How to Cite Direct Quotes in MLA Format

Direct Quotes

A safe way to avoid plagiarism in essays, especially for anyone not familiar with MLA (Modern Language Association) format, is to cite material from outside sources in the form of direct quotes.  The information below will aid you in setting up your direct quotes properly in MLA format. 

Parts of a Direct Quote

The Source—this could be an article from a magazine, newspaper, journal, a book, etc.   Place quotation marks around article titles within magazines, newspapers, journals, etc.   Italicize the names of books, magazines, newspapers, journals, etc.

  • Example (article)—In the article “Living Green is Easy,”
  • Example (book)—In the book Living Green is Easy,

The Author, if there is one—Most sources have an author listed, but some do not.  Use the author’s full name if there is one.  If not, omit the author’s name and use the title of article or book.  For four or more authors, use the first author listed followed by et al.—this is French for  ”and others,”  others who helped to write the article or book.

  • Example (one author)—John Smith acknowledges,
  • Example (no author)—The article “Living Green is Easy” acknowledges,
  • Example (two authors)—John Smith and Mary Jackson acknowledge,
  • Example (four or more authors)—John Smith et al. acknowledge, 

Tag Words—Verbs used to introduce a direct quote.  The verbs used should be in present tense and use subject-verb agreement based on the number of authors. 

  • Examples of tag words:  acknowledges, adds, asserts, believes, confirms, disagrees, discusses, emphasizes, mentions, notes, points outs, refutes, says, states, suggests, thinks, wonders, etc.  
  • Example (the bold word is a tag word):  John Smith in the article “Living Green is Easy” emphasizes, “Adults, and even children, can make a difference by participating in the recycling efforts in their own community.  It just takes one step.  Get started” (Smith 14).  

The Directly Quoted Passage—This is the passage that you, the student, take from the source and add to your essay.  The passage MUST BE EXACTLY WORD-FOR-WORD AS IT IS WRITTEN IN THE SOURCE.  Add quotation marks before and after the directly quoted passage.

  • Example—“It doesn’t take a lot for people to begin living green; they can start by doing simple recycling such as recycling all paper products”

The Parenthetical Citation—This is required within the essay as a code for the reader to check the works cited page for the full bibliographic information on this source.  This is added in case someone, namely your teacher, wants to check your sources to ensure you cited the passages properly and did not plagiarize. 

  • For printed sources, the author’s last name and a page number are included within parenthesis after the direct quote.  Example:  (Smith 14)
  •  For online sources, on the author’s last name is listed without the page number.  Example:  (Smith) 
  • For printed sources with no author, use the first MAJOR keyword from the article title enclosed in quotations marks to indicate an article title has been cited and add a page number.   Example:  (“Living” 14) 
  • For online sources with no author, use the first MAJOR keyword from the article title enclosed in quotations marks to indicate an article title has been cited and no page number added.   Example:  (“Living”) 
  • For a book with no author, italicize the first MAJOR keyword(s) from the book title and add a page number.   Example:  (Living 14)