My last post, “Block Quotations, Part 1: How to Introduce Block Quotations,” discussed the purpose of block quotations, how long they should be, and how to introduce them in your content. Today’s follow-up explains how to format block quotations: How much should they be indented? How should you handle quotations within block quotations? Does the format change for multi-paragraph quotations? Lastly, where do the citations go?
Block Quotation Indentations
Block quotations are normally indented from the left side of the surrounding text. Each style guide has its own guideline for indentations. Here are a few examples:
- The Chicago Manual of Style (Chicago) suggests using your document software’s preset indentation function.1
- The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA) recommends using half-inch indentations or your document software’s preset indentation function.2
- The MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing (MLA) recommends one-inch indentations.3
Unless you are following MLA for academic purposes or are submitting material to a publisher with specific formatting requirements, I highly suggest using your software’s preset indentation function.
WordPress’s text editor includes a “blockquote” style; however, the appearance of text formatted with this style will depend on your theme—and not all themes are programmed to create traditional block quotations. For example, when I use the blockquote style in my current theme, it centers the text to the right of one quotation mark, as shown below.
This is the “blockquote” style created by my WordPress theme. This isn’t a traditional block quotation format.
Quotations within Block Quotations
Block quotations should not be enclosed in quotation marks. However, quotations within block quotations should appear in double quotation marks.
(The examples below feature Latin filler text and color variations in order to maintain emphasis on formatting.)
Multi-Paragraph Block Quotations
If your block quotation includes more than one paragraph, the decision to indent—or not indent—the first line of each paragraph will depend on your style guide.
Chicago and APA recommend using a first-line indentation for the second paragraph and beyond.4
In addition, Chicago permits line spaces between paragraphs instead of indentations.5 (Whichever format you choose, stay consistent throughout your text!)
MLA recommends indenting the first line of every complete paragraph in a multi-paragraph block quotation.6
But, if the block quotation begins mid-paragraph, MLA suggests left-aligning that first partial paragraph and using a first-line indentation for all subsequent paragraphs.7
Block Quotation Citations
Block quotation citations, whether parenthetical or superscripted numbers for footnotes or endnotes, appear after the final punctuation. If a parenthetical citation runs onto the next line, it should maintain the same indentation as the rest of the block quotation.
The final installment of this block quotation series, “Block Quotations, Part 3: Block Quotation Issues and Concerns,” will discuss special considerations such as copyright issues, reader expectations, and alternative options. Until then, keep on blockin’!
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1. University of Chicago Press, The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010), 61-62.
2. American Psychological Association, Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th ed. (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2012), 229.
3. Modern Language Association of America, MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing, 3rd ed. (New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2008), 124.
4. American Psychological Association, Publication Manual, 171; University of Chicago Press, Chicago Manual of Style, 627.
5. University of Chicago Press, Chicago Manual of Style, 627.
6. Modern Language Association of America, MLA Style Manual, 124.