Section 3. Citing Sources in MLA Style

Punctuation Tips for Parenthetical References

Periods & Commas
Periods or commas usually go inside the quotation marks. (This is true even if the original quoted material did not end with a period or a comma).

Thompson describes Esme as "a real charmer."

Exception: If there is a parenthetical citation immediately after the quote, the period or comma goes after the parenthetical citation.

Thompson describes Esme as "a real charmer" (32).

Question Marks, Exclamation Points
If the quote itself ends with an exclamation mark or a question mark, include it inside the quotation marks.

Here's a quote: "Will not a righteous God visit for these things?"

Here's the quote used in a sentence: When Douglass asks, "Will not a righteous God visit for these things?" he raises the question of doubt about the future salvation of the "Christian" slaveholders (32).

If you want to use a quoted statement in a question or exclamation of your own, then the question mark or the exclamation mark goes outside the quotation marks.

Here'a a quote: "The grave is at the door."

Here's the quote used in a sentence: How can we take Douglass seriously when he indulges in excessively romanticized language such as "The grave is at the door"?

Quotes within Quotes
One of the messiest types of quotes to punctuate is a quote within a quote. Sometimes you may want to use quoted dialogue or a quote that includes a word set off by quotation marks. To mark a quotation within the text, enclose it in single quotation marks: ' . '

Here's a quote: "I got hold of a book entitled 'The Columbian Orator.'"

Here's the quote used in a sentence: Because Douglass "got hold of a book entitled 'The Columbian Orator,'" he was able to learn how to read and broaden his mind.

Notice that the comma at the end of the quote goes inside the single and double quotes.

Block quotes
MLA prefers that you set off long quotes (4 or more lines) in what is called a "block quote," which physically separates the quote from the rest of the paragraph.

To create a block quote:

Poetry/Song Lyrics
Poems and song lyrics are difficult to quote because the physical placement of lines on the page is often part of its overall impact.

  1. In poetic or musical quotes less than four lines, put a slash (/) between the lines to mark the line break:
  2. In "The Poem," when William Carlos Williams writes, "It's all in/the sound" (1-2), he is arguing for the lyrical quality of words.
  3. In poetic or musical quotes four lines or longer, block quote by indenting ten spaces from the left.
    • Use a separate line for each line of the poem.
    • Double space between lines unless the spatial arrangment of the original lines is unusual (as in the example.) Then reproduce the poem as accurately as possible.
    • Use line numbers from the poem instead of page numbers to identify the quote.
    • A parenthetical citation that will not fit on the line should appear on a new line.

      Which paragraph quotes the poem correctly?

    Example 1

    Example 2