BK Writing Lab

Formatting Longer Quotations (MLA)
Paul DiGeorgio, Ph.D.


There are specific MLA rules for citing more than 4 lines of quoted prose (and 3 lines of poetry/verse) in a paper or essay. These longer quotations are formatted quite differently than shorter examples.

Instead of including a longer quotation inside of an ordinary paragraph, you have to give this longer quote its own "mini-paragraph" that stands on its own.  Note that this mini-paragraph needs a 1/2 inch indent, but should be in block format. In other words, you should not indent the first word of the paragraph, as you would in a normal situation. Instead, you are indenting the entire paragraph. You should also note that this long quoted passage must have no quotation marks. The parenthetical citation at the end is after the final punctuation mark. Make sure that the quotation is double-spaced just like the rest of your paper or essay.


         In the short story “The Minister’s Black Veil” (1831), Nathaniel Hawthorne uses

the veil as a symbol for sin and guilt. Describing the parson as he gives a sermon

while shrouded in the veil, Hawthorne writes that:

The subject had reference to secret sin, and those sad mysteries which we hide

from our nearest and dearest, and would fain conceal from our own consciousness,

even forgetting that the Omniscient can detect them. A subtle power was

breathed into his words. Each member of the congregation, the most innocent girl,

and the man of hardened breast, felt as if the preacher had crept upon them,

behind his awful veil, and discovered their hoarded iniquity of deed or thought. 

(Hawthorne 473)

Here the minister’s topic affects the way in which his congregation perceives and

interprets his wearing of the veil. Since he is talking about the idea of “secret sin”,

the churchgoers start to feel a bit paranoid, thinking that maybe the parson is

referring to something that they have done but are trying to keep hidden from

public knowledge. The fact that the veil obscures the eyes of the minister means

that no person can be sure that the minister is not looking at them, leading them

to conclude that he must be referring to them when he condemns secret sin.


When you are quoting longer passages from verse the only difference is that you should preserve the original line breaks of your source text.


If you have any questions, send us an email at bkwritinglab@bishopkennyhs.org!


Image Credit: Quote by The Icon Z from the Noun Project

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