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Indentation Rules For Quotes In Essay

by Timothy McAdoo

Like so many aspects of writing, when formatting block quotations, the devil is in the details! Here’s everything you need to know about block quotations: 

 

  • When do you use block formatting? According to the Publication Manual (p. 171), “If the quotation comprises 40 or more words, display it in a freestanding block of text and omit the quotation marks.” 
  • Do you still use quotations marks around the block? No (see the previous bullet).
  • How far should you indent? Indent “about a half inch from the left margin (in the same position as a new paragraph)” (p. 171).
  • Does the citation go before or after the period? The citation should include the page(s) or paragraph number and should appear after the end punctuation (see the examples in this PDF). 
  • I’ve already cited the author in the paragraph. Do I still need to include the author name and year? Yes. All quotations, both in-line and block quotations, must include the complete citation (see earlier blog posts). The author name(s) may appear in your introductory sentence or in the parentheses (see the examples in this PDF).

  • Does the first letter have to be capitalized? Sorry, no short answer here: This is a matter of opinion, debate, and editorial judgment. The Manual says, “The first letter of the first word in a quotation may be changed to an uppercase or a lowercase letter.” Note the word may. If the block quote begins with a full sentence, keep the uppercase first letter. However, if the quote begins midsentence, you may or may not want to change the first letter to uppercase. If your introduction to the block quote leads directly into the quote, a lowercase first letter may be fine (see the examples in this PDF).
  • If I’m quoting multiple paragraphs, how should I format the second and subsequent paragraphs? The second and subsequent paragraphs within the block quote should be indented within the block (see Example 5 in this PDF).
  • My quote includes a list. Do I need to include the citation after each item? No. Just include the citation, including page or paragraph number, at the end of the quoted material.
  • What about my own text that follows the block quote: Should it be indented or flush left? Your text following the block quote should be either (a) indented, if it is a new paragraph, or (b) flush left, if it is a continuation of your paragraph (see Examples 4 and 5 in this PDF).

Click here to download this document with five sample block quotes:

Example #1

Today, digital cameras have practically taken over photography. As Johnson (2010) explained,

Digital cameras now make up 90% of all camera sales at the leading electronic stores. This increase in sales can be partially attributed to the widespread use of email and social networking, which has encouraged the sharing of digital photos. (p. 23)

Johnson further noted that, even more than with the shift to digital cameras, the increasing use of phones and iPods that have built-in cameras has replaced the use of film cameras.

Example #2

Computer users often disagree about which operating system is best: Mac or PC. Oyler (2010) stated that one operating system is not better than the other, but that one may be better suited for different purposes than the other. She explained by saying that

Macs are often the best option for users who wish to work with video or picture manipulation. Macs are also very user friendly, which may benefit consumers who are new to computers. PCs, however, run Microsoft Office Suite the best. Therefore, students might find that a PC is their best option because it can run Microsoft Word and PowerPoint the smoothest. (Oyler, 2010, p. 48)

Conversely, Jones (2010) disagreed with the statement that Macs work with graphics such as video and pictures better than PCs, stating that PCs can be modified to work as well as Macs.

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