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CMS Format: Using Source Material: Quotations

CMS Format

CMS refers to a research format described in the Chicago Manual of Style. This format is often used for history, philosophy and religion papers; instructors in other disciplines may also prefer CMS format.


When you use the author’s exact words, even a short phrase, you must identify the material as a quote. The format will depend on the length of the quotation.

  • For a quotation under five lines long, use quotation marks and incorporate the quotation into the text:

The appeal of the tontine is described as "its fine, sportsmanlike character." 1

  • For a quotation of five or more lines, use block format. The quotation should begin on a new line and should be single-spaced and indented half an inch from the left. It should not use quotation marks. If the quote is introduced with a full sentence, use a colon at the end of the introductory sentence; if it is introduced with a simple author tag, use a comma:

In the novel The Wrong Box, Robert Louis Stevenson and Lloyd Osbourne explain that the Finsbury brothers joined a

tontine as children:

When Joseph Finsbury and his brother Masterman were little lads in white-frilled trousers, their father—a well-to-do merchant in Cheapside—caused them to join a small but rich tontine of seven-and-thirty lives. A thousand pounds was the entrance fee; and Joseph Finsbury can remember to this day the visit to the lawyer’s, where the members of the tontine—all children like himself—were assembled together, and sat in turn in the big office chair, and signed their names with the assistance of a kind old gentleman in spectacles and Wellington boots.2

A direct quote must accurately reproduce the original material, but you may make some changes as long as you inform the reader:

  • You may omit unnecessary material within a quote by inserting an ellipsis (three periods, separated by spaces) where the material has been omitted:

As the first step of a tontine, "A number of sprightly youths . . . put up a certain sum of money."1

  • You may add explanatory material or editorial notes within a quote by putting the material in brackets:

Stevenson and Osbourne conclude the description of the tontine ironically, saying, "he [the winner] might just as well have lost."2

According to T. S. Eliot, "April [italics added] is the cruelest month."3