Quotation Marks with Fiction, Poetry, and Titles
A rundown of the general rules of when and where to use quotation marks.
Contributors:Sean M. Conrey, Mark Pepper, Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2016-02-27 11:17:45
Check your citation style guide for specific guidelines on when you should use block quotations. Typically, you should use a block quotation when the quotation extends more than four typed lines (in MLA style) or extends 40 words or longer (in APA style). Although they are allowed in any type of writing, you will likely most often use them when quoting from fiction or literature. A block quotation is removed from the main body of your text. Indent one inch from the main margin (the equivalent of two half-inch paragraph indentations) and begin your quote. Maintain double spacing throughout, but you do not need to use quotation marks.
Gatsby experiences a moment of clarity while standing with Daisy on his dock. Fitzgerald writes:
Possibly it had occurred to him that the colossal significance of that light had now to him vanished forever. Compared to the great distance that had separated him from Daisy it had seemed very near to her, almost touching her. It had seemed as close as a star to the moon. Now it was again a green light on a dock. His count of enchanted objects had diminished by one. (98)
When you quote a single line of poetry, write it like any other short quotation. If the piece of poetry you are quoting crosses multiple lines of the poem itself, you may still type them in your text run together. Show the reader where the poem's line breaks fall by using slash marks.
In his poem, "Mending Wall," Robert Frost writes: "Something there is that doesn't love a wall,/ that send the frozen-ground-swell under it" (42-44).
If the quotation is three lines or longer, set it off like a block quotation (see above). Some writers prefer to set off two-line verse quotations for emphasis. Quote the poem line by line as it appears on the original page. Do not use quotation marks, and indent one inch from the left margin.
In his poem "Mending Wall," Robert Frost questions the building of barriers and walls:
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Write each person's spoken words, however brief, as a separate paragraph. Use commas to set off dialogue tags such as "she said" or "he explained." If one person's speech goes on for more than one paragraph, use quotation marks to open the dialogue at the beginning of each paragraph. However, do not use closing quotation marks until the end of the final paragraph where that character is speaking.
Quotation Marks with Titles
Use quotations marks for:
- Titles of short or minor works
- Short Stories
- Short Poems
- One Act Plays
- Other literary works shorter than a three act play or complete book
- Titles of sections from longer works
- Chapters in books
- Articles in newspapers, magazines, or journals
- Episodes of television and radio series
Underlining or italics are used for the titles of long pieces or works that contain smaller sections.
by Jeff Hume-Pratuch
| The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished |
it to your satisfaction. By that time you begin to clearly and
logically perceive what it is that you really want to say. —Mark Twain, Notebook, 1902–1903
A quote used to introduce an article, paper, or chapter is called an epigraph. It often serves as a summary or counterpoint to the passage that follows, although it may simply set the stage for it.
The Publication Manual doesn’t specifically address the topic of epigraphs, but we thought it might be helpful for you to know the rules we follow in formatting epigraphs for APA journals.
The text of the epigraph is indented from the left margin in the same way as a block quote. On the line below the end of the epigraph, the author’s name (and only the author’s last name if he or she is well-known) and the source’s title should be given. This credit line should be flush right, preceded by an em dash. An epigraph’s source is not listed in the References section.
Exceptions to this are an epigraph from a scholarly book or journal and a quotation used by permission. In these cases, cite the author, year, and page number at the end of the epigraph, in parentheses with no period—just as you would for a block quote. The source should be listed in the References section.
| Emotion is one of the most complex phenomena known to psychology. |
It is complex because it involves so much of the organism at so
many levels of . . . integration. . . . Perhaps therein lies the
uniqueness, and the major significance, of emotion. (Lindsley,
1951, p. 473)
The epigraph should not be confused with the similar-sounding epigram (a brief, pointed, and often satirical text or poem) and epitaph (a short text honoring the deceased). Sometimes, however, the three categories coincide in a quotable hat trick:
| Go tell the Spartans, you who pass us by,|
That here obedient to their laws we lie.
—Simonides, Inscription at Thermopylae