Using Quotations

English Department

Parenthetical Documentation


When you present your points in a literary analysis, you must support your generalizations with specific evidence from the text. You can summarize, paraphrase, or quote the text. Here are some tips for using quotations correctly in a paper.

  1. Introduce quotations by identifying the author, the work, and the context of the quotation. (If you are using only one source, it may not always be necessary to mention the author and the work before every quotation, but do make the context clear and use documentation.)
  2. Introduce quotations with the appropriate punctuation mark.
    1. Use a comma for brief, informal, incomplete introductions. For example: Finally, the speaker of sonnet 18 says, “I scorn to change my state with kings.”
    2. Use a colon to separate your own grammatically complete sentence introduction from the quotation. For example: In Sonnet 67 Spenser compares his love to an animal that must be hunted: “Strange thing me seemed to see a beast so wyld, / So goodly woone with her owne will beguyld.”
  3. Integrate quotations into your own sentences. Keep all verb tenses the same; change the verb in the quotation and put it in brackets if it does not correspond to the verb tense in your own sentence. Clarify pronouns in the quotation by using a name or descriptive phrase in brackets. Make sure that your sentences are complete and that the subject and verb agree.
    In Sonnet 29, the speaker feels “in disgrace for Fortune and men’s eyes,” and believes that his “bootless cries” will not reach “deaf heaven.”

    Sonnet 138 details this strange relationship: “When my love [the Dark Lady] Swears that she is made of truth / I do believe her, though I know she lies.”
  4. Quote accurately; copy exactly what the author has written.
  5. Use an ellipsis (spaced periods) to indicate where you omitted part of the quotation. Use four periods to indicate the omission of whole sentences, a paragraph, or several paragraphs. Example:

    As one critic writes, “Oedipus is guilty for two reasons: because of the deeds he Actually committed . . . . and because of his desire to commit them.”
  6. Indent long quotations—more than three lines of poetry or four lines of prose. Write a complete sentence of introduction followed by a colon. Then space down two lines and indent the entire quotation 10 spaces from the left margin. Do not use quotations marks around the indented quotation. Double-space the quotation. When you indent a long quotation from a poem, preserve the original form of the poem. Example:

    In one of the best known images, Shakespeare compares his devotion to a lighted ocean buoy and a lodestar:

    Oh, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
    That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
    It is the star to every wandering bark,
    Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
  7. Use a slash mark ( / ) to mark the ends of lines of poetry when the quotation is too short to be indented. Example:

    In Sonnet 55, Shakespeare expresses his confidence in the timelessness of his art: “Not marble, nor the gilded monuments / Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme.”
  8. Punctuate quotations correctly. For a quotation within a quotation, use double quotation marks for the main quote and single quotation marks for the inner quote. Put commas and periods inside the quotation marks. If quotation marks come at the end of the sentence and you are using parenthetical documentation, then the period goes after the documentation. Examples:

    Jim said, “Please go with me.”

    Emily Dickinson writes, “The World is not Conclusion” (2459).