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Lesson 16: Block Quotes

As noted in the previous lesson, sometimes—when quoting a very good “witness,”—it is desirable to quote more than one sentence. Sometimes you might even quote five, six, or more sentences. However, if the quote is “more than four lines long,” you must turn it into a block quote.

Memorize this rule:

4 lines or less = in-line quote
5 lines or more = block quote

Consider the following example, which is incorrect:

 
Turkey’s secret police often uses torture. According to one victim: “I loosened the blindfold and looked around. The scene was horrific. People were piled up in the corridor waiting their turn to be tortured. Ten people were being led, blindfolded and naked, up and down the corridor and were being beaten to force them to sing reactionary marches. Others, incapable of standing, were tied to hot radiator pipes. A man was forced to watch while his children were tortured” (qtd. in Bernstein).
 


The above example is incorrect because the quote takes up more than four lines of the page. The correct way to format this quote would be like this:

 

Turkey’s secret police often uses torture. According to one victim:

I loosened the blindfold and looked around. The scene was horrific. People were piled up in the corridor waiting their turn to be tortured. Ten people were being led, blindfolded and naked, up and down the corridor and were being beaten to force them to sing reactionary marches. Others, incapable of standing, were tied to hot radiator pipes. A man was forced to watch while his children were tortured. (qtd. in Bernstein)

 


Note the following points:

Caution:

Many teachers frown on the use of block quotes, because they feel that students overuse them. It’s true. Many students do fill up their papers with long block quotes because it is an easy way to meet the length requirement for a long paper. Be judicious when using block quotes. If the quote is powerful and important for your argument, go ahead and use it. But if the quote just contains a bunch of dry information that could just as effectively be put into your own words—then don’t be lazy: put the information in your own words.

Rules for My Classes:

Reminder: Any time you quote someone’s exact words, whether you are quoting a phrase, sentence, or a paragraph, you must cite your source!

Check Your Understanding:

  1. What is a block quote?
  2. What is the rule for block quotes? (When should they be used?)
  3. Should block quotes be centered?
  4. Should the block quote have an even left margin, or should the first line be indented .5 inch?
  5. Do block quotes get put in quotation marks?
  6. In block quotes, does the parenthetical citation come before the final punctuation, or after it?
  7. Why do some teachers frown on the use of block quotes?
  8. What is Mr. Hall’s rule regarding the use of block quotes?
    • How many block quotes can you use from the same source?
    • What is the maximum length for any block quote?

Quiz: MLA 16