Citing Literary Works in the Text 


A literary work in prose is written in complete sentences formed into paragraphs. Short stories, essays, and many (though not all) plays are written in prose.

For prose, cite with the author's name and page number.

At the end of "The Story of an Hour," Mrs. Mallard drops dead upon learning that her husband is alive. In the final irony of the story, doctors report that she has died of a "joy that kills" (Chopin 25).

You may also use the author's name in the sentence and omit it from the citation.

If you cite more than four typed lines of text, include it as a block quotation by setting the quotation off from the text. First, introduce the quote as you normally would. Begin the quotation on a new line and press Tab twice to indent the entire quotation one inch. Double-space the quote. Notice that a block quote does not have quotation marks around it. Also, note that the punctuation is placed at the end of the block quote, not outside the parentheses. The next line of the paragraph should begin back at the left margin. To see an example of a block quote in MLA style, click here: Block quote in MLA style 


A literary work written as poetry (i.e. in verse) is broken into separate lines and often uses incomplete sentences.

For poetry, use the line numbers. For the first reference, place "lines" in the citation. After the first time, just list the numbers. If you quote two or three lines, place slashes to designate the line's end; place a space before and after the slash.

Langston Hughes looks forward to a time when "Nobody'll dare / say to me / 'Eat in the kitchen'" (lines 11-13).

Later in the poem, Hughes writes, "Tomorrow, / I’ll be at the table / When company comes" (8-10). 

If your quotation ends in a dash, comma, or semicolon, you should omit that punctuation mark if it does not make sense in your sentence.

If you cite four or more lines of poetry, include them as a block quotation by starting each line of verse on a new line, pressing Tab twice to indent the entire quotation one inch, placing the punctuation at the end of the quotation, and including the line numbers in parentheses.

Langston Hughes explains his resilience against racism:

                        I am the darker brother

                        They send me to eat in the kitchen

                        When company comes,                       

                        But I laugh,

                        And eat well,                                                             

                        And grow strong. (2-7)

The three verbs in the final lines of this passage, “laugh,” “eat,” and “grow,” all convey life; the speaker will …

Notice that the quotation is double-spaced and does not have quotation marks around it. The next line of the paragraph begins back at the left margin. Also, the punctuation is placed at the end of the quotation, not after the parentheses.



For drama, you must differentiate between a prose play and a verse play. In a prose play, the dialogue will be written in sentences. In a verse play (such as ancient Greek works or plays by Shakespeare), the dialogue will be written in separate lines as in a poem.

For a prose play, cite with the author's name and page number, as you would for any prose work.

For a verse play, use the Act, Scene, and Line numbers in the parenthetical citation, if this information is given.  If a play has no numbered Acts or Scenes, use line numbers only, if lines are numbered on the page. For other aspects of formatting, see above for citing lines from poetry.

Hamlet contemplates his disgust with the world: "How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable / Seem to me all the uses of this world" (1.2.134-5).

When citing dialogue between two or more characters, include it as a block quotation. Press Tab twice to indent one inch, and begin each section of dialogue with the character's name. Capitalize the letters in the character's name, and place a period after it. Indent all lines after the first line an additional 1/4 inch from the margin.

                        HAMLET. No, by the rood, not so:

You are the queen, your husband's brother's wife:

And--would it were not so!--you are my mother.

                        QUEEN. Nay, then, I'll set those to you that can speak. (3.4.14-17)