Long Quotations

Long quotations should be kept to a minimum in your essay. Additionally, you should only use those parts of the long quotation that you really need. If a passage has a middle section that doesn’t relate to the point you are making, drop it out and replace it with an ellipsis (…) to indicate that you have left out part of the original text.

Set up long quotations in blocks; these are generally called block quotations. Block quotations are most often used if the passage takes up more than four typed lines in your paper. Indentation and spacing guidelines vary depending on the formatting style you are using (APA, MLA, Chicago, or other). Check with your instructor as to which guidelines he or she wants you to follow.

Leave the quotation marks off of a block quotation. The indentation itself is the visual indicator to the reader that the text is a quote. Block quotations usually are introduced with a full sentence that summarizes the main point of the quotation. This introductory sentence should be followed by a colon, as in the example below.

Henry David Thoreau argued in Walden that men who are over-occupied with labor run the risk of becoming dehumanized. They must be granted the time to learn about, and address, their own shortcomings in order to fully mature as humans:

He has not time to be anything but a machine. How can he remember well his ignorance–which his growth requires–who has so often to use his knowledge? We should feed and clothe him gratuitously sometimes, and recruit him with our cordials, before we judge of him. The finest qualities of our nature, like the bloom on fruits, can be preserved only by the most delicate handling. (23)

It’s important to remember that longer quotes should be set up and followed by commentary and analysis, just like shorter quotes. For long quotes, you should follow the same guidelines related to content that you follow for shorter quotes. It’s important to always think rhetorically about your writing, even when you’re quoting. So, if you use a long quote in your essay, be sure to provide some analysis after that quote to let your audience know why the quote is there and why it’s important. Otherwise, long quotes can look and feel like “filler” to your audience.

Grumble... Applaud... Please give us your feedback!