Quotation Marks with Fiction, Poetry, and Titles
A rundown of the general rules of when and where to use quotation marks.
Contributors:Sean M. Conrey, Mark Pepper, Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2016-02-27 11:17:45
Check your citation style guide for specific guidelines on when you should use block quotations. Typically, you should use a block quotation when the quotation extends more than four typed lines (in MLA style) or extends 40 words or longer (in APA style). Although they are allowed in any type of writing, you will likely most often use them when quoting from fiction or literature. A block quotation is removed from the main body of your text. Indent one inch from the main margin (the equivalent of two half-inch paragraph indentations) and begin your quote. Maintain double spacing throughout, but you do not need to use quotation marks.
Gatsby experiences a moment of clarity while standing with Daisy on his dock. Fitzgerald writes:
Possibly it had occurred to him that the colossal significance of that light had now to him vanished forever. Compared to the great distance that had separated him from Daisy it had seemed very near to her, almost touching her. It had seemed as close as a star to the moon. Now it was again a green light on a dock. His count of enchanted objects had diminished by one. (98)
When you quote a single line of poetry, write it like any other short quotation. If the piece of poetry you are quoting crosses multiple lines of the poem itself, you may still type them in your text run together. Show the reader where the poem's line breaks fall by using slash marks.
In his poem, "Mending Wall," Robert Frost writes: "Something there is that doesn't love a wall,/ that send the frozen-ground-swell under it" (42-44).
If the quotation is three lines or longer, set it off like a block quotation (see above). Some writers prefer to set off two-line verse quotations for emphasis. Quote the poem line by line as it appears on the original page. Do not use quotation marks, and indent one inch from the left margin.
In his poem "Mending Wall," Robert Frost questions the building of barriers and walls:
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Write each person's spoken words, however brief, as a separate paragraph. Use commas to set off dialogue tags such as "she said" or "he explained." If one person's speech goes on for more than one paragraph, use quotation marks to open the dialogue at the beginning of each paragraph. However, do not use closing quotation marks until the end of the final paragraph where that character is speaking.
Quotation Marks with Titles
Use quotations marks for:
- Titles of short or minor works
- Short Stories
- Short Poems
- One Act Plays
- Other literary works shorter than a three act play or complete book
- Titles of sections from longer works
- Chapters in books
- Articles in newspapers, magazines, or journals
- Episodes of television and radio series
Underlining or italics are used for the titles of long pieces or works that contain smaller sections.
- To cite a Shakespeare play or poem from a book, anthology, or film on our works cited page we would use the same format as we would for any other author's work. That is the easy part. Here are the two books I am using:
Shakespeare, William, and Cyrus Hoy. Hamlet. New York: W.W. Norton, 1996. Print.
Shakespeare, William. Love Poems and Sonnets of William Shakespeare. New York: Doubleday, 1991. Print.
- Here is how to cite a film, DVD, of VHS versionof a Shakespearean work:
Branagh, Kenneth, dir. William Shakespeare's Hamlet. U.K.: Castle Rock Entertainment, 1996. VHS.
- In-text citation for a film, DVD, VHS:
We may not need one. It is possible to simply refer to Branagh's William Shakespeare's Hamlet in the text of our document as there are no page numbers to refer to. However, if we want to include a direct quote, we could use the in-text citation (Branagh, William Shakespeare's Hamlet).
- Here is how to cite a live performance:
Hamlet. By William Shakespeare. Dir. Dominic Dromgoole and Bill Buckhurs. Shakespeare's Globe, London. 25 April 2014. Performance.
- In-text citation for a live performace:
Dromgoole and Buckhur's Hamlet or (Dromgoole and Buckhur, Hamlet)
Play In-text (parenthetical) Citations:
If we are writing a paper that refers to more than one work, we will use the play name in our citation rather than the author. If we are writing about one play then we would replace the play title in the parenthetical citation for the author's last name.
- Italicize play titles: Hamlet (Ham.)
- After we introduce the full play title and it's abbreviation in parentheses, we can use the abbreviation to refer to the play in the rest of our paper. Here is a list of abbreviations for play titles.
- Use Arabic numerals to refer to act, scene, and line numbers (no page numbers are listed): 3.2.10 or 3.2.10-25 if we are covering information from lines 10 through 25. If the line number are 100 or higher, we use the first whole line number 265 and the last two digits of the second line number: 5.2.265-75.
- If referring to an act and scene of a play in your the body of your text, format it as such: In 2.2, Hamlet's despondency becomes the subject of mockery amongst his peers.
- If we are only referring to one work by Shakespeare in our paper than our parenthetical citation would look like this: (Shakespeare 3.2.115)
- If we are referring to more than one work by Shakespeare in our paper, after we introduce our play Hamlet (Ham.)..., our first parenthetical citation will look like this: (Ham. 3.2.115)
- If we have not yet introduced the play in the body of our paper, the first parenthetical citation will look like this: (Hamlet 3.2.115)
Quoting Verse and Prose:
Many of Shakespeare's plays are in a combination of verse and prose. The lesser characters often are written in prose, while the primary characters are usually written in verse. There are different rules for formatting verse and prose.
- For quoting both verse and prose remember to always introduce the scene or character who is speaking. I will not be including those transitions prior to my quotations here, but that does not mean we don't need them in our papers.
- If quoting three lines or less of verse use the short quotation format and use a / to indicate line breaks. Keep all original punctuation and incorporate it into the text of your paper.
- If quoting four lines or more of verse break the lines as they are shown in the text of the play. Do not use / to indicate line breaks. Keep all original punctuation and format as a block quote.
- If you would like to quote verse or prose, but want to leave out parts of a sentence or phrase, simply use ellipses to mark the left out text: "Heaven make me free of it! I follow thee / ...Wretched queen, adieu!"
Play Quotations (short verse):
- For quotations that refer to one character and are under four lines of verse, we can use "Quotation Marks." The citation will come between the last quotation mark and the period.
- We will want to use slashes / to indicate line breaks.
"Doomed for a certain term to walk the night, / And for the day confined to fast in fires, / Til the foul crime done in my days of nature"
- Of course we would use (Hamlet 1.5.10) depending on the number of works by Shakespeare being referred to in our paper. For instance if we were comparing his tragedies and comedies and relying on several different works for source material, we would want to follow the MLA citation rule for citing several works by one author.
Play Quotations (short prose):
"Happily he is the second time to come to them, for they say an old man is twice a child" (Shakespeare 2.2.354-55)
Play Quotations (long verse):
- For quotations that refer to one character and are longer than three lines of verse or four lines of prose we will want to double indent (1" or two taps of the tab key) and create a block quote.
- We will not use quotation marks or italicize the quote, the indentation will be indication enough:
He took me by the wrist, and held me hard,
Then goes he to the length of all his arm,
And with his other hand thus o'er his brow,
He falls to such perusal of my face
As 'a would draw it. Long stayed he so.
At last, a little shaking mine arm,
And thrice his head thus waving up and down,
He raised a sigh so piteous and profound
As it did seem to shatter all his bulk,
And end his being. (Shakespeare 2.1.86-95)
- Notice that the parenthetical citation comes after the period in a long quote and that there is not a period after the citation.
Play Quotations (long prose):
- We still will not use quotation marks or italicize the quote, however, we will not worry about line breaks and only take into account the double indentation and citation style.
Here lies the water; good. Here stands the man;
good. If the man go to this water and drowns himself,
it is,will he, nill he, he goes--mark you that. But if the
water come to him and drown him, he drowns not
himself. Argal, he that is not guilty of his own
death shortens not his own life. (Shakespeare 5.1.13-15)
Play Quotations (dialogue between two or more characters):
- Double indent the names of the characters.
- Capitalize each letter in the name of the character.
- Indent the text of the quote one quarter inch further than we indent the character's name.
- Keep original formatting and punctuation.
HAMLET. Then is doomsday near. But your news is not
true. Let me question more in particular. What have you,
my good friends, deserved at the hands of Fortune,
that she sends you to prison hither?
GUILDENSTERN. Prison, my lord?
HAMLET. Denmark's a prison.
ROSENCRANTZ. Then is the world one. (2.2.231-37)
Poem and Sonnet Quotations:
- Follow the same guidelines set by the plays for prose and verse.
- Remember to use line numbers and not page numbers.