How to Write Quotes in an Essay

How to Write Quotes in an Essay. Quoting in an essay is very simple yet it gives your essay more credibility. It allows you to cite someone, building on their work and giving them credit for what they have done. When quoting, be sure not to skip the attribution.

Quotes in essays are useful because they allow you to establish authority and direction when talking about ideas. Used properly in essay papers, quotes help to convey information, provide depth in thinking, support claims, present facts, or serve as examples.

Table of Contents

Understand the Structure of a Quote in an Essay

After the mandatory research stage, you’ve collected enough data and defined some apt phrases. You will include them in your essay, but how will you do it? You can’t just copy and paste them into the text without the context of transitions.

To include a quotation in essay, you need to know the right structure of this text fragment. It is a form with three components: 

  • The Introductory phrase;
  • The quote itself;
  • The commentary. 

Let’s have a look at these components.   

  • The Introductory phrase or a lead-in to the quote does the task of building the context. With its help, you inform your audience about the evidence for your statement. You also describe what that evidence is and what its source is. It adds “weight” to the quote if you refer to some authoritative source.
  • The quote itself is the exact sentence or phrase that you include in your research paper. When you put it into your text, you need to frame it with quotation marks. This method separates the citation from the rest of the work and marks it as someone else’s words. It also is the best anti-plagiarism defense – you won’t plagiarize if you name the source. 
  • Commentary. Even if your quote is strong and expressive, you have to connect it with your statement. For that, you comment that citation. Add a short explanation of the quote’s meaning for your paper. It does not mean that you have to paraphrase the quotation, but you should expose its value as evidence. The commentary usually takes a couple of sentences.

e.g., According to Joseph Campbell, “If the deeds of an actual historical figure proclaim him to have been a hero, the builders of his legend will invent for him appropriate adventures.” This statement perfectly relates to the legends about such historical leaders as Cyrus II of Copied from Persia. 

Things You Should Know Before Quoting Someone

Citations are necessary and useful. But using quotes in an essay has its rules that you have to know to do it in the right way. They are not difficult, and they refer to the logic of using citations and their format. Both of these aspects are essential.  

The wrong choice of quotes ruins the overall experience of your essay. As for the form – even the most suitable evidence without the right formatting will do nothing but harm. Unfortunately, the incorrect format is an error as grave as the absence of reference at all. That’s why let’s examine both these aspects.

Logic of usage of quotes in essay papers
If you have a set of citations that you would like to include in your academic paper, you need to evaluate them first. The accurate quote must meet several criteria.

Relevancy. Never take quotes that don’t relate to your thesis directly. Quotes must be thematic. Besides, you need to consider their authors. If it is a statement of some person not associated with your field professionally – it will be irrelevant. You should not introduce quotes for their form only – target towards their essence.
Analysis. When you choose quotes for your essay, remember that you have to develop a context for them. Hence, consider your capabilities of analyzing such quotations in essay. You have to understand them precisely, and you need to fit them in your text. Quotes must not be there for their own sake – they have to support your words and serve as reliable evidence of your rightness.
A reasonable share of quotes in your essay. Don’t overuse them; your job is to offer your ideas and understanding of the subject. If you use direct quotes, their overall volume should not exceed 5-10% of the text – it is the allowed share.  [Original source:]

How to Write Quotes in an Essay

Incorporating a Short Quote

  1. Incorporate short direct quotes into a sentence. A short quote is anything that is shorter than 4 typed lines. When you use a short quote, include it directly in your paragraph, along with your own words. To help the reader understand the quote and why you’re using it, write a full sentence that includes the quote, rather than just lifting a sentence from another work and putting it into your paper.
    • For instance, let’s say this is the quote you want to use: “The brown leaves symbolize the death of their relationship, while the green buds suggest new opportunities will soon unfold.”
    • If you just type that sentence into your essay and put quotes around it, your reader will be disoriented. Instead, you could incorporate it into a sentence like this: “The imagery in the story mirrors what’s happening in Lia’s love life, as ‘The brown leaves symbolize the death of their relationship, while the green buds suggest new opportunities will soon unfold.'”
  2. Use a lead-in to introduce the quote. The lead in provides some context to the quote. It lets the reader know that you’re presenting evidence or support, as well as where that support comes from. In many cases, you’ll use the author’s name, but this isn’t always necessary. Here are some examples of how to introduce a short quote:[2]
    • “Critic Alex Li says, ‘The frequent references to the color blue are used to suggest that the family is struggling to cope with the loss of their matriarch.'”
    • “According to McKinney’s research, ‘Adults who do yoga at least three times a week have lower blood pressure, better sleeping patterns, and fewer everyday frustrations.'”
    • “Based on several recent studies, people are more likely to sit on the park benches when they’re shaded by trees.”
  3. Put quotation marks around the direct quote. Use quotation marks anytime you include someone else’s words in your own paper. This lets the reader know that you have borrowed from another writer. As long as you use quotation marks and cite the source where you got the material, you can use someone else’s ideas without plagiarizing.[3]
    • You still need to use quotation marks even if you’re only quoting a few words.
    • If you’re in doubt, it’s best to be cautious and use quotes.
  4. Provide commentary after a quote to explain how it supports your ideas. A quote doesn’t support your ideas unless you analyze it and link it back to your thesis. After the quote, write 1-3 sentences explaining what the quote means, why it supports your topic sentence, and how it supports your argument overall.[4]
    • For example, let’s say you used the quote, “According to McKinney’s research, ‘Adults who do yoga at least three times a week have lower blood pressure, better sleeping patterns, and fewer everyday frustrations.’” Your commentary might read, “This shows that yoga can have a positive impact on people’s health, so incorporating it into the workplace can help improve employee health outcomes. Since yoga makes employees healthier, they’ll likely have reduced insurance costs.”
  5. Paraphrase the quote if you can restate the author’s ideas in your own words. Paraphrasing is when you restate someone else’s ideas in your own words. It’s a great way to incorporate evidence into your paper without using a direct quote every time. Although you don’t need to use quotes around a paraphrase, you do need to cite it.
    • When you use a paraphrase, you still need to provide commentary that links the paraphrased material back to your thesis and ideas.

Using a Long Quote

  1. 1Introduce a long direct quote, then set it off in a block. A long quote is anything that’s longer than 4 typed lines. You’ll present these quotes in a block of text set off from the rest of your paragraph. Because the quote is set off in a block, you don’t need to put quotation marks around it.
    • The reader will recognize that the material is a direct quote because it’s set off from the rest of the text. That’s why you don’t need to use quotation marks. However, you will include your citation at the bottom.
  2. Write an introductory lead-in to tell the reader what the quote is about. For a block quote, your lead in will be an entire sentence that explains what the reader should understand after reading the block quote. At the end of this sentence, put a colon. Then, put your block quote. This is how you would lead into a block quote:
    • “In The Things They Carried, the items carried by soldiers in the Vietnam war are used to both characterize them and burden the readers with the weight they are carrying:

      The things they carried were largely determined by necessity. Among the necessities or near-necessities were P-38 can openers, pocket knives, heat tabs, wristwatches, dog tags, mosquito repellent, chewing gum, candy cigarettes, salt tablets, packets of Kool-Aid, lighters, matches, sewing kits, Military Payment Certificates, C rations, and two or three canteens of water.” (O’Brien 2)Variation: When you’re citing two or more paragraphs, you must use block quotes, even if the passage you want to quote is less than four lines long. You should indent the first line of each paragraph an extra quarter inch. Then, use ellipses (…) at the end of one paragraph to transition to the next.
  3. Indent the block quote by .5 inches (1.3 cm) from the left margin. Press the tab key to move the lines over. Make sure your entire quote is indented so that your reader will recognize that it’s set off from the rest of the text.[8]
    • Your block quote will use the same spacing as the rest of your paper, which will likely be double-spacing.
  4. Use an ellipsis to omit a word or words from a direct quote. Sometimes you want to shorten a quote to help your reader better understand why it supports your argument. Similarly, you may want to cut out words that aren’t essential to the quote’s meaning. To cut out a word or words, you just need to put an ellipsis (…) in place of the words.[9]
    • For example, “According to Li, “Rosa is the first sister to pick a rose because she’s the only one who’s begun to move on after their mother’s death” might become “According to Li, “Rosa is the first sister to pick a rose because she’s … begun to move on after their mother’s death.”
    • Don’t eliminate words to change the meaning of the original text. For instance, it’s not appropriate to use an ellipsis to change “plants did not grow faster when exposed to poetry” to “plants did … grow faster when exposed to poetry.”
  5. Put brackets around words you need to add to a quote for clarification. Sometimes you need to add a word or words to a quote in order for your reader to understand it. This can help you explain pronouns used in the direct quote or further explain what a quote is referencing. Brackets allow you to add or replace words, as long as you don’t change the meaning of the text.
    • For example, let’s say you want to use the quote, “All of them experienced a more relaxed, calmer disposition after doing yoga for 6 months.” This doesn’t tell the reader who you’re talking about. You could use brackets to say, “All of [the teachers in the study] experienced a more relaxed, calmer disposition after doing yoga for 6 months.”
    • However, if you know the study is talking about teachers, you couldn’t use brackets to say, “All of [society experiences] a more relaxed, calmer disposition after doing yoga for 6 months.”
  6. Provide commentary after a quote to explain how it supports your ideas. A block quote requires more commentary than a short quote. At a minimum, write 2-3 sentences analyzing the quote and linking it back to your thesis. However, you may need to provide longer commentary to fully explain the quote to your reader.
    • If you don’t explain your quote well, then it’s not helping your ideas. You can’t expect the reader to connect the quote back to your thesis for you.
  7. Paraphrase the quote to condense it to 1 or 2 sentences, if you can. Paraphrasing is a great way to avoid using a long quote in your paper. Unless the author’s original words are necessary to make your point, rewrite the passage in your own words. Try to condense the original author’s ideas into 1 or 2 sentences that support your argument. Then, incorporate your paraphrase into your paragraph, without using quotation marks. However, do include a citation to let your reader know where you found those ideas.
    • For instance, you may prefer to use a long block quote to present a passage from a literary work that demonstrates the author’s style. However, let’s say you were using a journal article to provide a critic’s perspective on an author’s work. You may not need to directly quote an entire paragraph word-for-word to get their point across. Instead, use a paraphrase.Tip: If you’re unsure about a quote, ask yourself, “Can I paraphrase this in more concise language and not lose any support for my argument?” If the answer is yes, a quote is not necessary.

Citing Your Quote

  1. Cite the author’s last name and page number in parentheses to cite in MLA. Write out the author’s last name, then list the numerical page number. You don’t need to separate them with a comma, and you don’t need to put “p.” or “page” before the page number.
    • An MLA citation will look like this: (Lopez 24)
    • For sources with multiple authors, separate their names with the word “and:” (Anderson and Smith 55-56) or (Taylor, Gomez, and Austin 89)
    • If you use the author’s name in your lead-in to the quote, you just need to provide the year in parentheses: According to Luz Lopez, “the green grass symbolizes a fresh start for Lia (24).”
  2. Include the author’s last name, the year, and the page number for APA format. Write the author’s name, then put a comma. Add the year and another comma. Finally, write “p.” followed by the page number.[14]
    • An APA citation for a direct quote looks like this: (Ronan, 2019, p. 10)
    • If you’re citing multiple authors, separate their names with the word “and:” (Cruz, Hanks, and Simmons, 2019, p. 85)
    • If you incorporated the author’s name into your lead-in, you can just give the year and page number: Based on Ronan’s (2019, p. 10) analysis, “coffee breaks improve productivity.”
  3. Use the author’s last name, date, and page number for Chicago Style. List the author’s last name and then the date, but don’t put a comma between them. After the date, put a comma and then the page numbers. You don’t need to write “p.” or “page.”
    • For instance, a Chicago Style citation will look like this: (Alexander 2019, 125)
    • If you’re quoting a source with multiple authors, separate them with the word “and:” (Pattinson, Stewart, and Green 2019, 175)
    • If you already incorporated the author’s name into your quote, then you can just provide the year and page number: According to Alexander, “the smell of roses increases feelings of happiness” (2019, 125).
  4. Prepare a Works Cited or References page. Each style guide has its own requirements for listing your reference sources, so make sure you follow the style guide you’re using to format your paper. For MLA formatting, you’ll prepare a Works Cited page, APA formatting requires a References page, and Chicago Style formatting will have either a References page or a Bibliography. On this page, list all of your sources in alphabetical order, along with the publishing information. This allows your reader to find the sources you used in your paper.
    • For MLA, you’d cite an article like this: Lopez, Luz. “A Fresh Blossom: Imagery in ‘Her Darkest Sunshine.'” Journal of Stories, vol. 2, no. 5, 2019, p. 15-22.
    • In APA, you’d cite an article like this: Lopez, Luz. (2019). A Fresh Blossom: Imagery in “Her Darkest Sunshine.” Journal of Stories, 2(5), 15-22.[18]
    • For Chicago Style, your article citation would look like this: Lopez, Luz. “A Fresh Blossom: Imagery in ‘Her Darkest Sunshine.'” Journal of Stories 2 no. 4 (2019): 15-22.

Selecting a Quote

  1. Select a quote that backs up the argument you’re making. The quote should act as “evidence” for what you want the reader to believe. This might include an expert opinion, study results, or statistics. If you’re writing about literature, you can directly quote from the text to illustrate a point or quote the words of a critic to support your claims about a text. Tip: Quotes are most effective when the original language of the person or text you’re quoting is worth repeating word-for-word.
  2. Make sure the quote is something you can analyze. You don’t want to just drop a quote in your paragraph and keep writing. This doesn’t help you support your arguments, as you haven’t linked the quote back to your own ideas. Without analysis, you can’t make your point to the reader.
    • If you’re struggling to explain the quote or link it back to your argument, then it’s likely not a good idea to include it in your essay.
  3. Avoid using too many direct quotes in your paper. Using a lot of direct quotes will take away from your own ideas. This can undermine your argument and make you lose credibility with your reader. Try not to use more than 1 direct quote in a paragraph. Instead, use a paraphrase or a summary to support your ideas.
    • Paraphrases and summaries work just like a direct quote, except that you don’t need to put quotation marks around them because you’re using your own words to restate ideas. However, you still need to cite the sources you used.


Quotation marks are used in essay writing when you are making direct quotes from another source. This can be a book, speech, poem, online article or even another person’s essay. The use of quotation marks when quoting others is what identifies the author’s exact words in your essay versus your own thoughts or interpretations of  them. This makes it clear to the reader who said what in your essay. It also allows you to easily identify when you are making an interpretation about an author’s views and not stating something as fact.

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