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MLA Style: Using Source Material: Quotations

An introduction to MLA style for academic papers, based on the MLA Handbook, 8th Edition.

MLA Style

MLA Style is the format used by the Modern Language Association. Most papers written for classes in the arts and humanities use MLA style; instructors in other disciplines may also prefer MLA format.

MLA Style Resources

For additional information on MLA Style, consult

Using Source Material: Quotations

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 prose quotation, use one of the following formats:
  1. A prose quotation under five lines long should begin and end with quotation marks and should be incorporated into the text:

The appeal of the tontine lay in "its fine, sportsmanlike character" (Stevenson and Osbourne 1).

  1. A prose quotation of five lines or more should begin on a new line, should be indented one half inch from the left, and should not use quotation marks.

In the novel The Wrong Box, Robert Louis Stevenson and Lloyd Osbourne describe the tontine as follows:

A number of sprightly youths (the more the merrier) put up a certain sum of money, which is then funded in a pool under trustees; coming on for a century later, the proceeds are fluttered for a moment in the face of the last survivor, who is probably deaf, so that he cannot even hear of his success -- and who is certainly dying, so that he might just as well have lost. The peculiar poetry and even humour of the scheme is now apparent, since it is one by which nobody concerned can possibly profit; but its fine, sportsmanlike character endeared it to our grandparents. (1)

  • For a verse quotation, use one of the following formats:
  1. A verse quotation under four lines long should begin and end with quotation marks and should be incorporated in the text. Line breaks should be marked with a slash:

Note the non-traditional word order in the first lines of Coleridge's "Kubla Khan": "In Xanadu did Kubla Khan / A stately pleasure dome decree."

  1. A verse quotation of four or more lines should begin on a new line, should be indented one half inch from the left, should reproduce the original line lengths, and should not use quotation marks:

The role of the poet as a prophet is echoed in the imagery at the end of Coleridge's "Kubla Khan":

Weave a circle round him thrice,

And close your eyes with holy dread,

For he on honey-dew hath fed,

And drunk the milk of Paradise.