and MLA. All of them require you to provide page numbers with quotes.

Citing a Quote in Chicago Style – Include Page Numbers

  • Incorrect: “Gender is a fluid concept” (Butler 1990).
  • Correct: “Gender is a fluid concept” (Butler 1990, 136).

Citing a Quote in APA and Harvard Styles – Include Page Numbers

  • Incorrect: “Gender is a fluid concept” (Butler, 1990).
  • Correct: “Gender is a fluid concept” (Butler, 1990, p. 136).

Citing a Quote in MLA Style – Include Page Numbers

  • Incorrect: “Gender is a fluid concept” (Butler).
  • Correct: “Gender is a fluid concept” (Butler 136).

Including a page number in your quotation makes a huge difference when a marker is trying to determine how high your grade should be.

This is especially true when you’re already up in the higher marks range. These little editing points can mean the difference between placing first in the class and third. Don’t underestimate the importance of attention to detail.

6. Don’t Italicize Quotes

For some reason, students love to use italics for quotes. This is wrong in absolutely every major referencing format, yet it happens all the time.

I don’t know where this started, but please don’t do it. It looks sloppy, and teachers notice. A nice, clean, well-formatted essay should not contain these minor but not insignificant errors. If you want to be a top student, you need to pay attention to minor details.

7. Avoid quotes inside quotes

Have you ever found a great quote and thought, “I want to quote that quote!” Quoting a quote is a tempting thing to do, but not worth your while.

I’ll often see students write something like this:

Poor Quotation Example: Quotes Inside Quotes Rousseau “favored a civil religion because it would be more tolerant of diversity than Christianity. Indeed ‘no state has ever been founded without religion as its base’ (Rousseau, 1913: 180).” (Durkheim, 1947, p. 19).

Here, there are quotes on top of quotes. The student has quoted Durkheim quoting Rousseau. This quote has become a complete mess and hard to read. The minute something’s hard to read, it loses marks.

Here are two solutions:

  • Cite the original source. If you really want the Rousseau quote, just cite Rousseau. Stop messing around with quotes on top of quotes.
  • Learn the ‘as cited in’ method. Frankly, that method’s too complicated to discuss here. But if you google it, you’ll be able to teach yourself.

When Should I use Quotes in Essays?

1. to highlight an important statement.

One main reason to use quotes in essays is to emphasize a famous statement by a top thinker in your field.

The statement must be  important. It can’t be just any random comment.

Here are some examples of when to use quotes in essays to emphasize the words of top thinkers:

  • The words of Stephen Hawking go a long way in Physics ;
  • The words of JK Rowling go a long way in Creative Writing ;
  • The words of Michel Foucault go a long way in Cultural Studies ;
  • The words of Jean Piaget go a long way in Education Studies .

2. To analyze an Important Statement.

Another reason to use quotes in essays is when you want to analyze a statement by a specific author. This author might not be famous, but they might have said something that requires unpacking and analyzing. You can provide a quote, then unpack it by explaining your interpretation of it in the following sentences.

Quotes usually need an explanation and example. You can unpack the quote by asking:

  • What did they mean,
  • Why is it relevant, and
  • Why did they say this?

You want to always follow up quotes by top thinkers or specific authors with discussion and analysis.

Quotes should be accompanied by:

  • Explanations of the quote;
  • Analysis of the ideas presented in the quote; or
  • Real-world examples that show you understand what the quote means.
Remember: A quote should be a stimulus for a discussion, not a replacement for discussion.

What Bad Quotes Look Like

Many teachers I have worked with don’t like when students use quotes in essays. In fact, some teachers absolutely hate essay quotes. The teachers I have met tend to hate these sorts of quotes:

  • When you use too many quotes.
  • When you use the wrong citation format.
  • When you don’t provide follow-up explanations of quotes.
  • When you used quotes because you don’t know how to paraphrase .

how to use quotes in an essay

Be a minimalist when it comes to using quotes. Here are the seven approaches I recommend for using quotes in essays:

  • Avoid Long Quotes in Essays
  • Do not use a Quote that takes up a full Sentence, Starts a Sentence, or Ends a Paragraph
  • Match Quotes with Explanations and Examples
  • Use a Maximum of 2 Quotes for every 1500 words
  • Always use page numbers when Citing Quotes in Essays
  • Don’t Italicize Quotes
  • Avoid quotes inside quotes

Chris

  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ 19 Top Cognitive Psychology Theories (Explained)
  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ 119 Bloom’s Taxonomy Examples
  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ All 6 Levels of Understanding (on Bloom’s Taxonomy)
  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ 15 Self-Actualization Examples (Maslow's Hierarchy)

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How to Put a Quote in an Essay

Last Updated: November 28, 2022 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Christopher Taylor, PhD and by wikiHow staff writer, Danielle Blinka, MA, MPA . Christopher Taylor is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College in Texas. He received his PhD in English Literature and Medieval Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014. There are 11 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 2,646,867 times.

Using a direct quote in your essay is a great way to support your ideas with concrete evidence, which you need to support your thesis. To select a good quote , look for a passage that supports your argument and is open to analysis. Then, incorporate that quote into your essay, and make sure you properly cite it based on the style guide you’re using.

Sample Quotes

do you put essays in quotes

Incorporating a Short Quote

Step 1 Incorporate short direct quotes into a sentence.

  • For instance, let's say this is the quote you want to use: "The brown leaves symbolize the death of their relationship, while the green buds suggest new opportunities will soon unfold."
  • If you just type that sentence into your essay and put quotes around it, your reader will be disoriented. Instead, you could incorporate it into a sentence like this: "The imagery in the story mirrors what's happening in Lia's love life, as 'The brown leaves symbolize the death of their relationship, while the green buds suggest new opportunities will soon unfold.'"

Step 2 Use a lead-in...

  • "Critic Alex Li says, 'The frequent references to the color blue are used to suggest that the family is struggling to cope with the loss of their matriarch.'"
  • "According to McKinney’s research, 'Adults who do yoga at least three times a week have lower blood pressure, better sleeping patterns, and fewer everyday frustrations.'"
  • "Based on several recent studies, people are more likely to sit on the park benches when they're shaded by trees."

Step 3 Put quotation marks...

  • You still need to use quotation marks even if you're only quoting a few words.
  • If you're in doubt, it's best to be cautious and use quotes.

Step 4 Provide commentary after...

  • For example, let’s say you used the quote, “According to McKinney’s research, ‘Adults who do yoga at least three times a week have lower blood pressure, better sleeping patterns, and fewer everyday frustrations.’” Your commentary might read, “This shows that yoga can have a positive impact on people’s health, so incorporating it into the workplace can help improve employee health outcomes. Since yoga makes employees healthier, they’ll likely have reduced insurance costs.”

Step 5 Paraphrase

  • When you use a paraphrase, you still need to provide commentary that links the paraphrased material back to your thesis and ideas.

Using a Long Quote

Step 1 Introduce a long direct quote, then set it off in a block.

  • The reader will recognize that the material is a direct quote because it's set off from the rest of the text. That's why you don't need to use quotation marks. However, you will include your citation at the bottom.

Step 2 Write an introductory lead-in to tell the reader what the quote is about.

  • "In The Things They Carried , the items carried by soldiers in the Vietnam war are used to both characterize them and burden the readers with the weight they are carrying: The things they carried were largely determined by necessity. Among the necessities or near-necessities were P-38 can openers, pocket knives, heat tabs, wristwatches, dog tags, mosquito repellent, chewing gum, candy cigarettes, salt tablets, packets of Kool-Aid, lighters, matches, sewing kits, Military Payment Certificates, C rations, and two or three canteens of water." (O'Brien 2)

Variation: When you're citing two or more paragraphs, you must use block quotes, even if the passage you want to quote is less than four lines long. You should indent the first line of each paragraph an extra quarter inch. Then, use ellipses (…) at the end of one paragraph to transition to the next.

Step 3 Indent the block quote by .5 inches (1.3 cm) from the left margin.

  • Your block quote will use the same spacing as the rest of your paper, which will likely be double-spacing.

Step 4 Use an ellipsis to omit a word or words from a direct quote.

  • For example, “According to Li, “Rosa is the first sister to pick a rose because she’s the only one who’s begun to move on after their mother’s death” might become “According to Li, “Rosa is the first sister to pick a rose because she’s … begun to move on after their mother’s death.”
  • Don’t eliminate words to change the meaning of the original text. For instance, it’s not appropriate to use an ellipsis to change “plants did not grow faster when exposed to poetry” to “plants did … grow faster when exposed to poetry.”

Step 5 Put brackets around words you need to add to a quote for clarification.

  • For example, let’s say you want to use the quote, “All of them experienced a more relaxed, calmer disposition after doing yoga for 6 months.” This doesn’t tell the reader who you’re talking about. You could use brackets to say, “All of [the teachers in the study] experienced a more relaxed, calmer disposition after doing yoga for 6 months.”
  • However, if you know the study is talking about teachers, you couldn’t use brackets to say, “All of [society experiences] a more relaxed, calmer disposition after doing yoga for 6 months.”

Step 6 Provide commentary after a quote to explain how it supports your ideas.

  • If you don't explain your quote well, then it's not helping your ideas. You can't expect the reader to connect the quote back to your thesis for you.

Step 7 Paraphrase the quote to condense it to 1 or 2 sentences, if you can.

  • For instance, you may prefer to use a long block quote to present a passage from a literary work that demonstrates the author's style. However, let's say you were using a journal article to provide a critic's perspective on an author's work. You may not need to directly quote an entire paragraph word-for-word to get their point across. Instead, use a paraphrase.

Tip: If you’re unsure about a quote, ask yourself, “Can I paraphrase this in more concise language and not lose any support for my argument?” If the answer is yes, a quote is not necessary.

Citing Your Quote

Step 1 Cite the author’s...

  • An MLA citation will look like this: (Lopez 24)
  • For sources with multiple authors, separate their names with the word “and:” (Anderson and Smith 55-56) or (Taylor, Gomez, and Austin 89)
  • If you use the author’s name in your lead-in to the quote, you just need to provide the year in parentheses: According to Luz Lopez, “the green grass symbolizes a fresh start for Lia (24).”

Step 2 Include the author’s...

  • An APA citation for a direct quote looks like this: (Ronan, 2019, p. 10)
  • If you’re citing multiple authors, separate their names with the word “and:” (Cruz, Hanks, and Simmons, 2019, p. 85)
  • If you incorporated the author’s name into your lead-in, you can just give the year and page number: Based on Ronan’s (2019, p. 10) analysis, “coffee breaks improve productivity.”

Step 3 Use the author’s last name, date, and page number for Chicago Style.

  • For instance, a Chicago Style citation will look like this: (Alexander 2019, 125)
  • If you’re quoting a source with multiple authors, separate them with the word “and:” (Pattinson, Stewart, and Green 2019, 175)
  • If you already incorporated the author’s name into your quote, then you can just provide the year and page number: According to Alexander, “the smell of roses increases feelings of happiness” (2019, 125).

Step 4 Prepare a Works Cited or References page.

  • For MLA, you'd cite an article like this: Lopez, Luz. "A Fresh Blossom: Imagery in 'Her Darkest Sunshine.'" Journal of Stories , vol. 2, no. 5, 2019, p. 15-22. [17] X Trustworthy Source Purdue Online Writing Lab Trusted resource for writing and citation guidelines Go to source
  • In APA, you'd cite an article like this: Lopez, Luz. (2019). A Fresh Blossom: Imagery in "Her Darkest Sunshine." Journal of Stories , 2(5), 15-22. [18] X Trustworthy Source Purdue Online Writing Lab Trusted resource for writing and citation guidelines Go to source
  • For Chicago Style, your article citation would look like this: Lopez, Luz. "A Fresh Blossom: Imagery in 'Her Darkest Sunshine.'" Journal of Stories 2 no. 4 (2019): 15-22. [19] X Trustworthy Source Purdue Online Writing Lab Trusted resource for writing and citation guidelines Go to source

Selecting a Quote

Step 1 Select a quote that backs up the argument you’re making.

Tip: Quotes are most effective when the original language of the person or text you’re quoting is worth repeating word-for-word.

Step 2 Make sure the quote is something you can analyze.

  • If you’re struggling to explain the quote or link it back to your argument, then it’s likely not a good idea to include it in your essay.

Step 3 Avoid using too many direct quotes in your paper.

  • Paraphrases and summaries work just like a direct quote, except that you don’t need to put quotation marks around them because you’re using your own words to restate ideas. However, you still need to cite the sources you used.

Community Q&A

wikiHow Staff Editor

  • Always cite your quotes properly. If you don't, it is considered plagiarism. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

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Write an Essay

  • ↑ https://www.ursinus.edu/live/files/1160-integrating-quotespdf
  • ↑ https://lsa.umich.edu/sweetland/undergraduates/writing-guides/how-do-i-incorporate-quotes-.html
  • ↑ https://helpfulprofessor.com/quotes/
  • ↑ https://advice.writing.utoronto.ca/using-sources/quotations/
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/mla_style/mla_formatting_and_style_guide/mla_formatting_quotations.html
  • ↑ https://guides.libraries.psu.edu/apaquickguide/intext
  • ↑ https://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide/citation-guide-2.html
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/mla_style/mla_formatting_and_style_guide/mla_formatting_and_style_guide.html
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/apa_style/apa_formatting_and_style_guide/reference_list_articles_in_periodicals.html
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/chicago_manual_17th_edition/cmos_formatting_and_style_guide/periodicals.html
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/quotations/

About This Article

Christopher Taylor, PhD

Medical Disclaimer

The content of this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, examination, diagnosis, or treatment. You should always contact your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional before starting, changing, or stopping any kind of health treatment.

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To put a quote in an essay, incorporate it directly into a sentence if it's shorter than 4 typed lines. For example, you could write "According to researchers," and then insert the quote. If a quote is longer than 4 typed lines, set it off from the rest of the paragraph, and don't put quotes around it. After the quote, include an in-text citation so readers know where it's from. The right way to cite the quote will depend on whether you're using MLA, APA, or Chicago Style formatting. For more tips from our English co-author, like how to omit words from a quote, scroll down! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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A Guide to Using Quotations in Essays

Quotations Add Credibility to a Persuasive Essay

  • Love Quotes
  • Great Lines from Movies and Television
  • Quotations For Holidays
  • Best Sellers
  • Classic Literature
  • Plays & Drama
  • Shakespeare
  • Short Stories
  • Children's Books
  • M.B.A, Human Resource Development and Management, Narsee Monjee Institution of Management Studies
  • B.S., University of Mumbai, Commerce, Accounting, and Finance

If you want to make an impact on your reader, you can draw on the potency of quotations. The  effective use of quotations  augments the power of your arguments and makes your essays more interesting.

But there is a need for caution! Are you convinced that the quotation you have chosen is helping your essay and not hurting it? Here are some factors to consider to ensure that you are doing the right thing.

What Is This Quotation Doing in This Essay?

Let us begin at the beginning. You have a chosen a quotation for your essay. But, why that specific quotation?

A good quotation should do one or more of the following:

  • Make an opening impact on the reader
  • Build credibility for your essay
  • Make the essay more interesting
  • Close the essay with a point to ponder upon

If the quotation does not meet a few of these objectives, then it is of little value. Merely stuffing a quotation into your essay can do more harm than good.

Your Essay Is Your Mouthpiece

Should the quotation speak for the essay or should the essay speak for the quotation? Quotations should add impact to the essay and not steal the show. If your quotation has more punch than your essay, then something is seriously wrong. Your essay should be able to stand on its own legs; the quotation should merely make this stand stronger.

How Many Quotations Should You Use in Your Essay?

Using too many quotations is like having several people shouting on your behalf. This will drown out your voice. Refrain from overcrowding your essay with words of wisdom from famous people. You own the essay, so make sure that you are heard.

Don't Make It Look Like You Plagiarized

There are some rules and standards when using quotations in an essay. The most important one is that you should not give the impression of being the author of the quotation. That would amount to plagiarism . Here are a set of rules to clearly distinguish your writing from the quotation:

  • You may describe the quotation in your own words before using it. In this case, you should use a colon (:) to indicate the beginning of the quotation. Then begin the quotation with a quotation mark ("). After you have completed the quotation, close it with a quotation mark ("). Here is an example: Sir Winston Churchill made a witty remark on the attitude of a pessimist: "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
  • The sentence in which the quotation is embedded might not explicitly describe the quotation, but merely introduce it. In such a case, do away with the colon. Simply use the quotation marks . Here is an example: Sir Winston Churchill once said, "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
  • As far as possible, you should mention the author and the source of the quotation. For instance: In Shakespeare ’s play "As You Like It," Touchstone says to Audrey in the Forest of Arden, "The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool." (Act V, Scene I).
  • Ensure that the source of your quotation is authentic. Also, verify the author of your quotation. You can do so by looking up the quotation on authoritative websites. For formal writing, do not rely on just one website.

Blend Quotations In

An essay can seem quite jarring if the quotation does not blend in. The quotation should naturally fit into your essay. No one is interested in reading quotation-stuffed essays.

Here are some good tips on blending in your quotations:

  • You can begin your essay with a quotation that sets off the basic idea of the essay. This can have a lasting impact on your reader. In the introductory paragraph of your essay, you can comment on the quotation if you like. In any case, do ensure that the relevance of the quotation is communicated well.
  • Your choice of phrases and adjectives can significantly boost the impact of the quotation in your essay. Do not use monotonous phrases like: "George Washington once said...." If your essay is written for the appropriate context, consider using emphatic expressions like: "George Washington rocked the nation by saying...."

Using Long Quotations

It is usually better to have short and crisp quotations in your essay. Generally, long quotations must be used sparingly as they tend to weigh down the reader. However, there are times when your essay has more impact with a longer quotation.

If you have decided to use a long quotation, consider paraphrasing , as it usually works better. But, there is a downside to paraphrasing too. Instead of paraphrasing, if you use a direct quotation , you will avoid misrepresentation. The decision to use a long quotation is not trivial. It is your judgment call.

If you are convinced that a particular long quotation is more effective, be sure to format and punctuate it correctly.   Long quotations should be set off as block quotations . The format of block quotations should follow the guidelines that you might have been provided. If there are no specific guidelines, you can follow the usual standard—if a quotation is more than three lines long, you set it off as a block quote. Blocking implies indenting it about half an inch on the left.

Usually, a brief introduction to a long quotation is warranted. In other cases, you might need to provide a complete analysis of the quotation. In this case, it is best to begin with the quotation and follow it with the analysis, rather than the other way around.

Using Cute Quotes or Poetry

Some students choose a cute quotation first and then try to plug it into their essay. As a consequence, such quotations usually drag the reader away from the essay.

Quoting a verse from a poem, however, can add a lot of charm to your essay. I have come across writing that acquires a romantic edge merely by including a poetic quotation. If you are quoting from poetry, keep in mind that a small extract of a poem, say about two lines long, requires the use of slash marks (/) to indicate line breaks. Here is an example:

Charles Lamb has aptly described a child as "A child's a plaything for an hour;/ Its pretty tricks we try / For that or for a longer space; / Then tire, and lay it by." (1-4)

If you use a single line extract of a poem, punctuate it like any other short quotation without the slashes. Quotation marks are required at the beginning and at the end of the extract. However, if your quotation is more than three lines of poetry, I would suggest that you treat it like you would have treated a long quotation from prose. In this case, you should use the block quote format.

Does Your Reader Understand the Quotation?

Perhaps the most important question you must ask yourself when using a quotation is: "Do readers understand the quotation and its relevance to my essay ?"

If the reader is re-reading a quotation, just to understand it, then you are in trouble. So when you choose a quotation for your essay, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is this too convoluted for my reader?
  • Does this match the tastes of my audience ?
  • Is the grammar and vocabulary in this quotation understandable?
  • Examples of Great Introductory Paragraphs
  • How to Use Block Quotations in Writing
  • Definition and Examples of Direct Quotations
  • Definition and Examples of Quotation in English Grammar
  • How to Use Shakespeare Quotes
  • Guidelines for Using Quotation Marks Correctly
  • What Is an Indentation?
  • Practice in Using Quotation Marks Correctly
  • How To Write an Essay
  • Difference Between "Quote" and "Quotation": What Is the Right Word?
  • The Five Steps of Writing an Essay
  • What Is a Blockquote?
  • 501 Topic Suggestions for Writing Essays and Speeches
  • Writing a Descriptive Essay
  • How and When to Paraphrase Quotations

Writing Studio

Quotation basics: grammar, punctuation, and style, some general quotation guidelines.

In an effort to make our handouts more accessible, we have begun converting our PDF handouts to web pages. Download this page as a PDF: Quotation Grammar, Punctuation, and Style Return to Writing Studio Handouts

When writing a formal essay, you will often need to use quotes from a text or texts as evidence to prove your point or to make an argument. Below are grammar and punctuation guidelines to help you integrate those quotes into your essay successfully.

We recommend consulting a style manual or your instructor for specific queries.

Periods and Commas

  • You do not need to use any punctuation before a quotation if it forms part of your own sentence.

Example: Dennis cries that he is “being repressed!”

  • Use a comma when introducing a quote with a phrase such as ‘he said.’

Example: The old man protests, “I don’t want to go on the cart.”

  • Place parenthetical citations outside the end quotation mark, but before the punctuation.

Example: King Arthur declares, “Let’s not go to Camelot. It is a silly place” (13).

Colons and Ellipses

  • Use a colon when introducing a quotation with a full independent clause (one that can stand on its own).

Example: Emily feels frustrated by his response: “Is there someone else that we can talk to?”

  • Use an ellipsis (three periods, sometimes with spaces between: ‘…’ ) to indicate an omission in a quotation (Exception: it is not necessary to use an ellipsis when omitting words at the beginning of a quote unless you are using a block quote format).

Example: “The kind of intelligence a genius has … leaps with ellipses.”

  • When you want to omit one or more full sentences, use a period and a space before the three ellipsis dots.

Example: “Hatred paralyzes life. … Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.”

Slashes and Brackets

  • When you are quoting poetry, use a slash ( / ) to mark a line break.

Example: “Let me not to the marriage of true minds / Admit impediments” (1-2).

  • Use square brackets to add a word, change a pronoun, or change a verb tense in the quote.

Original quote: “It’s my duty as a knight to sample all the peril I can.”

In your essay: Sir Galahad thinks “it’s [his] duty as a knight to sample all the peril [he] can.”

Question Marks and Exclamation Points

  • With a question mark or exclamation point, there is no need to use a comma or a period.

Example: The interested observer wonders, “Are you suggesting that coconuts migrate?”

  • If the mark is part of your sentence and not part of the quote, it goes outside the last quotation mark.

Example: I don’t think we can ever understand the “ineluctable modality of the visual”!

Block Quotes

  • MLA style calls for use of a block quote (indent 10 spaces, or 2 tabs) when citing five or more lines of typed prose or four or more lines of verse. APA style calls for block quotes when citing forty words or more.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? / Thou art more lovely and more temperate. / Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, / And summer’s lease hath all too short a date. (1-4)

Quote Within a Quote

  • When using a quote within a quote, single quotation marks are used for the inner quote.

Example: Josh laments, “Every time I try to talk to someone it’s ‘sorry this’ and ‘forgive me that.’”

Last revised: 08/2008 | Adapted for web delivery: 05/2021

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The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

What this handout is about

Used effectively, quotations can provide important pieces of evidence and lend fresh voices and perspectives to your narrative. Used ineffectively, however, quotations can clutter your text and interrupt the flow of your argument. This handout will help you decide when and how to quote like a pro.

When should I quote?

Use quotations at strategically selected moments. You have probably been told by teachers to provide as much evidence as possible in support of your thesis. But packing your paper with quotations will not necessarily strengthen your argument. The majority of your paper should still be your original ideas in your own words (after all, it’s your paper). And quotations are only one type of evidence: well-balanced papers may also make use of paraphrases, data, and statistics. The types of evidence you use will depend in part on the conventions of the discipline or audience for which you are writing. For example, papers analyzing literature may rely heavily on direct quotations of the text, while papers in the social sciences may have more paraphrasing, data, and statistics than quotations.

Discussing specific arguments or ideas

Sometimes, in order to have a clear, accurate discussion of the ideas of others, you need to quote those ideas word for word. Suppose you want to challenge the following statement made by John Doe, a well-known historian:

“At the beginning of World War Two, almost all Americans assumed the war would end quickly.”

If it is especially important that you formulate a counterargument to this claim, then you might wish to quote the part of the statement that you find questionable and establish a dialogue between yourself and John Doe:

Historian John Doe has argued that in 1941 “almost all Americans assumed the war would end quickly” (Doe 223). Yet during the first six months of U.S. involvement, the wives and mothers of soldiers often noted in their diaries their fear that the war would drag on for years.

Giving added emphasis to a particularly authoritative source on your topic.

There will be times when you want to highlight the words of a particularly important and authoritative source on your topic. For example, suppose you were writing an essay about the differences between the lives of male and female slaves in the U.S. South. One of your most provocative sources is a narrative written by a former slave, Harriet Jacobs. It would then be appropriate to quote some of Jacobs’s words:

Harriet Jacobs, a former slave from North Carolina, published an autobiographical slave narrative in 1861. She exposed the hardships of both male and female slaves but ultimately concluded that “slavery is terrible for men; but it is far more terrible for women.”

In this particular example, Jacobs is providing a crucial first-hand perspective on slavery. Thus, her words deserve more exposure than a paraphrase could provide.

Jacobs is quoted in Harriet A. Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, ed. Jean Fagan Yellin (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987).

Analyzing how others use language.

This scenario is probably most common in literature and linguistics courses, but you might also find yourself writing about the use of language in history and social science classes. If the use of language is your primary topic, then you will obviously need to quote users of that language.

Examples of topics that might require the frequent use of quotations include:

Southern colloquial expressions in William Faulkner’s Light in August

Ms. and the creation of a language of female empowerment

A comparison of three British poets and their use of rhyme

Spicing up your prose.

In order to lend variety to your prose, you may wish to quote a source with particularly vivid language. All quotations, however, must closely relate to your topic and arguments. Do not insert a quotation solely for its literary merits.

One example of a quotation that adds flair:

President Calvin Coolidge’s tendency to fall asleep became legendary. As H. L. Mencken commented in the American Mercury in 1933, “Nero fiddled, but Coolidge only snored.”

How do I set up and follow up a quotation?

Once you’ve carefully selected the quotations that you want to use, your next job is to weave those quotations into your text. The words that precede and follow a quotation are just as important as the quotation itself. You can think of each quote as the filling in a sandwich: it may be tasty on its own, but it’s messy to eat without some bread on either side of it. Your words can serve as the “bread” that helps readers digest each quote easily. Below are four guidelines for setting up and following up quotations.

In illustrating these four steps, we’ll use as our example, Franklin Roosevelt’s famous quotation, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

1. Provide context for each quotation.

Do not rely on quotations to tell your story for you. It is your responsibility to provide your reader with context for the quotation. The context should set the basic scene for when, possibly where, and under what circumstances the quotation was spoken or written. So, in providing context for our above example, you might write:

When Franklin Roosevelt gave his inaugural speech on March 4, 1933, he addressed a nation weakened and demoralized by economic depression.

2. Attribute each quotation to its source.

Tell your reader who is speaking. Here is a good test: try reading your text aloud. Could your reader determine without looking at your paper where your quotations begin? If not, you need to attribute the quote more noticeably.

Avoid getting into the “they said” attribution rut! There are many other ways to attribute quotes besides this construction. Here are a few alternative verbs, usually followed by “that”:

add remark exclaim
announce reply state
comment respond estimate
write point out predict
argue suggest propose
declare criticize proclaim
note complain opine
observe think note

Different reporting verbs are preferred by different disciplines, so pay special attention to these in your disciplinary reading. If you’re unfamiliar with the meanings of any of these words or others you find in your reading, consult a dictionary before using them.

3. Explain the significance of the quotation.

Once you’ve inserted your quotation, along with its context and attribution, don’t stop! Your reader still needs your assessment of why the quotation holds significance for your paper. Using our Roosevelt example, if you were writing a paper on the first one-hundred days of FDR’s administration, you might follow the quotation by linking it to that topic:

With that message of hope and confidence, the new president set the stage for his next one-hundred days in office and helped restore the faith of the American people in their government.

4. Provide a citation for the quotation.

All quotations, just like all paraphrases, require a formal citation. For more details about particular citation formats, see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . In general, you should remember one rule of thumb: Place the parenthetical reference or footnote/endnote number after—not within—the closed quotation mark.

Roosevelt declared, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” (Roosevelt, Public Papers, 11).

Roosevelt declared, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”1

How do I embed a quotation into a sentence?

In general, avoid leaving quotes as sentences unto themselves. Even if you have provided some context for the quote, a quote standing alone can disrupt your flow.  Take a look at this example:

Hamlet denies Rosencrantz’s claim that thwarted ambition caused his depression. “I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space” (Hamlet 2.2).

Standing by itself, the quote’s connection to the preceding sentence is unclear. There are several ways to incorporate a quote more smoothly:

Lead into the quote with a colon.

Hamlet denies Rosencrantz’s claim that thwarted ambition caused his depression: “I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space” (Hamlet 2.2).

The colon announces that a quote will follow to provide evidence for the sentence’s claim.

Introduce or conclude the quote by attributing it to the speaker. If your attribution precedes the quote, you will need to use a comma after the verb.

Hamlet denies Rosencrantz’s claim that thwarted ambition caused his depression. He states, “I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space” (Hamlet 2.2).

When faced with a twelve-foot mountain troll, Ron gathers his courage, shouting, “Wingardium Leviosa!” (Rowling, p. 176).

The Pirate King sees an element of regality in their impoverished and dishonest life. “It is, it is a glorious thing/To be a pirate king,” he declares (Pirates of Penzance, 1983).

Interrupt the quote with an attribution to the speaker. Again, you will need to use a comma after the verb, as well as a comma leading into the attribution.

“There is nothing either good or bad,” Hamlet argues, “but thinking makes it so” (Hamlet 2.2).

“And death shall be no more,” Donne writes, “Death thou shalt die” (“Death, Be Not Proud,” l. 14).

Dividing the quote may highlight a particular nuance of the quote’s meaning. In the first example, the division calls attention to the two parts of Hamlet’s claim. The first phrase states that nothing is inherently good or bad; the second phrase suggests that our perspective causes things to become good or bad. In the second example, the isolation of “Death thou shalt die” at the end of the sentence draws a reader’s attention to that phrase in particular. As you decide whether or not you want to break up a quote, you should consider the shift in emphasis that the division might create.

Use the words of the quote grammatically within your own sentence.

When Hamlet tells Rosencrantz that he “could be bounded in a nutshell and count [him]self a king of infinite space” (Hamlet 2.2), he implies that thwarted ambition did not cause his depression.

Ultimately, death holds no power over Donne since in the afterlife, “death shall be no more” (“Death, Be Not Proud,” l. 14).

Note that when you use “that” after the verb that introduces the quote, you no longer need a comma.

The Pirate King argues that “it is, it is a glorious thing/to be a pirate king” (Pirates of Penzance, 1983).

How much should I quote?

As few words as possible. Remember, your paper should primarily contain your own words, so quote only the most pithy and memorable parts of sources. Here are guidelines for selecting quoted material judiciously:

Excerpt fragments.

Sometimes, you should quote short fragments, rather than whole sentences. Suppose you interviewed Jane Doe about her reaction to John F. Kennedy’s assassination. She commented:

“I couldn’t believe it. It was just unreal and so sad. It was just unbelievable. I had never experienced such denial. I don’t know why I felt so strongly. Perhaps it was because JFK was more to me than a president. He represented the hopes of young people everywhere.”

You could quote all of Jane’s comments, but her first three sentences are fairly redundant. You might instead want to quote Jane when she arrives at the ultimate reason for her strong emotions:

Jane Doe grappled with grief and disbelief. She had viewed JFK, not just as a national figurehead, but as someone who “represented the hopes of young people everywhere.”

Excerpt those fragments carefully!

Quoting the words of others carries a big responsibility. Misquoting misrepresents the ideas of others. Here’s a classic example of a misquote:

John Adams has often been quoted as having said: “This would be the best of all possible worlds if there were no religion in it.”

John Adams did, in fact, write the above words. But if you see those words in context, the meaning changes entirely. Here’s the rest of the quotation:

Twenty times, in the course of my late reading, have I been on the point of breaking out, ‘this would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it!!!!’ But in this exclamation, I should have been as fanatical as Bryant or Cleverly. Without religion, this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in public company—I mean hell.

As you can see from this example, context matters!

This example is from Paul F. Boller, Jr. and John George, They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, and Misleading Attributions (Oxford University Press, 1989).

Use block quotations sparingly.

There may be times when you need to quote long passages. However, you should use block quotations only when you fear that omitting any words will destroy the integrity of the passage. If that passage exceeds four lines (some sources say five), then set it off as a block quotation.

Be sure you are handling block quotes correctly in papers for different academic disciplines–check the index of the citation style guide you are using. Here are a few general tips for setting off your block quotations:

  • Set up a block quotation with your own words followed by a colon.
  • Indent. You normally indent 4-5 spaces for the start of a paragraph. When setting up a block quotation, indent the entire paragraph once from the left-hand margin.
  • Single space or double space within the block quotation, depending on the style guidelines of your discipline (MLA, CSE, APA, Chicago, etc.).
  • Do not use quotation marks at the beginning or end of the block quote—the indentation is what indicates that it’s a quote.
  • Place parenthetical citation according to your style guide (usually after the period following the last sentence of the quote).
  • Follow up a block quotation with your own words.

So, using the above example from John Adams, here’s how you might include a block quotation:

After reading several doctrinally rigid tracts, John Adams recalled the zealous ranting of his former teacher, Joseph Cleverly, and minister, Lemuel Bryant. He expressed his ambivalence toward religion in an 1817 letter to Thomas Jefferson:

Adams clearly appreciated religion, even if he often questioned its promotion.

How do I combine quotation marks with other punctuation marks?

It can be confusing when you start combining quotation marks with other punctuation marks. You should consult a style manual for complicated situations, but the following two rules apply to most cases:

Keep periods and commas within quotation marks.

So, for example:

According to Professor Poe, werewolves “represent anxiety about the separation between human and animal,” and werewolf movies often “interrogate those boundaries.”

In the above example, both the comma and period were enclosed in the quotation marks. The main exception to this rule involves the use of internal citations, which always precede the last period of the sentence. For example:

According to Professor Poe, werewolves “represent anxiety about the separation between human and animal,” and werewolf movies often “interrogate those boundaries” (Poe 167).

Note, however, that the period remains inside the quotation marks when your citation style involves superscript footnotes or endnotes. For example:

According to Professor Poe, werewolves “represent anxiety about the separation between human and animal,” and werewolf movies often “interrogate those boundaries.” 2

Place all other punctuation marks (colons, semicolons, exclamation marks, question marks) outside the quotation marks, except when they were part of the original quotation.

Take a look at the following examples:

I couldn’t believe it when my friend passed me a note in the cafe saying the management “started charging $15 per hour for parking”!

The coach yelled, “Run!”

In the first example, the author placed the exclamation point outside the quotation mark because she added it herself to emphasize the outrageous nature of the parking price change. The original note had not included an exclamation mark. In the second example, the exclamation mark remains within the quotation mark because it is indicating the excited tone in which the coach yelled the command. Thus, the exclamation mark is considered to be part of the original quotation.

How do I indicate quotations within quotations?

If you are quoting a passage that contains a quotation, then you use single quotation marks for the internal quotation. Quite rarely, you quote a passage that has a quotation within a quotation. In that rare instance, you would use double quotation marks for the second internal quotation.

Here’s an example of a quotation within a quotation:

In “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” Hans Christian Andersen wrote, “‘But the Emperor has nothing on at all!’ cried a little child.”

Remember to consult your style guide to determine how to properly cite a quote within a quote.

When do I use those three dots ( . . . )?

Whenever you want to leave out material from within a quotation, you need to use an ellipsis, which is a series of three periods, each of which should be preceded and followed by a space. So, an ellipsis in this sentence would look like . . . this. There are a few rules to follow when using ellipses:

Be sure that you don’t fundamentally change the meaning of the quotation by omitting material.

Take a look at the following example:

“The Writing Center is located on the UNC campus and serves the entire UNC community.”

“The Writing Center . . . serves the entire UNC community.”

The reader’s understanding of the Writing Center’s mission to serve the UNC community is not affected by omitting the information about its location.

Do not use ellipses at the beginning or ending of quotations, unless it’s important for the reader to know that the quotation was truncated.

For example, using the above example, you would NOT need an ellipsis in either of these situations:

“The Writing Center is located on the UNC campus . . .”

The Writing Center ” . . . serves the entire UNC community.”

Use punctuation marks in combination with ellipses when removing material from the end of sentences or clauses.

For example, if you take material from the end of a sentence, keep the period in as usual.

“The boys ran to school, forgetting their lunches and books. Even though they were out of breath, they made it on time.”

“The boys ran to school. . . . Even though they were out of breath, they made it on time.”

Likewise, if you excerpt material at the end of clause that ends in a comma, retain the comma.

“The red car came to a screeching halt that was heard by nearby pedestrians, but no one was hurt.”

“The red car came to a screeching halt . . . , but no one was hurt.”

Is it ever okay to insert my own words or change words in a quotation?

Sometimes it is necessary for clarity and flow to alter a word or words within a quotation. You should make such changes rarely. In order to alert your reader to the changes you’ve made, you should always bracket the altered words. Here are a few examples of situations when you might need brackets:

Changing verb tense or pronouns in order to be consistent with the rest of the sentence.

Suppose you were quoting a woman who, when asked about her experiences immigrating to the United States, commented “nobody understood me.” You might write:

Esther Hansen felt that when she came to the United States “nobody understood [her].”

In the above example, you’ve changed “me” to “her” in order to keep the entire passage in third person. However, you could avoid the need for this change by simply rephrasing:

“Nobody understood me,” recalled Danish immigrant Esther Hansen.

Including supplemental information that your reader needs in order to understand the quotation.

For example, if you were quoting someone’s nickname, you might want to let your reader know the full name of that person in brackets.

“The principal of the school told Billy [William Smith] that his contract would be terminated.”

Similarly, if a quotation referenced an event with which the reader might be unfamiliar, you could identify that event in brackets.

“We completely revised our political strategies after the strike [of 1934].”

Indicating the use of nonstandard grammar or spelling.

In rare situations, you may quote from a text that has nonstandard grammar, spelling, or word choice. In such cases, you may want to insert [sic], which means “thus” or “so” in Latin. Using [sic] alerts your reader to the fact that this nonstandard language is not the result of a typo on your part. Always italicize “sic” and enclose it in brackets. There is no need to put a period at the end. Here’s an example of when you might use [sic]:

Twelve-year-old Betsy Smith wrote in her diary, “Father is afraid that he will be guilty of beach [sic] of contract.”

Here [sic] indicates that the original author wrote “beach of contract,” not breach of contract, which is the accepted terminology.

Do not overuse brackets!

For example, it is not necessary to bracket capitalization changes that you make at the beginning of sentences. For example, suppose you were going to use part of this quotation:

“The colors scintillated curiously over a hard carapace, and the beetle’s tiny antennae made gentle waving motions as though saying hello.”

If you wanted to begin a sentence with an excerpt from the middle of this quotation, there would be no need to bracket your capitalization changes.

“The beetle’s tiny antennae made gentle waving motions as though saying hello,” said Dr. Grace Farley, remembering a defining moment on her journey to becoming an entomologist.

Not: “[T]he beetle’s tiny antennae made gentle waving motions as though saying hello,” said Dr. Grace Farley, remembering a defining moment on her journey to becoming an entomologist.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Barzun, Jacques, and Henry F. Graff. 2012. The Modern Researcher , 6th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Booth, Wayne C., Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams, Joseph Bizup, and William T. FitzGerald. 2016. The Craft of Research , 4th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Gibaldi, Joseph. 2009. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers , 7th ed. New York: The Modern Language Association of America.

Turabian, Kate. 2018. A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, Dissertations , 9th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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American Psychological Association

Italics and Quotation Marks

Italics and quotation marks are used to draw attention to text. For example, italics are used to draw attention to key terms and phrases when providing definitions and to format parts of reference list entries (e.g., titles of books and periodicals). Quotation marks are used to present linguistic examples and titles of book chapters and articles in the text.

When writers follow guidelines for the use of italics and quotation marks, their papers become more consistent and readable.

Note that this category addresses the use of quotation marks other than in the presentation of direct quotations. For information on how to use quotation marks when presenting quotations, see the In-Text Citations category .

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Quotes or Italics? Citing Titles of Books, Movies & TV Shows

do you put essays in quotes

When citing titles of songs, books, movies or tv shows, should you place them in italics or quotation marks? The answer is, ‘It depends.’

There are certain things you need to know if you’re writing about your favorite song, novel, film or television series. Some people insist that when citing titles, you should use italics. Others get bent out of shape and insist that’s wrong and that you should put quotes around them instead. There’s an easy way to know which to use when you cite book, movie and TV show titles.

But the fact that there’s an easy way doesn’t mean it’s one you’ll like.

In fact, it all boils down to the style guide you use. If you’re in school, there’s almost certainly a style guide your school prefers. Professionally, you don’t necessarily have to be a journalist to face the quirks of a style guide.

Unfortunately, different style guides offer different rules. So here’s a sampling of how a few of them differ.

I’m going to start with the Associated Press Style Book because that’s the one I use in my professional job. It’s also the one I mostly rely on for this blog, although here I may deviate occasionally.

AP makes everything simple when it comes to citing such titles. But you may not agree with their simplicity.

Don’t feel bad: A lot of us who use AP Style don’t always agree with everything they come up with. I could make a list.

The Perdue Writing Lab says you use quotation marks in AP Style. You’ll note in that last sentence I listed that source in bold. That’s not AP Style, but I think for a blog, it’s nice when you make bold a source that you’re actually hyperlinking to. So if you follow AP Style and can’t deviate, don’t use bold, either.

AP Style dictates that you should put quotation marks around books, songs, television shows, computer games, articles, poems, lectures, speeches and works of art. Don’t put quotation marks around titles of magazines, newspapers, books that are catalogs of reference materials or the Bible.

AP’s dislike of italics dates back to the old printing presses. It was impractical to stock more letters for italics. I doubt that any newspapers still rely on old-fashioned linotype machines. In this computer age, why can’t we just italicize?

Hey, that’s not up to me. So until AP changes that rule, stick with quotes: forget you even have the option of italics… if AP Style is your style guide.

If you’re in academia, you probably rely on the Modern Language Association’s style guide, which you’ve probably only ever heard of as “MLA Style.”

Like most guides other than AP, MLA mixes it up a bit. Northern Arizona University sums it up nicely in their MLA resource page.

But let me give you a snapshot: Book, movie and TV show titles go in italics. Individual episodes of TV shows go in quotation marks:

  • My favorite episode of The Andy Griffith Show is “Man in a Hurry.”

Newspaper and magazine names go in italics. But names of broadcast networks are merely capitalized.

Albums and musicals are set in italics. Individual song titles go in quotes.

The one I find most curious is the style guide of the American Psychological Association. Since I doubt most of you have to deal with this one, which is more often used in academic medical papers, I won’t spend a lot of time on this one.

If you do use APA Style, I appreciate you. You make me realize that my gripes with AP Style may not be so bad after all.

What bothers me about APA Style is its rule of using sentence case for show titles in citations . AP Style would call Rod Serling’s famous program “The Twilight Zone.” MLA would style it as The Twilight Zone . But in citations, APA styles it as The twilight zone . Only the first word is capitalized.

Your mileage (and style guide) may vary.

The best advice I can give you here is to check the style guide that you use.

If you don’t use a style guide, the one that makes the most sense to me in the 21st century would be MLA, in which you italicize book, newspaper, magazine, album, movie and TV shows and put episode and song titles in quotes.

That practice, I think, makes the most sense to most readers without being distracting. I don’t think AP’s rule about putting everything in quotes confuses anyone, but I think italics look better.

As for APA, well, if the sentence case TV show titles rule makes sense to you, more power to you. I can’t see that as anything but a mistake!

But again, you should either consult the style guide you’re required to use or codify your own policy for such instances. That way, you remain consistent whenever you write.

That’s always a good thing.

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  • MLA titles: Formatting and capitalization rules

MLA Titles | How to Format & Capitalize Source Titles

Published on April 2, 2019 by Courtney Gahan . Revised on March 5, 2024.

In MLA style , source titles appear either in italics or in quotation marks:

  • Italicize the title of a self-contained whole (e.g. a book, film, journal, or website).
  • Use  quotation marks around the title if it is part of a larger work (e.g. a chapter of a book, an article in a journal, or a page on a website).

All major words in a title are capitalized . The same format is used in the Works Cited list and in the text itself.

Place in quotation marks Italicize

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Table of contents

Capitalization in mla titles, punctuation in mla titles, titles within titles, exceptions to mla title formatting, sources with no title, abbreviating titles, titles in foreign languages, frequently asked questions about mla titles.

In all titles and subtitles, capitalize the first and last words, as well as any other principal words.

What to capitalize

Part of speech Example
in Time
and Me
for It
Girl
in Love
of You

What not to capitalize

Part of speech Example
(a, an, the) Road
(against, as, between, of, to) Africa
(and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet) the Chocolate Factory
“To” in infinitives Run

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do you put essays in quotes

Use the same punctuation as appears in the source title. However, if there is a subtitle, separate it from the main title with a colon and a space, even if different (or no) punctuation is used in the source.

Example of a work with a subtitle

The exception is when the title ends in a question mark, exclamation point or dash, in which case you keep the original punctuation:

Sometimes a title contains another title—for example, the title of an article about a novel might contain that novel’s title.

For titles within titles, in general, maintain the same formatting as you would if the title stood on its own.

Type of title Format Example
Longer works within shorter works Italicize the inner work’s title → “ and the Cacophony of the American Dream”
Shorter works within shorter works Use single quotation marks for the inner title “The Red Wedding” → “‘The Red Wedding’ at 5: Why Game of Thrones Most Notorious Scene Shocked Us to the Core”
Shorter works within longer works Enclose the inner title in quotation marks, and italicize the entire title “The Garden Party” → & Other Stories
Longer works within longer works Remove the italicization from the inner title and Richard II Henry V

Titles and names that fall into the following categories are not italicized or enclosed in quotation marks:

  • Scripture (e.g. the Bible, the Koran, the Gospel)
  • Laws, acts and related documents (e.g. the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution , the Paris Agreement)
  • Musical compositions identified by form, number and key (e.g. Beethoven’s Symphony no. 5 in C minor, op. 67)
  • Conferences, seminars, workshops and courses (e.g. MLA Annual Convention)

Sections of a work

Words that indicate a particular section of a work are not italicized or placed within quotation marks. They are also not capitalized when mentioned in the text.

Examples of such sections include:

  • introduction
  • list of works cited
  • bibliography

Introductions, prefaces, forewords and afterwords

Descriptive terms such as “introduction”, “preface”, “foreword” and “afterword” are capitalized if mentioned in an MLA in-text citation or in the Works Cited list, but not when mentioned in the text itself.

Example of descriptive term capitalization

In-text citation: (Brontë, Preface )

In text: In her preface to the work, added in a later edition, Brontë debates the morality of creating characters such as those featured in Wuthering Heights .

If there is a unique title for the introduction, preface, foreword or afterword, include that title in quotation marks instead of the generic section name when referencing the source in the Works Cited list or an in-text citation.

For sources with no title, a brief description of the source acts as the title.

Example of a source reference with no title

Follow these rules for capitalization:

  • Capitalize the first word
  • Capitalize proper nouns
  • Ignore other MLA rules for capitalization

There are some exceptions to this general format: descriptions including titles of other works, such as comments on articles or reviews of movies; untitled short messages, like tweets; email messages; and untitled poems.

Exceptions to general format for sources with no title

Source type Rules Example
Comment/review of a work Sam. Comment on “The Patriot’s Guide to Election Fraud.” , 26 Mar. 2019, www.nytimes.com/2019/03/26/opinion
Tweet or other short untitled message @realDonaldTrump. “No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!” , 24 Mar. 2019, 1:42 p.m., twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status
Email Labrode, Molly. “Re: National Cleanup Day.” Received by Courtney Gahan, 20 Mar. 2019.
Untitled poem Shelley, Percy Bysshe. “O! there are spirits of the air.” , edited by Zachary Leader and Michael O’Neill, Oxford UP, 2003, pp. 89–90.

If you need to mention the name of a work in the text itself, state the full title, but omit the subtitle.

If you need to refer to the work multiple times, you may shorten the title to something familiar or obvious to the reader. For example, Huckleberry Finn for The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn . If in doubt, prefer the noun phrase.

If the standalone abbreviation may not be clear, you can introduce it in parentheses, following the standard guidelines for abbreviations. For example, The Merchant of Venice ( MV ) . For Shakespeare and the Bible , there are well-established abbreviations you can use.

When you abbreviate a title, make sure you keep the formatting consistent. Even if the abbreviation consists only of letters, as in the MV example, it must be italicized or placed within quotation marks in the same way as it would be when written in full.

Abbreviating very long titles in the Works Cited list

Titles should normally be given in full in the Works Cited list, but if any of your sources has a particularly long title (often the case with older works), you can use an ellipsis to shorten it here. This is only necessary with extremely long titles such as the example below.

In the Works Cited list, if you are listing a work with a title in a language other than English, you can add the translated title in square brackets.

Example of a reference with a translated title

If you are using the foreign-language title in the text itself, you can also include the translation in parenthesis. For example, O Alquimista ( The Alchemist ) .

You don’t need to include a translation in your reference list or in the text if you expect your readers to be familiar with the original language. For example, you wouldn’t translate the title of a  French novel you were writing about in the context of a French degree.

Non-Latin script languages

For works in a language that does not use the Latin alphabet, such as Arabic, Chinese, Greek, Hebrew, Japanese, or Russian, be consistent with how you mention the source titles and also quotations from within them.

For example, if you choose to write a Russian title in the Cyrillic form, do that throughout the document. If you choose to use the Romanized form, stick with that. Do not alternate between the two.

Yes. MLA style uses title case, which means that all principal words (nouns, pronouns , verbs, adjectives , adverbs , and some conjunctions ) are capitalized.

This applies to titles of sources as well as the title of, and subheadings in, your paper. Use MLA capitalization style even when the original source title uses different capitalization .

In MLA style , book titles appear in italics, with all major words capitalized. If there is a subtitle, separate it from the main title with a colon and a space (even if no colon appears in the source). For example:

The format is the same in the Works Cited list and in the text itself. However, when you mention the book title in the text, you don’t have to include the subtitle.

The title of a part of a book—such as a chapter, or a short story or poem in a collection—is not italicized, but instead placed in quotation marks.

When a book’s chapters are written by different authors, you should cite the specific chapter you are referring to.

When all the chapters are written by the same author (or group of authors), you should usually cite the entire book, but some styles include exceptions to this.

  • In APA Style , single-author books should always be cited as a whole, even if you only quote or paraphrase from one chapter.
  • In MLA Style , if a single-author book is a collection of stand-alone works (e.g. short stories ), you should cite the individual work.
  • In Chicago Style , you may choose to cite a single chapter of a single-author book if you feel it is more appropriate than citing the whole book.

The title of an article is not italicized in MLA style , but placed in quotation marks. This applies to articles from journals , newspapers , websites , or any other publication. Use italics for the title of the source where the article was published. For example:

Use the same formatting in the Works Cited entry and when referring to the article in the text itself.

The MLA Handbook is currently in its 9th edition , published in 2021.

This quick guide to MLA style  explains the latest guidelines for citing sources and formatting papers according to MLA.

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Gahan, C. (2024, March 05). MLA Titles | How to Format & Capitalize Source Titles. Scribbr. Retrieved June 18, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/mla/titles/

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  • How to Quote | Citing Quotes in Harvard & APA

How to Quote | Citing Quotes in Harvard & APA

Published on 15 April 2022 by Shona McCombes and Jack Caulfield. Revised on 3 September 2022.

Quoting means copying a passage of someone else’s words and crediting the source. To quote a source, you must ensure:

  • The quoted text is enclosed in quotation marks (usually single quotation marks in UK English, though double is acceptable as long as you’re consistent) or formatted as a block quote
  • The original author is correctly cited
  • The text is identical to the original

The exact format of a quote depends on its length and on which citation style you are using. Quoting and citing correctly is essential to avoid plagiarism , which is easy to detect with a good plagiarism checker .

How to Quote

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Table of contents

How to cite a quote in harvard and apa style, introducing quotes, quotes within quotes, shortening or altering a quote, block quotes, when should i use quotes, frequently asked questions about quoting sources.

Every time you quote, you must cite the source correctly . This looks slightly different depending on the citation style you’re using.

Citing a quote in Harvard style

When you include a quote in Harvard style, you must add a Harvard in-text citation giving the author’s last name, the year of publication, and a page number if available. Any full stop or comma appears after the citation, not within the quotation marks.

Citations can be parenthetical or narrative. In a parenthetical citation , you place all the information in brackets after the quote. In a narrative citation , you name the author in your sentence (followed by the year), and place the page number after the quote.

  • Evolution is a gradual process that ‘can act only by very short and slow steps’ (Darwin, 1859, p. 510) . Darwin (1859) explains that evolution ‘can act only by very short and slow steps’ (p. 510) .

Complete guide to Harvard style

Citing a quote in APA Style

To cite a direct quote in APA , you must include the author’s last name, the year, and a page number, all separated by commas. If the quote appears on a single page, use ‘p.’; if it spans a page range, use ‘pp.’

An APA in-text citation can be parenthetical or narrative. In a parenthetical citation , you place all the information in parentheses after the quote. In a narrative citation , you name the author in your sentence (followed by the year), and place the page number after the quote.

Punctuation marks such as full stops and commas are placed after the citation, not within the quotation marks.

  • Evolution is a gradual process that ‘can act only by very short and slow steps’ (Darwin, 1859, p. 510) .
  • Darwin (1859) explains that evolution ‘can act only by very short and slow steps’ (p. 510) .

Complete guide to APA

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Make sure you integrate quotes properly into your text by introducing them in your own words, showing the reader why you’re including the quote and providing any context necessary to understand it.  Don’t  present quotations as stand-alone sentences.

There are three main strategies you can use to introduce quotes in a grammatically correct way:

  • Add an introductory sentence
  • Use an introductory signal phrase
  • Integrate the quote into your own sentence

The following examples use APA Style citations, but these strategies can be used in all styles.

Introductory sentence

Introduce the quote with a full sentence ending in a colon . Don’t use a colon if the text before the quote isn’t a full sentence.

If you name the author in your sentence, you may use present-tense verbs, such as “states’, ‘argues’, ‘explains’, ‘writes’, or ‘reports’, to describe the content of the quote.

  • In Denmark, a recent poll shows that: ‘A membership referendum held today would be backed by 55 percent of Danish voters’ (Levring, 2018, p. 3).
  • In Denmark, a recent poll shows that support for the EU has grown since the Brexit vote: ‘A membership referendum held today would be backed by 55 percent of Danish voters’ (Levring, 2018, p. 3).
  • Levring (2018) reports that support for the EU has grown since the Brexit vote: ‘A membership referendum held today would be backed by 55 percent of Danish voters’ (p. 3).

Introductory signal phrase

You can also use a signal phrase that mentions the author or source but doesn’t form a full sentence. In this case, you follow the phrase with a comma instead of a colon.

  • According to a recent poll, ‘A membership referendum held today would be backed by 55 percent of Danish voters’ (Levring, 2018, p. 3).
  • As Levring (2018) explains, ‘A membership referendum held today would be backed by 55 percent of Danish voters’ (p. 3).

Integrated into your own sentence

To quote a phrase that doesn’t form a full sentence, you can also integrate it as part of your sentence, without any extra punctuation.

  • A recent poll suggests that EU membership ‘would be backed by 55 percent of Danish voters’ in a referendum (Levring, 2018, p. 3).
  • Levring (2018) reports that EU membership ‘would be backed by 55 percent of Danish voters’ in a referendum (p. 3).

When you quote text that itself contains another quote, this is called a nested quotation or a quote within a quote. It may occur, for example, when quoting dialogue from a novel.

To distinguish this quote from the surrounding quote, you enclose it in double (instead of single) quotation marks (even if this involves changing the punctuation from the original text). Make sure to close both sets of quotation marks at the appropriate moments.

Note that if you only quote the nested quotation itself, and not the surrounding text, you can just use single quotation marks.

  • Carraway introduces his narrative by quoting his father: ‘ ‘ Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, ‘ he told me, ‘ just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had ‘ ‘ (Fitzgerald 1).
  • Carraway introduces his narrative by quoting his father: ‘”Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had “  (Fitzgerald 1).
  • Carraway introduces his narrative by quoting his father: ‘“Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had”’ (Fitzgerald 1).
  • Carraway begins by quoting his father’s invocation to ‘remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had’ (Fitzgerald 1).

Note:  When the quoted text in the source comes from another source, it’s best to just find that original source in order to quote it directly. If you can’t find the original source, you can instead cite it indirectly .

Often, incorporating a quote smoothly into your text requires you to make some changes to the original text. It’s fine to do this, as long as you clearly mark the changes you’ve made to the quote.

Shortening a quote

If some parts of a passage are redundant or irrelevant, you can shorten the quote by removing words, phrases, or sentences and replacing them with an ellipsis (…). Put a space before and after the ellipsis.

Be careful that removing the words doesn’t change the meaning. The ellipsis indicates that some text has been removed, but the shortened quote should still accurately represent the author’s point.

Altering a quote

You can add or replace words in a quote when necessary. This might be because the original text doesn’t fit grammatically with your sentence (e.g., it’s in a different tense), or because extra information is needed to clarify the quote’s meaning.

Use brackets to distinguish words that you have added from words that were present in the original text.

The Latin term ‘ sic ‘ is used to indicate a (factual or grammatical) mistake in a quotation. It shows the reader that the mistake is from the quoted material, not a typo of your own.

In some cases, it can be useful to italicise part of a quotation to add emphasis, showing the reader that this is the key part to pay attention to. Use the phrase ’emphasis added’ to show that the italics were not part of the original text.

You usually don’t need to use brackets to indicate minor changes to punctuation or capitalisation made to ensure the quote fits the style of your text.

If you quote more than a few lines from a source, you must format it as a block quote . Instead of using quotation marks, you set the quote on a new line and indent it so that it forms a separate block of text.

Block quotes are cited just like regular quotes, except that if the quote ends with a full stop, the citation appears after the full stop.

To the end of his days Bilbo could never remember how he found himself outside, without a hat, a walking-stick or any money, or anything that he usually took when he went out; leaving his second breakfast half-finished and quite unwashed-up, pushing his keys into Gandalf’s hands, and running as fast as his furry feet could carry him down the lane, past the great Mill, across The Water, and then on for a mile or more. (16)

Avoid relying too heavily on quotes in academic writing . To integrate a source , it’s often best to paraphrase , which means putting the passage into your own words. This helps you integrate information smoothly and keeps your own voice dominant.

However, there are some situations in which quotes are more appropriate.

When focusing on language

If you want to comment on how the author uses language (for example, in literary analysis ), it’s necessary to quote so that the reader can see the exact passage you are referring to.

When giving evidence

To convince the reader of your argument, interpretation or position on a topic, it’s often helpful to include quotes that support your point. Quotes from primary sources (for example, interview transcripts or historical documents) are especially credible as evidence.

When presenting an author’s position or definition

When you’re referring to secondary sources such as scholarly books and journal articles, try to put others’ ideas in your own words when possible.

But if a passage does a great job at expressing, explaining, or defining something, and it would be very difficult to paraphrase without changing the meaning or losing the weakening the idea’s impact, it’s worth quoting directly.

A quote is an exact copy of someone else’s words, usually enclosed in quotation marks and credited to the original author or speaker.

To present information from other sources in academic writing , it’s best to paraphrase in most cases. This shows that you’ve understood the ideas you’re discussing and incorporates them into your text smoothly.

It’s appropriate to quote when:

  • Changing the phrasing would distort the meaning of the original text
  • You want to discuss the author’s language choices (e.g., in literary analysis )
  • You’re presenting a precise definition
  • You’re looking in depth at a specific claim

Every time you quote a source , you must include a correctly formatted in-text citation . This looks slightly different depending on the citation style .

For example, a direct quote in APA is cited like this: ‘This is a quote’ (Streefkerk, 2020, p. 5).

Every in-text citation should also correspond to a full reference at the end of your paper.

In scientific subjects, the information itself is more important than how it was expressed, so quoting should generally be kept to a minimum. In the arts and humanities, however, well-chosen quotes are often essential to a good paper.

In social sciences, it varies. If your research is mainly quantitative , you won’t include many quotes, but if it’s more qualitative , you may need to quote from the data you collected .

As a general guideline, quotes should take up no more than 5–10% of your paper. If in doubt, check with your instructor or supervisor how much quoting is appropriate in your field.

If you’re quoting from a text that paraphrases or summarises other sources and cites them in parentheses , APA  recommends retaining the citations as part of the quote:

  • Smith states that ‘the literature on this topic (Jones, 2015; Sill, 2019; Paulson, 2020) shows no clear consensus’ (Smith, 2019, p. 4).

Footnote or endnote numbers that appear within quoted text should be omitted.

If you want to cite an indirect source (one you’ve only seen quoted in another source), either locate the original source or use the phrase ‘as cited in’ in your citation.

A block quote is a long quote formatted as a separate ‘block’ of text. Instead of using quotation marks , you place the quote on a new line, and indent the entire quote to mark it apart from your own words.

APA uses block quotes for quotes that are 40 words or longer.

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McCombes, S. & Caulfield, J. (2022, September 03). How to Quote | Citing Quotes in Harvard & APA. Scribbr. Retrieved 18 June 2024, from https://www.scribbr.co.uk/working-sources/quoting/

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  • Writing Tips

Titles in Essays (Italics or Quote Marks?)

  • 4-minute read
  • 26th February 2018

Formatting your own essay title is easy (just bung a Heading style on it). Unfortunately, the rules about formatting the titles of existing published works (e.g. a textbook or an article from a journal) are more complicated. Usually, though, it comes down to one question: italics or quote marks?

do you put essays in quotes

But most students will need to name a book, journal or website in an essay at some point, so it’s important to know how this works. To help you out, we’ve prepared this guide on when to use italics and when to use quote marks for titles.

When to Use Italics

Titles of longer works are usually italicised. A ‘longer work’ in this case is something presented as a standalone publication. Charles Dickens’ famous novel, for example, would be written as Great Expectations if it were named in an essay.

Other examples of longer works that should be italicised include:

  • Books and book-length poems (e.g. ‘An analysis of The Wasteland shows…’)
  • Journals, newspapers and magazines (e.g. ‘According to The Guardian …’)
  • Websites and blogs (e.g. ‘The project was funded via Unbound …’)
  • Films (e.g. ‘ Jaws broke several box-office records…’)
  • TV series (e.g. ‘Many fans of The X-Files claim…’)
  • Plays and other stage shows (e.g. ‘This production of Swan Lake is…’)
  • Paintings and works of art (e.g. ‘The Mona Lisa is currently housed…’)
  • Music albums (e.g. ‘The album Sticky Fingers was released in…’)

The key factor is that all of these are standalone products, not part of a greater whole. The main exceptions to this rule are holy texts, such as the Bible, which are not typically italicised.

Italics are also used for the names of particular vehicles in some cases, especially ships and spacecraft. For example, we might write about the space shuttle Enterprise or the HMS Beagle (note that the ‘HMS’ is not italicised, since this is an abbreviation).

do you put essays in quotes

When to Use Quote Marks

Quote marks , meanwhile, are usually saved for shorter works. These are often part of a larger publication, such as an article in a newspaper or a chapter in an edited book. For example, if we were to name a book and a chapter in one place we’d write:

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Hugh Wilder’s ‘Interpretive Cognitive Ethology’ was first published in Readings in Animal Cognition , edited by Marc Bekoff and Dale Jamieson.

As indicated by the italics, the book here is called Readings in Animal Cognition . ‘Interpretive Cognitive Ethology’, meanwhile, is an essay from the book, so we use quote marks for this title.

Cases where quotation marks are used for titles include:

  • Chapters from books
  • Articles in newspapers, magazines and journals
  • Particular pages or articles from a website
  • Individual poems and short stories
  • Episodes from a TV show

It is also common to use quote marks for unpublished writing regardless of length. For example, if you were referring to an unfinished manuscript or a PhD dissertation, you would put the title in quote marks; but if these same documents were published, you would use italics.

Look Out for Exceptions!

The guidelines above will apply in most cases, but there are exceptions. The APA style guide, for example, recommends italicising book titles in the main text of an essay, but not in the reference list. As such, it is wise to check your style guide to see if it has specific advice on formatting titles.

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Put a Quote in an Essay

Home / Blog / How To Put A Quote In An Essay (with Examples)

How to Put a Quote in an Essay (with Examples)

Introduction

When writing an essay , it is essential to incorporate quotes from reputable sources to support your arguments and ideas. However, knowing how to use quotes effectively is crucial in maintaining the flow and clarity of your essay. This blog will discuss the proper ways to put a quote in an essay with examples.

Why Use Quotes in an Essay?

Quotes are used in an essay to support or reinforce the writer's arguments and ideas. They provide evidence for your claims and demonstrate that your argument is backed up by research and authority. Incorporating quotes also helps to provide context and depth to your writing and can add a unique perspective to your essay.

Types of Quotes

There are two types of quotes you can use in your essay: direct quotes and indirect quotes.

Direct Quotes: Direct quotes are the exact words used by the source that you are quoting. When using direct quotes, you need to use quotation marks and indicate the source.

Example: According to John Smith, "The Earth is round."

Indirect Quotes: Indirect quotes are a paraphrase of the original source. When using indirect quotes, you do not need to use quotation marks.

Example: John Smith claims that the Earth is round.

How to Put a Quote in an Essay

When using quotes in an essay, there are several rules that you need to follow to ensure that your writing is clear, accurate, and appropriate. Here are the steps to follow:

Step 1: Choose a Relevant Quote

Before you start writing your essay, identify the quotes that you want to use to support your arguments. Ensure that the quotes you select are relevant, reliable, and add value to your essay.

Step 2: Introduce the Quote

Introduce the quote by providing context and indicating who the source is. This will help the reader understand the significance of the quote and its relevance to your argument.

Example: According to Jane Doe, a renowned climate scientist, "Climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity."

Step 3: Use Quotation Marks

When using a direct quote, use quotation marks to indicate that you are using the exact words of the source.

Example: According to Jane Doe, "Climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity."

Step 4: Provide the Source

Provide the source of the quote, including the author's name, the title of the book or article, and the page number. This will help the reader find the source if they want to read it.

Example: According to Jane Doe, a renowned climate scientist, "Climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity." (Doe, The State of the Climate, p. 25)

Step 5: Punctuate Correctly

Punctuate the quote correctly by placing the comma or period inside the quotation marks, depending on whether it is a part of the quote or your sentence.

Step 6: Explain the Quote

Explain the significance of the quote in your own words. This will help the reader understand how the quote supports your argument.

Example: Jane Doe's quote highlights the urgency of addressing climate change as it poses a significant threat to human survival.

Step 7: Cite Your Sources

Ensure that you cite your sources correctly using the citation style specified by your instructor or the style guide for your discipline.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using Quotes in an Essay

Using quotes in an essay can be tricky, and many students make mistakes that can impact the quality of their writing. Here are some common mistakes to avoid when using quotes in an essay:

Failing to provide context: It is essentialto provide context when using a quote in an essay. Failure to do so can confuse the reader and make the quote appear out of place. Always introduce the quote and provide some background information about the source and why you are using the quote.

Overusing quotes: While quotes can add value to your essay, it is essential not to overuse them. Use quotes sparingly and only when necessary. Overusing quotes can make your writing appear lazy, and it may give the impression that you are not confident in your own ideas.

Incorrectly citing sources: Always cite your sources correctly using the citation style specified by your instructor or the style guide for your discipline. Failure to do so can lead to accusations of plagiarism , which can have serious consequences.

Misquoting or altering a quote: When using a direct quote, it is essential to use the exact words of the source. Do not alter the quote or misquote the source as this can distort the meaning and accuracy of the quote.

Failing to explain the quote: When using a quote, it is important to explain its significance and how it supports your argument. Failure to do so can make the quote appear irrelevant and disconnected from your essay.

Examples of Quotes in an Essay

Here are some examples of how to use quotes in an essay:

Example 1: Argumentative Essay

Topic: Should students be required to wear school uniforms?

Quote: "School uniforms promote a sense of unity and equality among students, and they help to reduce instances of bullying based on clothing." (Johnson, School Uniforms, p. 10)

Explanation: The quote supports the argument that school uniforms can have a positive impact on student behavior and reduce instances of bullying. It is introduced with the source and provides context for the argument.

Example 2: Persuasive Essay

Topic: The importance of recycling

Quote: "Every ton of paper that is recycled saves 17 trees, 7,000 gallons of water, and 463 gallons of oil." (Environmental Protection Agency)

Explanation: The quote provides a powerful statistic that supports the importance of recycling. It is introduced with the source, and its significance is explained in the following sentences.

Example 3: Expository Essay

Topic: The history of the American Civil War

Quote: "Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." (Lincoln, Gettysburg Address)

Explanation: The quote is an iconic line from Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, which is a significant event in American history. It is introduced with the source, and its significance is explained in the following sentences.

Incorporating quotes in an essay can add depth, context, and authority to your writing. However, it is important to use quotes effectively and appropriately. Always choose relevant and reliable quotes, introduce them with context, use the correct punctuation, explain their significance, and cite your sources correctly. By following these guidelines, you can effectively use quotes in your essay and improve the quality of your writing.

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Quotation Marks or Italics In Titles?

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| Candace Osmond

| Punctuation

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

You’ve probably asked yourself while writing an essay: Should I italicize a play title or enclose it in quotation marks? What about a song title?

Don’t feel guilty for not knowing the rules for quotation marks or italics in titles . Even the most experienced writers have the same problem.

I’ll show you the basic rules for choosing between quotation marks and italics in titles. This guide features the guidelines of Chicago, MLA, and APA.

Using Italics or Quotation Marks in Titles

Using italics vs. quotation marks in titles depends on your style guide. But the general rule is to italicize long titles, such as titles of books, movie titles, or album titles.

Meanwhile, you must write titles in quotation marks for shorter pieces like musical titles, magazines, TV series, and articles. Note that the AP style does not put magazines, newspaper style, or journals in quotation marks.

Grammarist Article Graphic V2 2022 08 14T201339.353

  • “How You Feel About Gender Roles Will Tell Us How You’ll Vote” is an article worth the read.
  • My favorite song is “If I could Fly.”
  • My Year of Rest and Relaxation is for readers who want to escape their stressful lives.

Works That Require Italics

Use Italics for titles such as the following:

  • Pieces with sections, such as a collection or anthology.
  • Some scientific names.
  • Computers and video games.
  • Titles of newspapers and titles of articles from newspapers.
  • Play titles.
  • Works of art.
  • Court cases.
  • Television and radio shows.
  • Episode titles.
  • Book titles.
  • Magazine articles.
  • Album titles.
  • Names of Ships.
  • Operas, musical titles, and other musical works.

Here are some examples of italicized works:

do you put essays in quotes

  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.
  • Michelangelo’s David.
  • When Harry Met Sally.
  • Do you have a copy of Wag the Dog by award-winning author Larry Beinhart?
  • My favorite mystery book is In the Woods by the bestselling author Tana French .

The source’s title is usually italicized in a bibliography or reference list entries. But it can also depend on the source type. If you’re citing a journal article, every citation style italicizes the journal title instead of the article.

  • Asher, J. (2017). Thirteen reasons why . Penguin Books.
  • (2011). When Harry met Sally . Santa Monica, Calif: MGM Studio distributed by Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Works That Require Quotation Marks

Use double quotes for the following types of work.

  • Comic strips.
  • Article title.
  • Generic titles.
  • Short works like essays
  • Short story titles.
  • Song titles.

Remember that quotation marks come in pairs, so add both opening and closing quotation marks. Here are some examples where we use friendly quotation marks in titles:

  • “Cul de Sac” is a darkly humorous comic.
  • “Cinderella” is my favorite chapter title from the Big Blue Book .

Big Things vs. Little Things

“Big things” include a collection of novels or book series, movies, cartoon series, and other works that can stand independently. We can also consider them as complete bodies of work.

Meanwhile, the “little things” depend on other groups, so we put them in quotes.

Think of a “single” in an album title or a “book chapter” in a book title. Another good example includes “manuscripts” in collections.

Remember that this isn’t a perfect rule. But it helps writers determine whether they should quote or italicize the title of a work.

Italics vs. Quotation Marks in Style Guides

The grammar rules on italicizing or quoting titles are usually a matter of style. Take a look at the title formats’ differences among style guides.

In the Modern Language Association style guide, a quick rule is to italicize titles that are longer. Experienced writers state that these “longer works” include books, journals, court cases, etc. Ship names and other notable names are also in italics.

But for shorter works like articles and poems, MLA Style Guide recommends you format titles with double quotation marks.

Chicago Style

The Chicago Manual of Style goes by the same basic rules as MLA. Titles of major works, such as books, and special names like a ship should be in italics. But place the item in quotation marks for subsections of larger bodies like journal articles, blogs, and book chapters.

According to the APA Style 7th edition , you should use italics for titles like journals, magazines, and newspapers. Books, artworks, webpages, and any other larger body of work also use italics.

However, writers who follow APA use the regular type of format for shorter works. These include essays or works in journal articles and lectures.

When to Not Use Italics or Quotation Marks

There’s a specific type of title that all major style guides have no recommendations for. The following do not use italics or quotation marks for titles:

  • Commercial products.
  • Political documents.
  • Legal documents.
  • Major religious books or scriptures.
  • Name of artifacts.
  • Names of buildings.
  • Constitutional documents.
  • Traditional game.

If you are formatting titles on a website, there’s no need to follow the rules on italics vs. quotation marks. You can go with any more visually appealing style since online web pages are less formal than print materials.

Prioritize the font type, size, and headings when formatting websites and web pages. Make decisions based on what will attract visitors.

When to Underline Instead of Quote or Italicize

If you write using pen and paper, italicizing works can be challenging. Many style manuals recommend underlining the source instead. It’s easier, more practical, and keeps your handwriting legible.

Final Word on Italics vs. Quotes in Titles

An easy way to remember is that most types of titles are almost always in italics. APA, MLA, and Chicago manuals of style recommend italics for longer works.

I hope this guide on using quotation marks and italics in titles helps you become a better writer. 

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do you put essays in quotes

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When to Put Titles in Quotation Marks

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In your writing, sometimes you may need to include the title of a magazine, the headline of a newspaper article, the title of a song or movie, and so on. In English, when punctuating these magazine titles, headlines, and song or movie titles, keep in mind these two options:

Put the title in quotation marks. Quotation marks enclose titles of smaller works or parts of a whole.

Set the title off from the rest of the writing with italic or underlining. By using italic or underlining, you set off titles of larger works or complete works.

These options aren’t interchangeable. Each option has a different use. To put it another way, quotation marks are for jockeys. Italic and underlining are for basketball players. One is for little, the other for big.

Use quotation marks for the titles of

Chapter titles

Magazine or newspaper articles

Individual episodes of a television series

Page of a Web site

Use italic or underlining for the titles of

Collections of poetry, stories, or essays

Titles of books

Titles of CDs or tapes or records (Do they still make records?)

Magazines or newspapers

Television and radio shows

The title of the entire Web site

Here are some examples:

“A Thousand Excuses for Missing the Tax Deadline” (a newspaper article) in The Ticker Tape Journal (a newspaper)

“Ode to Taxes Uncalculated” (a poem) in The Tax Poems (a book of poetry)

“I Got the W2 Blues” (a song title) on Me and My Taxes (a CD containing many songs)

“On the Art of Deductions” (an essay) in Getting Rich and Staying Rich (a magazine)

“Small Business Expenses” (an individual episode) on The IRS Report (a television series)

April 15th (a play)

“Deductions Unlimited” (a page in a Web site) in Beat the IRS (the title of a Web site)

When a title is alone on a line —on a title page or simply at the top of page one of a paper — don’t use italic or quotation marks. Don’t underline the title either. The centering calls attention to the title. Nothing else is needed. One exception: If part of the title is the name of another work, treat that part as you would any other title. For example, suppose you’ve written a brilliant essay about Gloria's poem, “I Hate Homework.” The title page contains this line, centered:

Freudian Imagery in “I Hate Homework”

If your brilliant essay is about the magazine Happy Thoughts , the title page includes this line (also centered):

The Decline of the School Magazine: A Case Study of Happy Though ts

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  • Grammar & Vocabulary ,
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  • How to Match Your Message to the Situation
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Purdue Online Writing Lab Purdue OWL® College of Liberal Arts

Paraphrase: Write It in Your Own Words

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This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue University. When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice.

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Paraphrasing is one way to use a text in your own writing without directly quoting source material. Anytime you are taking information from a source that is not your own, you need to specify where you got that information.

A paraphrase is...

  • Your own rendition of essential information and ideas expressed by someone else, presented in a new form.
  • One legitimate way (when accompanied by accurate documentation) to borrow from a source.
  • A more detailed restatement than a summary, which focuses concisely on a single main idea.

Paraphrasing is a valuable skill because...

  • It is better than quoting information from an undistinguished passage.
  • It helps you control the temptation to quote too much.
  • The mental process required for successful paraphrasing helps you to grasp the full meaning of the original.

6 Steps to Effective Paraphrasing

  • Reread the original passage until you understand its full meaning.
  • Set the original aside, and write your paraphrase on a note card.
  • Jot down a few words below your paraphrase to remind you later how you envision using this material. At the top of the note card, write a key word or phrase to indicate the subject of your paraphrase.
  • Check your rendition with the original to make sure that your version accurately expresses all the essential information in a new form.
  • Use quotation marks to identify any unique term or phraseology you have borrowed exactly from the source.
  • Record the source (including the page) on your note card so that you can credit it easily if you decide to incorporate the material into your paper.

Some examples to compare

Note that the examples in this section use MLA style for in-text citation.

The original passage:

Students frequently overuse direct quotation in taking notes, and as a result they overuse quotations in the final [research] paper. Probably only about 10% of your final manuscript should appear as directly quoted matter. Therefore, you should strive to limit the amount of exact transcribing of source materials while taking notes. Lester, James D. Writing Research Papers . 2nd ed., 1976, pp. 46-47.

A legitimate paraphrase:

In research papers, students often quote excessively, failing to keep quoted material down to a desirable level. Since the problem usually originates during note taking, it is essential to minimize the material recorded verbatim (Lester 46-47).

An acceptable summary:

Students should take just a few notes in direct quotation from sources to help minimize the amount of quoted material in a research paper (Lester 46-47).

A plagiarized version:

Students often use too many direct quotations when they take notes, resulting in too many of them in the final research paper. In fact, probably only about 10% of the final copy should consist of directly quoted material. So it is important to limit the amount of source material copied while taking notes.

A note about plagiarism: This example has been classed as plagiarism, in part, because of its failure to deploy any citation. Plagiarism is a serious offense in the academic world. However, we acknowledge that plagiarism is a difficult term to define; that its definition may be contextually sensitive; and that not all instances of plagiarism are created equal—that is, there are varying “degrees of egregiousness” for different cases of plagiarism.

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COMMENTS

  1. Quotation Marks

    Rule 4. Periods and commas ALWAYS go inside quotation marks. Examples: The sign read, "Walk.". Then it said, "Don't Walk," then, "Walk," all within thirty seconds. He yelled, "Hurry up.". Rule 5a. The placement of question marks with quotation marks follows logic. If a question is within the quoted material, a question mark ...

  2. How to use Quotes in an Essay in 7 Simple Steps (2024)

    A quote can be an effective and powerful literary tool in an essay, but it needs to be done well. To use quotes in an essay, you need to make sure your quotes are short, backed up with explanations, and used rarely. The best essays use a maximum of 2 quotes for every 1500 words. Rules for using quotes in essays: Avoid Long Quotes.

  3. When to Use Quotation Marks ("")

    Revised on November 29, 2022 by Jack Caulfield. Quotation marks (also known as quotes or inverted commas) are used to indicate direct speech and quotations. In academic writing, you need to use quotation marks when you quote a source. This includes quotes from published works and primary data such as interviews.

  4. How to Put a Quote in an Essay (with Pictures)

    If you use the author's name in your lead-in to the quote, you just need to provide the year in parentheses: According to Luz Lopez, "the green grass symbolizes a fresh start for Lia (24).". 2. Include the author's last name, the year, and the page number for APA format. Write the author's name, then put a comma.

  5. Use of quotation marks

    The second item was "How often do you exercise?" First use of a word or phrase used as an ironic comment, as slang, or as an invented or coined expression. considered "normal" behavior. Around the title of a periodical article or book chapter when the title is used in the text (do not use quotation marks in the reference list entry)

  6. Using Quotations in Essays

    A good quotation should do one or more of the following: Make an opening impact on the reader. Build credibility for your essay. Add humor. Make the essay more interesting. Close the essay with a point to ponder upon. If the quotation does not meet a few of these objectives, then it is of little value.

  7. Quotation Marks

    Use double quotation marks for titles of essays, lectures, songs, short poems, short stories, and episodes of a television or radio program. Do not use quotation marks, however, around the title of your own paper. Use them only if you refer to the paper in another document. Celine Dion sang "My Heart Will Go On."

  8. Quotation Basics: Grammar, Punctuation, and Style

    Slashes and Brackets. When you are quoting poetry, use a slash ( / ) to mark a line break. Example: "Let me not to the marriage of true minds / Admit impediments" (1-2). Use square brackets to add a word, change a pronoun, or change a verb tense in the quote. Original quote: "It's my duty as a knight to sample all the peril I can.".

  9. Using Quotation Marks

    Using Quotation Marks. The primary function of quotation marks is to set off and represent exact language (either spoken or written) that has come from somebody else. The quotation mark is also used to designate speech acts in fiction and sometimes poetry. Since you will most often use them when working with outside sources, successful use of ...

  10. Quotations

    Below are four guidelines for setting up and following up quotations. In illustrating these four steps, we'll use as our example, Franklin Roosevelt's famous quotation, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.". 1. Provide context for each quotation. Do not rely on quotations to tell your story for you.

  11. Italics and quotation marks

    Quotation marks are used to present linguistic examples and titles of book chapters and articles in the text. When writers follow guidelines for the use of italics and quotation marks, their papers become more consistent and readable. Note that this category addresses the use of quotation marks other than in the presentation of direct quotations.

  12. Quotes or Italics? Citing Titles of Books, Movies & TV Shows

    The answer is, 'It depends.'. There are certain things you need to know if you're writing about your favorite song, novel, film or television series. Some people insist that when citing titles, you should use italics. Others get bent out of shape and insist that's wrong and that you should put quotes around them instead.

  13. MLA Titles

    Use quotation marks around the title if it is part of a larger work (e.g. a chapter of a book, an article in a journal, or a page on a website). All major words in a title are capitalized. The same format is used in the Works Cited list and in the text itself. Place in quotation marks. Italicize.

  14. How to Quote

    Citing a quote in APA Style. To cite a direct quote in APA, you must include the author's last name, the year, and a page number, all separated by commas. If the quote appears on a single page, use 'p.'; if it spans a page range, use 'pp.'. An APA in-text citation can be parenthetical or narrative.

  15. Titles in Essays (Italics or Quote Marks?)

    As indicated by the italics, the book here is called Readings in Animal Cognition. 'Interpretive Cognitive Ethology', meanwhile, is an essay from the book, so we use quote marks for this title. Cases where quotation marks are used for titles include: Chapters from books. Articles in newspapers, magazines and journals.

  16. Italics or Quote Marks? (Formatting Titles)

    Take the following sentence: Here, "Game of Thrones" refers to a popular TV show. If we didn't know this, we might guess from the capitalization, but most style guides also recommend using distinct formatting for titles. This usually means italicizing the title or placing it in quote marks.

  17. How to Put a Quote in an Essay (with Examples)

    Step 6: Explain the Quote. Explain the significance of the quote in your own words. This will help the reader understand how the quote supports your argument. Example: Jane Doe's quote highlights the urgency of addressing climate change as it poses a significant threat to human survival.

  18. Quotation Marks with Fiction, Poetry, and Titles

    Block Quotations. You should use a block quotation when the quotation occupies four or more typed lines on the page. Although they are allowed in any type of writing, you will likely most often use them when quoting from fiction or literature. A block quotation is removed from the main body of your text. Indent one inch from the main margin ...

  19. Quotation Marks or Italics In Titles?

    Using italics vs. quotation marks in titles depends on your style guide. But the general rule is to italicize long titles, such as titles of books, movie titles, or album titles. Meanwhile, you must write titles in quotation marks for shorter pieces like musical titles, magazines, TV series, and articles. Note that the AP style does not put ...

  20. When to Put Titles in Quotation Marks

    In English, when punctuating these magazine titles, headlines, and song or movie titles, keep in mind these two options: Put the title in quotation marks. Quotation marks enclose titles of smaller works or parts of a whole. Set the title off from the rest of the writing with italic or underlining. By using italic or underlining, you set off ...

  21. Paraphrasing

    Therefore, you should strive to limit the amount of exact transcribing of source materials while taking notes. Lester, James D. Writing Research Papers. 2nd ed., 1976, pp. 46-47. A legitimate paraphrase: In research papers, students often quote excessively, failing to keep quoted material down to a desirable level.