The full-sentence introduction to a block quotation helps demonstrate your grasp of the source material, and it adds analytical depth to your essay. But the introduction alone is not enough. Long quotations almost invariably need to be followed by extended analysis. Never allow the quotation to do your work for you. Usually you will want to keep the quotation and your analysis together in the same paragraph. Hence it is a good idea to avoid ending a paragraph with a quotation. But if your analysis is lengthy, you may want to break it into several paragraphs, beginning afresh after the quotation.
All direct quotes are offset with quotation marks. It is important to make sure that you use a quotation mark both at the beginning and at the end of any direct quote. Just remember that quotation marks are always used as pairs; you cannot use an opening one without using a closing one. The quotation marks typically go outside the sentence-ending punctuation, but this is sometimes altered based on the preference of an official or formal style guide, where a particular way to cite requires a different format. If you are unsure, make sure to check the applicable style guide, such as MLA or APA style guide, to always use quotation marks in the correct way.
There is, however, one important exception to this rule. You are free to alter the punctuation just before a closing quotation mark. You may need to do so to ensure that your sentences are fully grammatical. Do not worry about how the original sentence needs to be punctuated before that quotation mark; think about how your sentence needs to be punctuated. Note, for example, that if you are using the MLA system of referencing, a sentence always ends after the parenthetical reference. Do not also include a period before closing the quotation mark, even if there is a period there in the original. For example, do not write,
When the quoted material flows directly from your introductory text, no punctuation should be used before the quotation. A very short quotation may also be introduced without punctuation. The unpunctuated lead-in is most commonly used with run-in quotations, but it is also appropriate for introducing block quotations that flow directly from the introductory text.
A period can be used to introduce a block quotation when the introductory text stands on its own as a complete sentence. In such cases, a colon is also proper—and sometimes preferable.
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Notice as well the punctuation of the sentences above in relation to the quotations. If there are no parenthetical citations in the sentences (no author's name and page number in parentheses), the commas and periods go inside the final quotation mark ("like this."). For whatever reason, this is the way we do it in America. In England, though, the commas and periods go outside of the final punctuation mark.
Direct quotations are the exact words of someone else woven into your writing. Whether it is a quote from a written piece or a speech, the use of direct quotations can spice up your written content, tie in what you are writing about to something specific or provide examples that strengthen a thought or idea. When used correctly and sparingly, direct quotes make an impression that strengthens your words. Direct quotes are always offset with quotation marks. (See the proper way to punctuate and present direct quotes toward the bottom of this article.) Below is an example of a direct quote:
Quotations come from somewhere, and your reader will want to know where. Don’t just parachute quotations into your essay without providing at least some indication of who your source is. Letting your reader know exactly which authorities you rely on is an advantage: it shows that you have done your research and that you are well acquainted with the literature on your topic.
When you are making decisions about how to integrate quotations into your essay, you might imagine that you are reading the essay out loud to an audience. You would not read the parenthetical note. Without some sort of introduction, your audience would not even know that the statement about Roman antiquity was a quotation, let alone where the quotation came from.
Used effectively, quotations can provide important pieces of evidence and lend fresh voices and perspectives to your narrative. Used ineffectively, however, quotations can clutter your text and interrupt the flow of your argument. This handout will help you decide when and how to quote like a pro.
Remembering just a few simple rules can help you use the correct punctuation as you introduce quotations. There are some exceptions to the rules below, but they should help you use the correct punctuation with quotations most of the time.
Learn about using parentheses to provide supplemental information that is punctuated correctly, and create more flavorful content that is engaging.