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Editing Tips: How to Format Block Quotes

When proofreading academic writing, you may come across longer passages of quoted text. And while you would not usually edit quotations, most referencing systems require longer passages to be formatted as block quotes. In this post, we look at how that works.

What Are Block Quotes?

A block quote or block quotation is a quotation that has been set apart from the main text in a document. This is different from an inline quote, which is integrated into the surrounding text.

An inline quote, for instance, would look like this:

While quoting text is important, it is also “vital to clearly indicate when you are quoting a source, which typically involves placing quoted text in quote marks” (Smith 2001, p. 45).

But were we to quote a longer passage, we would set it apart by beginning the quote on a new line and indenting the quoted text. And because we do this, we do not need quote marks.

A block quote, then, would look something like this:

On the subject of quoting sources, Smith (2001) says:

It is vital to clearly indicate when you are quoting a source, which typically involves placing quoted text in quote marks and citing the source material. However, you may need to format longer passages of text as block quotes. This means beginning the quotation on a new line and indenting the quoted passage. (pp. 45–46)

This makes it clearly distinct from the surrounding text. And if you see a long inline quotation in a document you are proofreading, you may need to either make an edit or leave a comment.

However, the rules about block quotes will depend on the style guide used. As such, in the rest of this post, we will look at how some of the major style guides suggest using block quotes.

How to Format a Block Quote in AMA

The current AMA Manual of Style says that “Editorial judgment must be exercised to determine whether material quoted from texts or speeches is long enough to warrant setting it off in a block.” However, older editions have suggested setting apart quotes of four or more lines.

If you do use a block quote, moreover, the AMA suggests you should:

  • Begin the block quote on a new line.
  • Indent the quoted passage from the left margin.
  • Only use quotation marks for quotes within the main quote.
  • Add a citation at the end of the quoted passage.

How to Format a Block Quote in APA

The APA rules for formatting text as a block quote are as follows:

  • Use a block quote for any quotation of 40 words or more.
  • Begin the block quote on a new line.
  • Indent the full passage by half an inch (1.27 cm).
  • Only use quotation marks for quotes within the main quote.
  • Give a citation after the terminal punctuation at the end of the quote.
  • If the block quote goes on for more than one paragraph, add an extra half-inch (1.27cm) indent for the first line of each paragraph after the first one.

How to Format a Block Quote in Chicago Referencing

In Chicago referencing, the rules about block quotes include:

  • Use a block quote for any passage of 100 words for more.
  • Begin block quotations on a new line.
  • Indent the full passage by half an inch (1.27 cm).
  • Single space the text in block quotations.
  • Do not use quote marks except for quotes within the main quotation.
  • Give the citation after end punctuation at the end of the quote.

How to Format a Block Quote in MHRA

The basic rules for long quotations in MHRA referencing are:

  • Use a block quote for quotes of more than 40 words.
  • Begin block quotations on a new line.
  • Do not use quote marks for the main quotation.
  • Give the source citation after the end punctuation.

MHRA style is a little confusing on indentation, though! On the one hand, it says that “Prose quotations should not be indented.” On the other hand, it also says “When printed, a long quotation may be distinguished from the main text by setting it in a smaller size, indenting it, or a combination of the two.” And in the absence of a definitive answer, when proofreading, your focus should be ensuring the client uses a clear and consistent style throughout.

How to Format a Block Quote in MLA

Finally, in MLA referencing, the rules for using a block quote include:

  • Use a block quote for quotes of four or more lines.
  • Begin block quotations on a new line.
  • Indent the full passage by half an inch (1.27 cm).
  • Do not use quote marks for the main quotation.
  • Give a citation after the terminal punctuation at the end of the quote.

Hopefully, this guide has given you an idea of what to look for when proofreading a document that contains block quotes. For more information on proofreading quotations, though, don’t forget to check out our Becoming A Proofreader course.

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