When and How to Use Block Quotes in Your Essay
You’ve mastered the art of the supporting quote, you’ve developed your skills as an analytical writer, and you’ve even honed your ability to identify different kinds of arguments during your research.
This week, Writing with Design founder Amber Parks will be at the National Title I Conference in Houston, and she’ll be sharing how to foster adept analytical writers at all grade levels. So we thought it would be awesome to compliment her presentation with a tool that’s especially important for analytical writers: the block quote.
What’s that you say, you’ve got quotes and citations down to a science?
So you already know that when it comes to bolstering your writing, a quotation or two from an authoritative source can go a long way. But did you know that the block quote is a special kind of supportive quotation that not only has its own rules, it has its own reasons? Let’s take a look at this powerful writing tool.
What exactly is a block quote?
At it’s essence, a block quote is any quote that meets or exceeds 4 lines of text for prose and 3 lines for poetry. Since the quoted material is slightly longer than a normal in-text quotation, the block quote follows a special set of rules to distinguish it from the rest of your writing. Because of this factor, it has a similar, but slightly different function than you may be used to using in previous essays.
Why would I want to use one when a regular quote would do just fine?
Good question! Because the block quote is longer and formatted differently, it should be used sparingly. After all, we don’t simply want to quote an entire poem or a whole page from a book. That wouldn’t make much sense in an essay that’s all our own.
By using a block quote, you’re showing that there’s something special about the material you’re citing. You’re showing that it’s especially important to take a look at a passage or stanza, giving it more weight. This also means that you’re setting up a chance to really get into the specifics of the quotation, showing how it supports your argument or larger point. Imagine for a second, going line-by-line through a stanza of your favorite poem, picking apart what each word means in relation to the rest. Or think about providing the full context from an authoritative author to show exactly how their most important words mirror your own thinking on a subject. Now we’re talking!
How do I add a block quote to my own essay?
For this article, we’re going to walk you through the steps of how to use a block quote for the MLA style. (You can always reach out to us for a hand with other styles like APA; we’re always happy to help!)
Carefully choose the material you're going to include.
It should all be relevant, and citing it in depth should be necessary to the greater purpose of your essay.
Use a colon at the end of your previous sentence.
Before starting your block quote, prepare your readers for it by ending your previous sentence with a colon.
- Skip a line and the quotation marks.
One big difference you’ll noticed with the block quote is that you don’t use quotation marks like you normally would. You also want to start your quotation on its own line, away from your previous paragraph.
- Indent your paragraph at every line.
To offset your quoted text from the rest of your writing, you’ll indent each line 1 inch from the left margin. This creates a freestanding block of text.
Keep the right-side of your quote flush to the right margin.
At the same time, you’ll want to leave the right-side of your quoted text running flush to the right side of your paper.
Maintain your double spacing.
Just like with the rest of your paper, use a double space between each of your lines in your supporting text.
Place your parenthetical citation after the punctuation of your last sentence.
Finally, exactly like with a regular quote, you need to cite your source. Your reader needs to know who you’re honoring with this important quote! Follow the same rules as you normally would when adding a parenthetical citation.
And that’s it! You’re ready to start using the block quote in your own writing. Remember, use it sparingly!