Formatting Quotes Redux

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When making any argument, you need support for your position.  In essays, this support comes from in-text citations; quotes from outside sources which “prove” your point.  In order to avoid plagiarism (a form of cheating when you use someone else’s words as your own), you must follow certain conventions & rules when quoting from outside sources.


Use this “equation” to remember the rules for quoting:

Tag + Quote + Cite + Explanation = Good Support
When researchers talk about education they often “ignore the possibility that teachers also change in response to students, that there may in fact be important connections between the changes teachers undergo and the progress of their students” (Shaughnessy 312). An environment in which the teachers can become students and the students can become teachers is important because…



  • This is a sentence or statement that introduces the quote.
  • Tags give context for quotes: who is speaking, to whom, when, why, etc.
  • Tags should be placed immediately before the quote.
  • When attributing a quote to an author in your text, the following verbs will prove helpful: notes, argues, observes, writes, emphasizes, says, reports, suggests, claims, and comments.


  • Place quote in quotation marks (“ ”).
  • Copy the quote word for word as it appears in the original text.
  • Any words that are not your own are quotes (i.e. you are using what someone else has said). Don’t only use dialogue or text already in quotation marks (“  ”) for support.  Any and all words in another text are fair game for use as support.


  • A citation is a note that gives the author and location (page number) for the quote.
  • Cites should be placed in parenthesis immediately after the quotation.
  • Only put author’s last name and the number of the page. No “pg,” “pp,” “#,” or comma “,” needed (Borger 1).
  • Place all ending punctuation at the end of the citation for direct quotes & paraphrasing (after the parenthesis). Block quotes follow a different format (see below).


  • If you’ve chosen a quote for support, you’d better have a good reason for it.
  • Explain what this quote explains about the current point you are making.
  • Remember, assume your reader is “stupid.” Assume your reader has no knowledge of your subject and explain how this quote connects to or proves the argument you are making.
  • If you cannot explain how quote is connected, choose another one. Do not add quotes for the sake of adding quotes.  They are not to be used as “pepper” for “seasoning” your essay.

Example: Direct Quote

Experts note that the “myth of discovery…leads the poor writer to give up too soon and the fluent writer to be satisfied with too little” (Flower 64). Many beginning writers think that they are going to find meaning when they write. It is important to teach students that they make the meaning in their writing; that they are the “gods” of their ideas and have much more control over their writing process than they know.

Long Quotations[1]

For quotations that extend to more than four lines of verse or prose, place quotations in a free-standing block of text and omit quotation marks. Start the quotation on a new line, with the entire quote indented one inch from the left margin; maintain double-spacing. Only indent the first line of the quotation by a half inch if you are citing multiple paragraphs. Your parenthetical citation should come after the closing punctuation mark. When quoting verse, maintain original line breaks. (You should maintain double-spacing throughout your essay.)

Example: In their article “The Cognition of Discovery: Defining a Rhetorical Problem” researchers define the differences between good writing and basic writing.  In the end they conclude:

that the ability to explore a rhetorical problem is eminently teachable.  Unlike a metaphoric “discovery,” problem-finding is not a totally mysterious or magical act.  Writers discover what they want to do by insistently, energetically exploring the entire problem before them and building for themselves a unique image of the problem they want to solve.  A part of creative thinking is just plain thinking.  (Flower and Hays 74)

Ideas do not simply appear out of thin air. Many students believe the “muses must speak” for writing to occur.  Students need to be empowered; they need to recognize that they control their ideas and writing is the vehicle they can use to manipulate those ideas.   



Paraphrasing is valuable because it can help you control the temptation of quoting too much.  It is better than forcing a quote from an undistinguished passage and the mental process required helps you (and your reader) grasp the full meaning of the original.  Paraphrasing is your own rendition of someone else’s essential information and ideas presented in a new form.  It is a legitimate way to borrow form a source because you’re accompanying that information with accurate documentation, and it is more detailed than a summary.


According to Elbow, too often writing instruction is based on an “error hunt.”  Rarely do individuals write in the hopes that their work will be criticized and searched for errors.  Individuals write to communicate (81).  Students often write like they’re being tested and work from a position of doubt, asking if their work is acceptable for grading instead of telling their teachers they have something to say.


Delpit notes that teachers who plan out their course months or years in advance are not always interested in who their students are or what students are coming to them with.  Other teachers need to know who their students are before they can begin the teaching process (275). Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of students allows a teacher to tailor instruction to that particular group of individuals.  It also avoids covering information students already know which can create a frustrating learning climate for students.

In the first example above, the author, Elbow, is mentioned in the first sentence.  The page numbers that follow the summary let the reader know when Elbow’s ideas stop and where your ideas begin.  Your reader will then know that the information contained between the author’s name and the page numbers are not your own.  Note that a properly written paraphrase or summary does not need quotation marks.





[1] From the Purdue OWL website: Russell, Tony et al. “MLA Formatting Quotations.”  Purdue Online Writing Lab. The Writing Lab and OWL at Purdue and Purdue U., 2011. Web. 26 September 2011.

[2] From: “Paraphrase: Write it in Your Own Words.” Purdue Online Writing Lab. The Writing Lab and OWL at Purdue and Purdue U., 2011. Web. 26 September 2011.



2 responses to “Formatting Quotes Redux

  1. Pingback: The Crucible Pre-Research | Borger: Literature & Language 3·

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