MLA Tutorial
























Lesson 17: Dropped Quotes (and Why You Should Avoid Them)

A dropped quote is when you “drop” a quote into your writing without first introducing the quote by using a signal phrase. Here is an example of a dropped quote:

Stalin was a terrible dictator. “In 1923 he created a famine that killed about 10 million people” (Ivankin). This famine is called the Holodomor.

In the above example, I “dropped” a sentence from another source into my own writing. It is not, strictly speaking, incorrect, because I did cite it properly. However, the effect is jarring and it is still considered poor writing.

That said, when you are citing only a phrase (not a full sentence), it is sometimes acceptable to "drop" it into your own writing, without introducing it with a signal phrase. Here is an example:

Stalin was a terrible dictator. In 1923 he sent troops into villages in the Ukraine to steal the harvest and all the food from the villagers’ homes. That winter, millions of Ukrainians “dropped dead in the street, lay dying and rotting in their houses, and some women became so desperate for food that they ate their own children” (Motefiore). This period is known as the Holodomor.

In the above example, I got away with dropping the quote because I only quoted part of a sentence, not a full sentence. By starting the sentence in my own words, I was able to do it rather seamlessly.

Until you are sure of what you are doing, avoid dropping quotes unless you are only quoting a short phrase within your own sentence.

Check Your Understanding:

  1. What is a “dropped quote”?
  2. Are dropped quotes good or bad? Is a dropped quote ever acceptable?

Quiz: MLA 17