Using literary quotations
As you choose quotations for a literary analysis, remember the purpose of quoting.
Your paper develops an argument about what the author of the text is doing—how the text "works."
You use quotations to support this argument; that is, you select, present, and discuss material from the text specifically to "prove" your point—to make your case—in much the same way a lawyer brings evidence before a jury.
Punctuating and Indenting Quotations
For the most part, you must reproduce the spelling, capitalization, and internal punctuation of the original exactly.
The following alterations are acceptable:
Changing the closing punctuation
You may alter the closing punctuation of a quotation in order to incorporate it into a sentence of your own:
"Books are not life," Lawrence emphasized.
Commas and periods go inside the closing quotation marks; the other punctuation marks go outside.
Lawrence insisted that books "are not life"; however, he wrote exultantly about the power of the novel.
Why does Lawrence need to point out that "Books are not life"?
Using the slash when quoting poetry
When quoting lines of poetry up to three lines long (which are not indented, see Indenting quotations ), separate one line of poetry from another with a slash mark (see examples in Incorporating Quotations into Sentences ).
Using Ellipsis Points for Omitted Material
If for the sake of brevity you wish to omit material from a quoted passage, use ellipsis points (three spaced periods) to indicate the omission.
(See this sample paragraph . The writer quoted only those portions of the original sentences that related to the point of the analysis.)
Using Square Brackets when Altering Material
When quoting, you may alter grammatical forms such as the tense of a verb or the person of a pronoun so that the quotation conforms grammatically to your own prose; indicate these alterations by placing square brackets around the changed form.
In the following quotation "her" replaces the "your" of the original so that the quote fits the point of view of the paper (third person):
When he hears Cordelia’s answer, Lear seems surprised, but not dumbfounded. He advises her to "mend [her] speech a little." He had expected her to praise him the most; but compared to her sisters’, her remarks seem almost insulting (1.1.95).
Prose or verse quotations less than four lines long are not indented. For quotations of this length, use the patterns described above.
Indent "longer" quotations in a block about ten spaces in from the left margin; when a quotation is indented, quotation marks are not used.
The MLA Handbook (1995) recommends that indented quotations be double-spaced, but many instructors prefer them single-spaced. The meaning of "longer" varies slightly from one style system to another, but a general rule is to indent quotations that are more than two (or three) lines of verse or three (or four) lines of prose.
Indent dialogue between characters in a play. Place the speaker’s name before the speech quoted:
CAESAR: Et tu, Brute! Then, fall, Caesar!
CINNA: Liberty! Freedom! Tyranny is dead! (3.1.77-78)