Block quotations are a special form of direct quotation. They are used when large chunks of text are being quoted.
Block quotations can be great. They look very official and even smart. But there are two potential downsides to block quotations.
Rules for Block Quotations
- Use Block Quotation formatting for direct quotations of four lines or more
- Provide a signal phrase
- Do not use quotation marks around the quoted material
- Indent the quoted material as a “block”
- Do not indent the line following the block quotation
Two Problems with Block Quotations
First, there are issues of relevance that arise with long quotations. As writers we need to ask ourselves what portions of a potential quotation are essential to support or illustrate the point we want to make. Long quotations run the risk of including material that is not essential.
Second, if too many block quotations are used in an essay it seems like the writer is letting other people write the paper. That is lazy and usually pretty obvious. This laziness hurts a writer’s credibility and, in the classroom, hurts the grade too.
But how many block quotations is too many? There is no firm rule on this. We definitely want fewer than one per page. In a four page paper, using two block quotations will be fine. Using three block quotations in a four page paper would probably be too many.
Example: Block Quotation in Action
Here a sample paragraph that just happens to be about block quotations. It also contains a block quotation in the middle.
|Sample Paragraph with a Block Quotation|
Although block quotations are formatted somewhat differently from other in-text citations in MLA, they are still used as evidence just like other citations. As evidence, block quotations will be presented in the middle of a body paragraph, preceded by material that provides context for the quotation. The block quotation is then off-set from the paragraph, but, critically, will always appear in the middle of a claim-evidence-analysis paragraph as is happening right now in this paragraph. As stated in the Antelope Valley College Writing Center document, “MLA Format Quotations,” writers should:
Set off a quotation of more than four typed lines of prose (or more than three lines of poetry) by indenting it one inch (ten spaces or two tabs) from the left margin. Continue double spacing but do not use quotation marks. Integrate the long quotation into the paper by introducing it with an informative sentence followed by a colon. Follow the quotation with a parenthetical citation one space after the end punctuation. (2)
Notice that this block quotation is being used as evidence in a paragraph about how to format and place block quotations. The paragraph does not end with the block quotation because the quote is being used as evidence. As such, the quotation requires analysis to explain the significance of the quoted material. Also, we do not indent in the line following the block quotation because we are continuing on with the same paragraph.