Working with Quotations

Quotations that constitute fewer than five lines in your paper should be set off with quotation marks [ ] and be incorporated within the normal flow of your text. For material exceeding that length, omit the quotation marks and indent the quoted language one inch from your left-hand margin. If an indented quotation is taken entirely from one paragraph, the first line should be even with all the other lines in that quotation; however, if an indented quotation comes from two or more paragraphs, indent the first line of each paragraph an additional one-quarter inch.

If quotation marks appear within the text of a quotation that already has the usual double-quote marks [ ] around it (a quote-within-a-quote), set off that inner quotation with single-quote marks [ ] . Such a quote-within-a-quote within an indented quotation is marked with double-quote marks.

In the United States, the usual practice is to place periods and commas inside quotation marks, regardless of logic. Other punctuation marks — question marks, exclamation marks, semicolons, and colons — go where logic would dictate. Thus, we might see the following sentences in a paper about Robert Frost:

The first two lines of this stanza, "My little horse must think it queer / To stop without a farmhouse near," remind us of a nursery rhyme.

(Note, also, the slash mark / (with a space on either side) to denote the poem's line-break.) But observe the placement of this semicolon:

There is a hint of the nursery rhyme in the line "My little horse must think it queer"; however, the poem then quickly turns darkly serious.

Pay close attention to the placement of commas and periods in the use of citations.

For further help with the use of quotation marks, see the appropriate section in the Guide to Grammar and Writing and our English faculty's Suggestions for Writing Papers for Literature Courses.