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English

When writing, you need to provide evidence to back up your ideas. Sometimes you can explain what a source says in your own words. But sometimes you need to use the source's exact words. This is where you need a direct quote. A direct quote is an exact copy of words from a source. Direct quotes are important for giving evidence and meaning to your ideas.

Meaning of a direct quote

A direct quote is an exact copy of words from a source. A direct quote can include anything from one word to several sentences from a source.

Direct Quote, Direct Quoting Hamlet, StudySmarterDirect quotes don't have to use the full passage. StudySmarter Originals

A source is an object used to gather information and ideas. Sources can be written, spoken, audio, or visual materials.

The importance of using direct quotes

Direct quotes are important for supporting and emphasizing specific points in an essay. Effectively choosing and using direct quotes is an important writing skill.

Some of the benefits of using direct quotes are:

  • They allow you to analyze specific passages in a source.
  • They emphasize an author's opinion.
  • They stay true to a source's wording and intent.
  • They support your argument with especially memorable statements.

When should I use direct quotes?

Use direct quotes only a few times throughout an essay for emphasis, analysis, and evidence.

Direct quotes can be really helpful! But using too many of them can be distracting. An essay is supposed to be your own original work. When writing, use direct quotes sparingly. Focus on your own arguments and ideas. Use direct quotes only when necessary. Be strategic in your choices.

Use direct quotes when:

  • The exact words of a source are important for understanding the source's meaning.
  • The source's words are particularly important or memorable.
  • You are analyzing the words and phrases of the source.
  • You are emphasizing an author's opinion and don't want to misrepresent their ideas.

You might ask, what else can I use besides direct quotes? Not all evidence needs to be in a source's exact words. Sometimes you need to translate a source for the reader. You can do this by paraphrasing and summarizing sources.

Paraphrasing is describing one key idea, concept, or fact from a source. Think of paraphrasing as your translation of one idea from a source (not the whole source).

Summarizing is providing a general overview of a source. Think of it as your translation of the source and its main idea. Summaries are always in your own words.

When writing, use a balanced blend of direct quote, paraphrase, and summary.

What do I include in a direct quote?

A direct quote should include the exact words from a source, punctuation, and an introduction. Let's look at each of these elements more closely.

Using a source's exact words

Direct quotes always include the exact words of a source. This doesn't mean you have to use an entire sentence, though. A direct quote can be just one word. Or it can be a phrase. Using a word or phrase from a source is called a partial quote. Partial quotes are helpful for smoothly integrating direct quotes into your own sentences.

Johnson argues the use of standardized testing is, "ridiculously outdated."

*Note how the quote includes only a couple of Johnson's words. This way the quote complements the writer's ideas. Too many of Johnson's words would have distracted the reader from the writer's opinion.

Of course, direct quotes can be longer. They can be full sentences. Direct quotes can even be several sentences long! Direct quotes that include several sentences from a source are called block quotes. You won't need to use block quotes very often. They use a lot of valuable space in your essay.

Only use block quotes when:

  • you are analyzing the words used in the entire passage.
  • the entire passage is necessary to provide an example of your ideas.

In The Tyger, William Blake uses contrasts to emphasize his description of the tiger. In his questions to the tiger, he suggests the tiger is one of God's creatures. However, he questions how God could make something so beautiful and terrifying alongside more gentle creatures.

When the stars threw down their spears, And water'd heaven with their tears, Did he smile his work to see? Did he who made the Lamb make thee?1

In this passage, Blake is describing the biblical tale of God creating the earth. He contrasts the tiger with the biblical symbol of purity, the lamb.

*Note how the block quote in the above example is indented. This sets it apart from the rest of the paragraph. The writer introduces the block quote beforehand. Then, they analyze the passage afterward.

Examples of punctuating direct quotes

Did you notice how the examples above are punctuated differently? The partial quote uses double quotation marks, a comma, and a period. The block quote uses no quotation marks. It only includes punctuation copied from the source.

The punctuation you use for direct quotes depends on the type of direct quote. Let's go over how to use different types of punctuation in direct quotes.

Quotation Marks

All direct quotes should be separated from your words. For longer quotes, like block quotes, you can start the quote on a new line and indent it. This separates it from the rest of the paragraph.

For shorter quotes that are three lines or fewer, you can use quotation marks to separate them. Use double quotation marks on each side of the quote. This separates it from your words.

Fitzgerald reflects on the futility of trying to escape the past when he says, "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."2

Sometimes you might use a direct quote that contains another direct quote. This is called a nested quotation or a quote within a quote.

Direct Quote Double vs. Single Quotation Marks StudySmarterNested quotations use a single quotation mark within double quotation marks. StudySmarter Originals

To separate the nested quote from the surrounding quote, enclose it in single quotation marks.

In The Great Gatsby, Nick Carraway introduces the story by quoting his father: “‘Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone,’ he told me, ‘just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.’”

*Note how double quotation marks separate the direct quote from the rest of the sentence. Single quotation marks separate Carraway's father's quote from Carraway's words.

Commas and Periods

When punctuating direct quotes, focus on how they fit into your sentence. For example, you might end a direct quote with a comma if it appears at the beginning of your sentence.

"The phone, though incredibly expensive, became a pop culture symbol," reports Amanda Ray.3

*Note how the comma appears BEFORE the closing quotation marks in the above example.

If the direct quote appears toward the end of your sentence, you can use a comma before the quote to connect it to your words. You will also need a period at the end.

According to Amanda Ray, "The phone, though incredibly expensive, became a pop culture symbol."

*Note how the comma appears BEFORE the opening quotation marks. The period at the end also appears BEFORE the closing quotation marks.

When using a direct quote without citations, the period always comes before closing quotation marks. However, when citing a direct quote, the period comes after the in-text citation.

In-text citation is a short reference to a source. In-text citation appears in parentheses after the quote. It includes the author's last name, the page number or other locator, and sometimes the year of publication.

The information you include in an in-text citation depends on the citation style you are using. See the section titled Citing direct quotes in MLA and APA styles below for more details.

The example below is in MLA format. You can find more examples of APA and MLA in-text citations below.

Although cell phones were very expensive at first, Amanda Ray says they quickly "became a pop culture symbol" (1).

*Note where the period goes in the above example. The period always appears AFTER the in-text citation. Also note how there is no comma joining the quote to the sentence. This is because the writer used a partial quote to seamlessly integrate it without a comma.

Examples of direct quote introductions

Never insert a direct quote as a stand-alone sentence. Direct quotes are most effective when you integrate them into your own sentences. An easy way to integrate direct quotes is to introduce them in your own words.

There are three main ways to introduce a direct quote:

  • Introductory sentence
  • Introductory signal phrase
  • Blended partial quote

Let's take a closer look at each type of introduction with examples.

Introductory Sentence

An introductory sentence is a full sentence. It summarizes the main point of the direct quote you are introducing. It ends in a colon to connect it to the direct quote.

Introductory sentences are helpful for:

  • Block Quotes
  • Full-sentence direct quotes

According to Amanda Ray, the purpose of the cell phone has changed over time: "We now use our cell phones more for surfing the web, checking email, snapping photos, and updating our social media status than actually placing calls."

*Note how BOTH the introductory sentence AND the direct quote are full sentences. This is why the colon is needed.

Introductory Signal Phrase

An introductory signal phrase is a short phrase that mentions the source of a direct quote. The introductory signal phrase is not a full sentence. An introductory signal phrase ends in a comma.

Introductory signal phrases are helpful for:

  • full-sentence direct quotes

According to Amanda Ray, "We now use our cell phones more for surfing the web, checking email, snapping photos, and updating our social media status than actually placing calls."

Did you notice that the introductory signal phrase does not include a summary of the source's main idea? When using this method, always follow up with a summary of the main point in the next sentence. That way you can show the reader why you included the quote.

Blended partial quote

The best way to integrate a quote is to use a blended partial quote. A blended partial quote is a phrase from a source that doesn’t form a full sentence. You can blend partial quotes into your sentences more smoothly than full-sentence direct quotes.

Blended partial quotes are helpful for:

  • Integrating key words, ideas, and phrases without using full sentences
  • Highlighting your own ideas while still supporting them

The purpose of cell phones has changed, and we now use them "more for surfing the web, checking email, snapping photos, and updating our social media status" than for placing phone calls, as Amanda Ray reports.

*Note how the above example emphasizes the writer's ideas rather than the source's ideas. The partial quotes are used to support their ideas rather than replace them.

Notice where the commas are in the above example? Since the partial quote integrates so smoothly into the sentence, commas are not needed to blend them. Partial quotes are the exception to the punctuation rule for commas!

Citing direct quotes in MLA & APA styles

The two main citation styles you will use in an English class are MLA and APA.

MLA is the Modern Language Association's citation style. This citation style focuses on easily citing texts from different time periods. This is the style you will use most frequently in English literature and language classes.

APA is the American Psychological Association's citation style. This citation style focuses on being specific. This style is most helpful when you are synthesizing a lot of different sources.

Citing direct quotes in MLA style

There are three main rules for citing direct quotes in MLA style:

  1. Short quotes = less than 3 lines of poetry OR 4 lines of prose
  2. Block quotes = more than 3 lines of poetry OR 4 lines of prose
  3. In-text citations include the author's name and the page number (or other locator).

MLA in-text citations

In general, MLA in-text citations should look like this:

"Quote" (Author last name #)

Most ancient Greek and Roman texts were recorded on papyrus, which was "extremely vulnerable to rotting and wear and tear" (Hall 4).4

If you name the author in your sentence, you do not need to include their name in the in-text citation. That will look more like this:

...Author name..."quote" (#).

Historian Edith Hall explains how ancient Greek and Roman texts were recorded on papyrus, which was "extremely vulnerable to wear and tear" (4).

Citing direct quotes in APA style

There are three main rules for citing direct quotes in APA style:

  1. Short quotes = quotes under 40 words OR less than 4 lines
  2. Block quotes = quotes longer than 40 words OR more than 4 lines
  3. In-text citations include the author's name, the year of publication, and the page number.

APA in-text citations

In general, APA citations should look like this:

"Quote" (Author last name, year, p. #).

Most ancient Greek and Roman texts were recorded on papyrus, which was "extremely vulnerable to rotting and wear and tear" (Hall, 2015, p. 4).

However, there are exceptions to this rule. For instance, if you name the author in the sentence, it should look more like this:

...Author name (year)..."quote" (p.#).

Historian Edith Hall (2015) explains how ancient Greek and Roman texts were recorded on papyrus, which was "extremely vulnerable to wear and tear" (p. 4).

Citing block quotes in MLA or APA

When citing a block quote in either MLA or APA, follow these rules:

  • Do not use quotation marks.
  • Start block quotes on a new line, with the entire quote indented 1/2 inch from the margin.
  • Do not add extra space before or after the quote.
  • Follow the same rules as short quotes for in-text citations.
  • Place the in-text citation AFTER the period.

MLA example:

People did not always know how to properly care for ancient texts. So, many ancient texts were destroyed, as in the following example:

Unfortunately, the uneducated owners of the books decided to conceal them as if they were gold or coins, in a dug-out trench. They were damaged dreadfully by both moisture and moths. When they were finally purchased, it was by a man who loved to collect books rather than by a philosopher, and he “restored” the texts in such an amateurish way that, when they were eventually published, they were found to be full of mistakes. (Hall 4)

The only difference between APA and MLA block quotations is the in-text citation!

Quotes with no page numbers

Some sources do not have page numbers. Web pages, videos, and poetry often do not have page numbers.

When citing in APA style, you will NOT need to include any type of locator if a page number is not available.

When citing in MLA style, you WILL need to use a different kind of locator to replace the missing page number.

Here are some of the different types of locators you can use in place of page numbers:

Locator typeType of source it's used forWhat to include with example
Line numberPoetry and song lyricsInclude the number of the lines the quote comes from.Example: (lines 19-20)
Act, Scene, and Line numbersPlays and screenplaysInclude the number of the act and scene the quote comes from, as well as the lines numbers. Example for Act 1, Scene 2, lines 94-95: (1.2.94–95)
Section heading or chapter numberE-books without page numbers, blog posts, websitesInclude the section name or chapter number. Example of section name: ("Quotes with no page numbers" sec.)Example of chapter number: (ch. 3)
Paragraph numberWebsites, blog posts, short stories, news and magazine articlesInclude the paragraph number. Example: (par. 1)
TimestampMovies, tv shows, YouTube videos, audiobooks
Include the range of hours, minutes and seconds. Example: (00:02:15-00:02:35)

Direct Quote - Key takeaways

  • A direct quote is an exact copy of words from a source. A direct quote can include anything from one word to several sentences from a source.
  • Direct quotes are important for supporting and emphasizing specific points in an essay.
  • Use direct quotes only a few times throughout an essay for emphasis, analysis, and evidence.
  • A direct quote should include the exact words from a source, punctuation, and an introduction.
  • The two main citation styles you will use in an English class are MLA (The Modern Language Association) style and APA (The American Psychological Association) style. MLA is more common for writing in English literature and language.

1. William Blake, "The Tyger," 1969.

2. F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, 1925.

4. Amanda Ray, "The History and Evolution of Cell Phones," The Art Institutes, 2015.

5. Edith Hall, "Adventures in Ancient Greek and Roman Libraries," The Meaning of The Library: A Cultural History, 2015.

Direct Quote

A direct quote is an exact copy of words from a source. A direct quote can include anything from one word to several sentences from a source. 

To cite direct quotes in APA, add a parenthetical in-text citation that includes the author's name, the year of publication, and the page number. It should look like this: "Quote" (Author last name, year, p.#).

An example of a direct quote is as follows: Most ancient Greek and Roman texts were recorded on papyrus, which was "extremely vulnerable to rotting and wear and tear" (Hall, 2015, p. 4). 

Direct quotes are important for supporting and emphasizing specific points in an essay.  

You should only give direct quotes a few times throughout an essay for emphasis, analysis, and evidence.  Use direct quotes when the exact words from a are important to understand the source's meaning or are particularly memorable.

Final Direct Quote Quiz

Question

What is a direct quote?

Show answer

Answer

A direct quote is an exact copy of words from a source. A direct quote can include anything from one word to several sentences from a source. 

Show question

Question

What is a source? 

Show answer

Answer

A source is an object used to gather information and ideas. Sources can be written, spoken, audio, or visual materials.

Show question

Question

What are some of the benefits of using direct quotes?

Show answer

Answer

Direct quotes allow a writer to analyze specific passages in a source.

Show question

Question

Should a writer use a lot of direct quotes in their essay?

Show answer

Answer

No. Direct quotes should only be used when necessary.

Show question

Question

When should a writer use direct quotes in their essay?

Show answer

Answer

When the exact words of a source are important for understanding the source's meaning.

Show question

Question

What should a direct quote include?

Show answer

Answer

the exact words from a source

Show question

Question

What is a quote that is longer than 4 lines called? 

Show answer

Answer

A quote that is longer than 4 lines is called a block quote.

Show question

Question

When should one use a block quote?

Show answer

Answer

When they are analyzing the words of an entire passage

Show question

Question

How are block quotes and short quotes punctuated differently?

Show answer

Answer

Short quotes use quotation marks. Block quotes do not. 

Show question

Question

How does one punctuate a quote within a quote (a nested quote)?

Show answer

Answer

single quotation marks within double quotation marks

Show question

Question

What is in-text citation?

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Answer

In-text citation is a short reference to a source. In-text citation appears in parentheses after the quote. 

Show question

Question

What does in-text citation include in MLA style?

Show answer

Answer

In-text citation in MLA style includes the author name and the page number. Ex. (Hall 4).

Show question

Question

What does in-text citation include in APA style?

Show answer

Answer

In-text citation in APA style includes the author's name, the year of publication, and the page number. Ex. (Hall, 2015, p. 4).

Show question

Question

Which type of introduction is the best way to integrate a direct quote into a sentence?

Show answer

Answer

blended partial quote

Show question

Question

Which in-text citation below is in MLA style?

Show answer

Answer

(Smith 24)

Show question

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