Because the heart of your papers will consist of close reading, it is very important that you properly integrate the passages that you will discuss into your own writing. Please adhere to the following suggestions and conventions, and you can also use the sample papers in MLA style provided by the MLA Style Center as models!
Introduce and Integrate Quotations
The first rule you need to remember is that free-standing quotations -- quotations that stand on their own as complete sentences -- are unacceptable.
Please do not just dump quotations into your paper and let them stand on their own as complete sentences!
The second rule you need to remember is that you must introduce your quotations and integrate them grammatically into your sentences. Here's an easy test: take out the quotation marks and ask yourself, "Does the sentence make sense?" If it does, great! If it doesn't, revise so that it does and then put the quotation marks back in. (Go ahead and try the test on the examples below!)
And try to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by the introduction of quotations. You can do a lot with these introductions in order to pave the way for the close readings that will follow! Instead of, "Swift writes, '...' (###)." take the opportunity to indicate what it is about the quotation that will be important to you. (See the examples below.)
Placement of Punctuation with Parenthetical Notation
[Please note: In the advice below and the examples throughout this site, I follow US conventions for punctuation. Many students in Canada will have been taught UK conventions. Whichever set of conventions you choose to follow, please follow them correctly and consistently.]
Please compare the following conventions with the examples below! It seems complicated, but it really isn't.
Parenthetical notation goes outside the quotation marks and inside the punctuation. The order, then, at the end of the quotation is as follows: quotation mark, parenthetical notation, punctuation. (See examples one and two.)
Immediately preceding the parenthetical notation, there should be no punctuation inside the quotation marks, unless the quotation itself ends with a question mark or exclamation point. (See example three).
When quoting poetry, separate each line by a slash with a space on either side ( / ) and give the line number(s) in parentheses; when quoting prose, give the page number(s). (See examples two and three.)
The syntax of the sentence as a whole determines whether or not you need punctuation before the quotation. Some students seem to think that you always need a comma before a quotation, but that is not the case!
If you introduce the quotation with a verb of speaking or writing ("says," "writes," "states," etc.), then you should always use a comma before the quotation. (See example 3.)
But again, it's the syntax of the sentence as a whole that determines whether or not you need punctuation before the quotation. If the syntax calls for punctuation, then use punctuation (as in the three examples below). If it doesn't, don't, as in the following variation on example 1:
- Explaining his theory of satire in a letter of September 1725 to Alexander Pope, Swift writes that he has "ever hated all nations, professions, and communities" and that all his "love is towards individuals" (2447).
If your preceding discussion makes it obvious what the source of the passage is, you do not need to give the source in your parenthetical notation; in that case, just give the line or page number(s). (See examples one and two.)
Follow these examples:
- Discussing Gulliver’s Travels in a letter of September 1725 to Alexander Pope, Swift explains the theory of his satire: "I have ever hated all nations, professions, and communities and all my love is towards individuals" (2447).
[Here, there is no need to give the source in the parenthetical notation because you make it clear in your introduction of the quotation, where you say that the author is Swift and the source is the "letter of September 1725." I will refer to your Works Cited list, look under "S" for Swift and see that his "letter of September 1725" is in the Longman Anthology, and I will know from your parenthetical notation that I can find it there on page 2447.]
- Swift’s humor is often paradoxical, as in his request in "Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift," "To all my foes, dear fortune, send / Thy gifts, but never to my friend" (67-68).
[Again, there is no need to give the source in the parenthetical notation. Here I will refer to your Works Cited list and see that Swift's poem, "Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift," is in the Longman Anthology, and I will then be able to find lines 67-68.]
- Human nature for Swift is innately envious, and thus he asks, "What poet would not grieve to see, / His brethren write as well as he?" ("Verses" 31-32).
[Here you do not need to give the author in your parenthetical notation, because you make the author clear in your introduction of the quotation, but you do need to give the abbreviated title of the source in your parenthetical notation, because you do not make it clear. With this notation, I will be able to refer to your Works Cited list, look under "S" for Swift, see that "Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift" is in the Longman Anthology, and I will then be able to find lines 31-32.]
Placement of Punctuation without Parenthetical Notation
There are many instances when you will use quotation marks without parenthetical notation, as in when you give the title of a poem. As well, if you have already quoted a passage and then want to quote a word or phrase from that passage again, you do not need to repeat the parenthetical notation. In such cases, observe the following conventions:
- commas and periods go inside the quotation marks
- semicolons, colons, exclamation points, and question marks go outside the quotation marks.
Follow these examples, assuming that you’ve already quoted the passage in the first example above:
- "Nations, professions, and communities," for Swift, represent groups in which pride flourishes.
- Individuals begin to see themselves as superior to others once they identify themselves as members of "nations, professions, and communities."
- Swift is referring to Gulliver’s Travels when he claims that all his love is "towards individuals"; this claim, however, can also illuminate a reading of "Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift."
- It is not difficult to identify some of Swift’s least favorite "professions": medicine, law, and politics.
- It is a remarkable claim to hate "all nations, professions and communities"!
- What does it mean, then, to hate "all nations, professions, and communities"?
Double and Single Quotation Marks
For regular quotations, use double quotation marks, " "s. Single quotations marks, ‘ ’s, are for quotations within quotations.
- In response to the news of Swift’s death, his friends "hug themselves, and reason thus: / ‘It is not yet so bad with us’" ("Verses" 115-16).
For any quotation that would fill more than four lines of prose in your paper or that is longer than three lines of poetry, use a block quotation.
See here (under "Long quotations") for examples along with the following advice: "Start the quotation on a new line, with the entire quote indented ½ inch from the left margin while maintaining double-spacing. Your parenthetical citation should come after the closing punctuation mark. When quoting verse, maintain original line breaks."
Here are the conventions in bullet form:
- Do not use quotation marks unless the material is already a quotation in the original text.
- In a block quotation, parenthetical notation always goes outside the punctuation.
- Like regular quotations, block quotations may not be free-standing; introduce and integrate them into your writing.
- When quoting poetry in block quotation form, reproduce it line by line, as it appears in the original text.
- Only quote material that you will discuss or that is indispensable to the clarity and spirit of the quotation. Eliminate any unnecessary passages from block quotations with ellipses (...).
- Do not automatically begin a new paragraph immediately following your block quotation. (You may need to change Word's paragraph properties in order to turn off automatic indentation -- set "Special" to "none.") As always, you must perform close reading of your quotations before moving on, so you can't start a new paragraph immediately after a long quotation.
Follow these examples (sorry, UTM's web editor won't let me indent properly or put a space between the colon at the end of the introduction of the block quotation and the block quotation itself [!]; see the sample papers in MLA style and scroll through to find block quotations):
- In "Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift," Swift inveighs against the contradictory nature of human beings, who value themselves in relation to others rather than according to their own merits:
Vain humankind! Fantastic race!
Thy various follies, who can trace?
Self-love, ambition, envy, pride,
Their empire in our hearts divide:
Give others riches, power, and station,
’Tis all on me a usurpation.
I have no title to aspire;
Yet, when you sink, I seem the higher. (39-46)
[Note: If you quote these eight lines, all of them must be necessary for your close reading.]
- Discussing Gulliver’s Travels in a letter to Alexander Pope, Swift explains the theory of his satire:
I have ever hated all nations, professions, and communities and all my love is towards individuals. For instance, I hate the tribe of lawyers, but I love Councilor Such-a-one, Judge Such-a-one, for so with ... English, Scotch, French, and the rest. But principally I hate and detest that animal called man, although I heartily love John, Peter, Thomas, and so forth. This is the system upon which I have governed myself many years ... and so I shall go on till I have done with them. (2447-48)
[Note: Again, all of what you quote must be necessary for your ensuing close reading.]
Don't forget, you can use these sample papers in MLA style as models!