MLA block quotes

When you copy text from a source word for word it is called quoting. There are different formatting guidelines for short quotes and block quotes. MLA block quote formatting is used for:

  • Quotes of poetry longer than three lines
  • Quotes of ordinary texts (prose) longer than four lines

For shorter quotes, the usual quoting style guidelines should be followed. MLA block quotes take the following formatting:

  • Indentation of 0.5 inches
  • Double spacing
  • Introduced by a lead sentence followed by a colon (:)
  • Parenthetical in-text citation after the period
  • No quotation marks

Block quoting examples

Use the tabs to navigate between MLA block quote examples. Pay attention to the indentation, spacing, colon after the leading sentence, and parenthetical citation.

The parenthetical citation usually includes the original author and page number. Read our MLA citation quick guide for more detailed information on what to do when the author or page number are unknown.

The reader quickly becomes familiar with Nick Carraway’s relationship with Jay Gatsby, as the very first mention of the character illustrates both his admiration and disdain:

Only Gatsby, the man who gives his name to this book, was exempt from my reaction—Gatsby who represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn. If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away. (Fitzgerald 4)

The poem “My Country” is one of the most widely known in Australia, depicting the author Dorothea Mackellar’s love for the country’s unique landscape:

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains,
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror,
The wide brown land for me! (Mackellar)

Play citation is one exception to the usual rules for quoting in MLA format. You can learn more about this in our guide to MLA play citation.

Quotes within block quotes

If you need to include a quote within your block quote, place double quotation marks around the text in question—this is called nesting punctuation. If you need to include a subsequent quote, use single quotation marks. Alternate between single and double quotation marks as far as you need to.

Example nested quotation

Like his introduction of Gatsby, Fitzgerald’s opening description of Daisy immediately informs the reader of her charm and allure:

she laughed, an absurd, charming little laugh, and I laughed too and came forward into the room. “I’m p-paralyzed with happiness.” She laughed again, as if she said something very witty, and held my hand for a moment, looking up into my face, promising that there was no one in the world she so much wanted to see. That was a way she had. (Fitzgerald 11)

In MLA, you cannot change the capitalization, spelling or interior punctuation. Therefore, as we chose to start the quote partway through the first sentence, the word “she” must be lower case as it appears in the novel itself.

Omitting words or lines in quotes

If you want to omit words from a quote, you must be sure you are not taking the text out of context or changing the author’s meaning to your own advantage. You can indicate words missing from a quote using ellipses ( … ).

If you want to omit a line of poetry, you can indicate this with a line of periods approximately the same length as the line of the poem. For example:

I love a sunburnt country,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
Learn more about writing a paper in MLA format with our complete guide.
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Courtney Gahan

Courtney has a Bachelor in Communication and a Master in Editing and Publishing. She has worked as a freelance writer and editor since 2013, and joined the Scribbr team as an editor in June 2017. She loves helping students and academics all over the world improve their writing (and learning about their research while doing so!).

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