How To Quote Songs In An Essay

Quotation Marks with Fiction, Poetry, and Titles

Summary:

A rundown of the general rules of when and where to use quotation marks.

Contributors:Sean M. Conrey, Mark Pepper, Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2016-02-27 11:17:45

Block Quotations

Check your citation style guide for specific guidelines on when you should use block quotations. Typically, you should use a block quotation when the quotation extends more than four typed lines (in MLA style) or extends 40 words or longer (in APA style). Although they are allowed in any type of writing, you will likely most often use them when quoting from fiction or literature. A block quotation is removed from the main body of your text. Indent one inch from the main margin (the equivalent of two half-inch paragraph indentations) and begin your quote. Maintain double spacing throughout, but you do not need to use quotation marks.

Gatsby experiences a moment of clarity while standing with Daisy on his dock. Fitzgerald writes:

Possibly it had occurred to him that the colossal significance of that light had now to him vanished forever. Compared to the great distance that had separated him from Daisy it had seemed very near to her, almost touching her. It had seemed as close as a star to the moon. Now it was again a green light on a dock. His count of enchanted objects had diminished by one. (98)

Quoting Poetry

When you quote a single line of poetry, write it like any other short quotation. If the piece of poetry you are quoting crosses multiple lines of the poem itself, you may still type them in your text run together. Show the reader where the poem's line breaks fall by using slash marks.

In his poem, "Mending Wall," Robert Frost writes: "Something there is that doesn't love a wall,/ that send the frozen-ground-swell under it" (42-44).

If the quotation is three lines or longer, set it off like a block quotation (see above). Some writers prefer to set off two-line verse quotations for emphasis. Quote the poem line by line as it appears on the original page. Do not use quotation marks, and indent one inch from the left margin.

In his poem "Mending Wall," Robert Frost questions the building of barriers and walls:

Before I built a wall I'd ask to know

What I was walling in or walling out,

And to whom I was like to give offense.

Writing Dialogue

Write each person's spoken words, however brief, as a separate paragraph. Use commas to set off dialogue tags such as "she said" or "he explained." If one person's speech goes on for more than one paragraph, use quotation marks to open the dialogue at the beginning of each paragraph. However, do not use closing quotation marks until the end of the final paragraph where that character is speaking.

Quotation Marks with Titles

Use quotations marks for:

  • Titles of short or minor works
  • Songs
  • Short Stories
  • Essays
  • Short Poems
  • One Act Plays
  • Other literary works shorter than a three act play or complete book
  • Titles of sections from longer works
  • Chapters in books
  • Articles in newspapers, magazines, or journals
  • Episodes of television and radio series

Underlining or italics are used for the titles of long pieces or works that contain smaller sections.

Simply put: no.

APA's Publication Manual (2010) indicates that, in the body of your paper, you should use italics for the titles of:

  • books
  • periodicals (journals, magazines, newspapers)
  • films
  • videos
  • TV shows
  • Microfilm publications

Beyond APA's specific examples, know that certain types of titles are almost always written in italics. 

Use italics in a word-processed document for the types of titles you'd underline if you were writing by hand.  A general rule of thumb is that within the text of a paper, italicize the title of complete works but put quotation marks around titles of parts within a complete work. 

The table below isn't comprehensive, but it's a good starting point

Titles in ItalicsTitles Placed in "Quotation Marks"
Title of a periodical (magazine, journal, newspaper)              Title of article in a periodical
Title of a book   Title of a chapter in a book
Title of a movie or playName of an act or scene in a movie or a play
Title of a television or radio series   Title of an episode within a tv or radio series
Title of a musical album or CDTitle of a song
Title of a long poemTitle of a short poem
Names of operas or long musical composition
Names of paintings and sculptures

Title of a short story

On an APA-style reference page, the rules for titles are a little different.  In short, a title you would italicize within the body of a paper will also be italicized on a reference page.  However, a title you'd place in quotation marks within the body of the paper (such as the title of an article within a journal) will be written in normal lettering and will not be in quotation marks.

Here are some examples:

Smith (2001) research is fully described in the Journal of Higher Education.

Smith's (2001) article "College Admissions See Increase" was published in the Journal of Higher Education after his pivotal study on the admissions process.

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