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How to Block Quote | A Guide with Examples

Published by at October 17th, 2023 , Revised On October 17, 2023

In any form of written communication, be it academic writing, journalism, or even casual blogging, there comes a time when we need to reference another’s words to support, explain, or emphasise our points. This is where block quotes come into play. Block quotes and paraphrasing in sources are both essential techniques when relying on external materials.

A block quote is a direct, word-for-word replication of a section from another source, usually set apart from the main text. It is often indented, italicised, or presented in a different font or size to clearly distinguish it from the original writing.

Beyond just quoting, block quotes serve as a visual marker, signalling readers that the words they are reading aren’t the author’s original thoughts but rather an extraction from another source. Properly integrating sources is a crucial skill, and using block quotes is one of the ways to achieve it.

So, why is it important to use block quotes?

Preserving Original Meaning

By quoting directly, we ensure that the original author’s meaning is preserved, reducing the risk of misinterpretation.

Lending Credibility

When making a claim or stating a fact, presenting a direct quote from a reputable source lends more credibility to your statements.

Highlighting Significant Information

Sometimes, the original way something was said is so impactful that paraphrasing doesn’t do it justice. In these instances, a block quote is a perfect choice.

What is a Block Quote?

A block quote, often referred to as a “long quotation” or “extract,” is a lengthy quotation that is separated from the main body of the text, typically by being indented, set in a smaller font size, or both. The exact length that qualifies a quote to be block-quoted varies between citation styles, but it usually starts from around 40 words or more. This distinguishes it from regular quotations, which are integrated into the text and enclosed in quotation marks.

Unlike regular quotations, block quotes typically do not have quotation marks at the beginning or end (though there are exceptions based on specific formatting styles). The primary purpose is to visually separate it, signalling the reader that they are about to delve into a direct excerpt from another source.

When and why to Use Block Quotes

A few situations where you should use block quotes are discussed below. 

Length of the Quote

As previously mentioned, once a quote surpasses a certain length (often around 40 words, but this may vary), it’s recommended to format it as a block quote.

Preservation of Originality 

There are times when the original phrasing of a statement carries weight, emotion, or clarity that cannot be matched by paraphrasing. In such cases, a block quote retains the original’s power.

Focus on the Source

Using a block quote can draw the reader’s attention to the significance of the cited information. It emphasises the importance of the content being quoted.

Avoiding Plagiarism

Especially in academic and research writing, presenting someone else’s ideas as your own is a serious offence. Block quotes, combined with proper citation, ensure that credit is appropriately given.

Clarifying or Supporting Arguments

When discussing complex topics, a direct quote from an expert or primary source can clarify or further support your argument.

Different Styles and Their Guidelines

Each academic and professional field often adheres to a particular citation style, which dictates how sources are cited and how block quotes are presented. Source evaluation is another integral part of this process, ensuring the credibility and reliability of the referenced materials. Here, we will explore three popular styles: APA, MLA, and Chicago.

APA Format

The American Psychological Association (APA) format is a widely used style in the social sciences. It offers guidelines on how to structure papers, cite sources, and format text—including block quotes.

Using APA correctly adds credibility to a piece of writing and ensures the reader can trace back to the original sources of information.

How to Format Block Quotes in APA

  • Begin the block quote on a new line.
  • Indent the entire block quote ½ inch (or five to seven spaces) from the left margin.
  • Do not use quotation marks around the block quote.
  • Use double-spacing throughout, just as you would with the rest of the paper.
  • The citation should come after the punctuation at the end of the block quote.

Example of a Block Quote in APA

Smith (2020) highlights the impact of global warming:
Climate change has accelerated at a pace previously unforeseen by scientists. The repercussions of this rapid environmental shift are evidenced by the increasing frequency of natural disasters, the migration of species, and the alteration of global weather patterns. (p. 45)

MLA Format

The Modern Language Association (MLA) format is primarily used in the humanities, especially in writings on literature and language.

It aids in providing a uniform structure to papers and essays, making them more accessible and credible to readers.

How to Format Block Quotes in MLA

  • Begin the block quote on a new line without quotation marks.
  • Indent the entire block quote one inch (or ten spaces) from the left margin.
  • Maintain double-spacing.
  • Place the citation, without a period, after the last sentence of the block quote. The regular text can then resume after this citation.

Example of a Block Quote in MLA

In her novel, Morrison paints a poignant picture of her characters’ struggles:
Life was no longer something to endure but to live. Every aspect of the environment, from the vast skies to the intricate patterns on a butterfly’s wings, became a source of fascination and joy. (287)

Chicago Style

Chicago Manual of Style, or simply Chicago style, is widely used in history, business, and fine arts.

It offers comprehensive guidelines for publishing, making it invaluable for authors, researchers, and editors.

How to Format Block Quotes in Chicago Style

  • Start the block quote on a new line, indented 0.5 inches from the left margin.
  • Single-space the block quote, but leave a line space before and after.
  • No quotation marks are used.
  • Citations can be placed either as footnotes or endnotes, depending on the preference or instruction for the paper.

Example of a Block Quote in Chicago Style

As Davidson postulates in his study:
The Renaissance period, while recognised for its artistic and intellectual achievements, also witnessed significant advancements in scientific reasoning. This dual evolution of art and science made it one of the most dynamic periods in human history.^1
^1 Davidson, Richard. The Dual Face of the Renaissance. Chicago University Press, 2019, p. 132.

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Common Mistakes to Avoid in Getting Block Quotes

Using block quotes can elevate your writing, offering solid evidence for your claims and enhancing the depth of your content. However, mistakes in their usage can detract from the content, causing confusion or even casting doubts on the credibility of your work. One aspect of information literacy is knowing when and how to use block quotes effectively. Let’s delve into some common pitfalls and how to sidestep them.

Not Introducing or Contextualising the Block Quote

  • Mistake: Dropping a block quote into your writing without any introduction can be jarring for readers. It can leave them puzzled about the quote’s relevance or significance.
  • Solution: Always introduce a block quote. This could be as simple as stating the author’s name and credentials or offering a summary of the quote’s significance. Contextualising helps the reader understand why the quote is there and how it supports your argument or narrative. 

Wrong: Climate change is a significant concern. Climate change has accelerated at a pace…
Right: According to environmental scientist Dr Jane Smith, Climate change has accelerated at a pace…

Quoting too Much or too Little

  • Mistake: Using excessively long block quotes can lose the reader’s interest or make it seem like you’re filling space. On the other hand, quoting too little might strip the context of the full meaning from the source.
  • Solution: Be judicious in selecting what to quote. Ensure the quote is long enough to capture the essence of the point but concise enough to keep the reader’s interest.

Wrong: Quoting an entire page when only a few lines are relevant.
Right: Select key sentences or paragraphs that directly relate to your point.

Failing To Cite The Source Correctly

  • Mistake: Incorrect citations or, worse, omitting them altogether can lead to accusations of plagiarism. This can undermine your credibility and even lead to academic or professional penalties.
  • Solution: Always ensure you cite the source of your block quote as prescribed by the style guide you’re following. If unsure, double-check the rules or use citation tools available online.

Wrong: Climate change has accelerated at a pace…
Right: Climate change has accelerated at a pace… (Smith, 2020, p. 45)

Tips For Effectively Using Block Quotes

Block quotes are invaluable tools in writing, but like any tool, they need to be wielded skillfully. Let’s explore some strategies to use block quotes effectively, ensuring that they augment rather than disrupt your narrative flow.

Choosing Significant and Relevant Passages

The essence of a block quote is its ability to emphasise a particular point. Including irrelevant or weak passages can diminish the power of your argument or narrative.

Tip: Before opting for a block quote, ask yourself:

  • Does this passage strongly support my point?
  • Is there a unique phrasing or perspective that is essential for readers to understand?

Rather than quoting a generic statement like, “Pollution is bad for the environment,” opt for a more impactful passage, such as, “Unchecked pollution can lead to irreversible ecosystem damage, with consequences that reverberate for centuries.”

Integrating Block Quotes Smoothly into your Own Text

A block quote should not feel “dropped in” but should instead be a seamless part of your writing.

Tip: Use transitional phrases or introductions that lead the reader into the quote. This provides context and highlights the relevance of the quoted passage.

Instead of abruptly placing a block quote, use an introduction like, “As renowned environmentalist Dr Jane Smith explains:” followed by the block quote.

Paraphrasing Vs. Quoting: When to Choose Which

While block quotes can be powerful, they aren’t always the best choice. Sometimes, paraphrasing can convey the same information more succinctly.

Tip: Opt for a block quote when:

  • The original phrasing is impactful and carries weight.
  • The author’s credentials lend authority to the statement.
  • The specific wording is central to your argument or analysis.

Paraphrase when:

  • The idea is essential, but the exact wording isn’t.
  • You want to condense a lengthy passage without losing its core meaning.
  • The source’s language is overly technical or dense, and a simplified version would be more accessible to your audience.

Original: “The phenomenon of bioluminescence, observed predominantly in marine vertebrates and invertebrates, arises from chemical reactions that emit light.”
Block Quote (if discussing the science behind the phenomenon): Use as is.
Paraphrase (for a general audience): “Bioluminescence, mostly seen in sea animals, is a natural light produced by chemical reactions.”

Block Quote Examples

Block quotes can manifest differently depending on the medium in which they are used. The following examples showcase how block quotes can be effectively implemented in various types of writing.

Example of a Block Quotes for an Essay

Topic: The Influence of Shakespeare on Modern Literature

The influence of William Shakespeare on modern literature is indisputable. As Harold Bloom, a renowned critic, asserts in his book The Invention of the Human:

Shakespeare’s characters remain unmatched in all of western literature, displaying a human depth that has yet to be surpassed. Their intricate personalities and complex motivations not only reflect the essence of humanity but also shape our understanding of the human psyche.

Building upon Bloom’s insight, it’s evident that characters like Hamlet and Lady Macbeth have become archetypes in literature, continually being referenced and reinterpreted in modern works.

Example of a Block Quote in a Research Paper

Topic: The Impact of Deforestation on Climate Change

One of the leading causes of climate change is the rampant deforestation occurring worldwide. A study published in the Journal of Climate Studies in 2021 elaborates on this point:

Deforestation has been found to contribute significantly to global warming. Trees absorb carbon dioxide, a primary greenhouse gas, thus reducing its levels in the atmosphere. Large-scale logging and clearing of forests, especially in tropical regions, release vast amounts of stored carbon, exacerbating the greenhouse effect and speeding up climate change.

Given this data, it’s crucial for policymakers to prioritise reforestation and sustainable logging practices to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change.

Example of a Block Quote in a Blog Post

Topic: The Benefits of Meditation

Meditation has become a popular practice, boasting a myriad of health benefits. I recently stumbled upon a piece by Dr Jane Goodall in Mindfulness Today, where she beautifully describes her personal experience with meditation:

Every morning, as the sun rises, I take a moment to sit in stillness and silence. This daily ritual has transformed my life. It’s like a reset button, offering clarity, grounding, and a deep connection to the world around me. It’s more than just relaxation; it’s a profound journey inward.

I couldn’t have put it better. Meditation, as Dr. Goodall explains, is more than a mere practice—it’s a transformative experience that connects us to our innermost selves.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Highlight the desired text.
  • Right-click and select ‘Paragraph.’
  • Under ‘Indentation,’ choose ‘Left’ and set it to 0.5 inches.
  • Ensure line spacing is ‘Double’ (for many academic formats).
  • Click ‘OK’ to apply the changes.
  • Highlight the text you want to block quote.
  • Click on ‘Format’ in the top menu.
  • Hover over ‘Paragraph styles,’ then ‘Normal Text.’
  • Click on ‘Apply ‘Block quote.”
  • Adjust indentation or font if necessary.

In HTML, the <blockquote> element represents a block-level quotation from another source. It’s typically displayed as an indented block of text to differentiate it from surrounding content. To cite the quotation’s source, you can use the cite attribute. For inline quotations, HTML provides the <q> element instead. Always pair with proper attribution.

About Olive Robin

Avatar for Olive RobinOlive Robin, a master of English literature, is an academic researcher and author at ResearchProspect. Passionate about words, she delves into literature nuances with scholarly depth and precision.