Integrating Quotations | Part 2 (CMS)

You are viewing the free, open access version of The Nature of Writing. For all premium membership features (including quizzes, additional lessons, course progress tracking, and more), please register or log in.


Once you’re familiar with how to introduce a quotation using a signal phrase, you’re ready to learn the more advanced rules on this page. You don’t have to memorize every rule, but try get a general sense of things and then consult specific sections when you have questions.

Additional Rules

Block Quotations

According to the official Chicago Manual of Style (17th ed.), passages longer than a paragraph need to be set off as a block quotation. However, for users of Turabian style (the student friendly version of CMS) the minimum length is much less: passages of five or more lines can be turned into a block quotation.

Here’s an example of properly formatted block quotation:

Annabel Spotchek argues that

The invention of sliced bread made life considerably easier for early twenty-century men and women. However, not a few male writers blamed sliced bread for an increase in feminism. They argued that freed from the drudgery of cutting bread, women were able to take up the cause for universal suffrage and start working in factories. Such men were happy to acknowledge that sliced bread had brought some improvements (particularly in the toasted sandwich department), but they felt that the new technology was responsible for a significant deterioration in their quality of life. (Spotchek, Sliced Bread [New York: Loafer Publishing, 1999], 44)

While Spotchek correctly notes the importance of sliced bread, she ignores …

Note the following rules:

  • Single space block quotations, but leave a space before and after
  • Indent the entire block quotation one tab space
  • Retain original paragraph indents, except for the first paragraph.
  • After the block quote, don’t indent your next line unless you actually intend to start a new paragraph.
  • The citation is usually added in parentheses rather than in a note.

As mentioned, most of the time you can integrate a block quotation just like a regular quotation. Do be cautious, however, about continuing your sentence after a longer passage.

Finally, if you introduce your quotation with a complete sentence, then you can use a period instead of a colon (unless you’re using an introductory phrase such as as follows).

Quoting Poetry

Here are the essential rules for quoting poetry.

If you’re quoting two or more lines of poetry (three or more in a footnote), use a block quotation:

In “The Fly,” Ogden Nash mixes humour with theology:

God in His wisdom made the fly
And then forgot to tell us why.

The citation is usually placed on its own line, though you can decide where. You can also insert an extra line between the poem and the citation.

For poems with lines of regular length, the text should be left aligned (indented one tab space). If a poem has irregular spacing then you are allowed to centre the text (based on the longest line):

One wonders whether Ella Pencil’s poem “Spaced Out” parodies itself:

This is yet                another poem that
relies on            unu-
spacing to make
an impression.


As much as possible, however, try to retain the original formatting of the poem. If a poem contains very long lines, you can indent a run-over line slightly (less than a tab):

Finally, if you do decide to integrate longer quotations in the body of your text, use a slash (/) to indicate each line break:

In “The Fly,” Ogden Nash mixes humour with theology: “God in His wisdom made the fly / And then forgot to tell us why” (1-2).

For stanzaic breaks, use a double slash ( // ), with spaces on either side.

Quoting Drama

When you quote a passage from a play, distinguish the names of the speakers by, for instance, using all caps:

In David Baird’s play Broken Glass, the leaders of the main political parties are divided about how to stem the tide of illegal immigrants from the Vatican:

PRIME MINISTER GATTUSO. We cannot allow any more of these robed people into our country.
ANDREA PEERLESS, wiping his brow. I can’t accept such a heartless …
PRIME MINISTER GATTUSO. heartless? It’s simply a matter of restoring order. We cannot have these people parading through the streets in their funny costumes.

Use italics for stage directions. Note also that in a print format you can apply hanging indentation to each speaker’s lines.

Citations of plays are usually by act, scene, and line number.

Quotes within Quotes

A quote within a quote is placed between single quotation marks:

My friend Natasha told me about a conversation she had with Nibaa after their American lit class: “The other day, Nibaa said, ‘I don’t understand why Moby-Dick is a classic. Much of it reads like a manual on how to run a ship.'”

In the unusual event that you’re dealing with a quote within a quote within a quote, you would revert back to double quotation marks.

If you’re not quoting anything more than the entire quote within a quote, then just use double quotation marks:

Natasha told me what her friend Nibaa had to say about Moby-Dick: “I don’t understand why Moby-Dick is a classic. Much of it reads like a manual on how to run a ship.”

Adding Emphasis

It may happen that you want to emphasize something in a quotation. To do so, italicize the words in question, and then add a phrase such as “emphasis added,” either in a parenthetical citation or in a footnote:

Birnwick and Flintstone noted that “most of the penguins who watched Madagascar or Happy Feet showed little reaction to scenes that involved penguins dancing” (95; emphasis added).

Alternative phrases are “italics mine,” “italics added,” and “emphasis mine.” Users of Turabian style should note that such a phrase may also be added in square brackets within the quotation (right after the italicized passage).

Most of the time, though, you don’t need to add any emphasis. Assume that your reader is smart enough to figure out what’s significant about the quotation.


Sometimes when you quote you may want to skip part of the quotation.

To indicate the omission of words, phrases, or entire lines, you must use an ellipsis (plural ellipses), which is just a fancy word for three spaced periods. Here’s an example:

Simeon Winchester studied the 1500 meter race in Oslo in 1981, and argued that “people love to see the pacemaker succeed . . . against all odds.”1

If it fits the syntax, feel free to retain original punctuation such as commas, colons, and question marks before or after the ellipsis.

If you indent a longer quotation of poetry and you skip one or more lines, use a line of dots (roughly the length of the typical line) between the quoted passages:

In the “The Lady of Shalott,” Tennyson appears to allude to the shadows in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave:

And moving thro’ a mirror clear
That hangs before her all the year,
Shadows of the world appear.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
“I am half sick of shadows,” said
The Lady of Shalott.

(46-48, 71-72)

Be careful that when you use an ellipses the grammar and meaning of the quoted passage still make sense.

Also, you do not have to add ellipsis marks at the beginning or end of a quotation. We know that the quoted text has been cut out of a larger passage. The only exception is if a sentence trails off on purpose (for dramatic effect).

If you end one sentence before the ellipsis, and start a new one afterwards, then you will end up with four spaced periods (one regular period and three for the ellipsis). Here is an example:

Computer programmers “read on average one book per year. . . . They get most of their knowledge from watching Youtube videos.”1

Square Brackets

You can edit quotations by inserting your own words in square brackets.  Here are some areas where this is useful:

1. When you want to clarify or explain something in the original passage

A recent study by Abel Williams and Cain Jones found that “even when participants knew that a name brand item was of the same quality or worse [than similar non-brand products], such knowledge did not significantly affect purchasing behaviour.”1

2. When you want to insert some words to make the grammar work:

Sniggle and Popper claim that the story of “Sleeping Beauty provide[s] a powerful analogy to a person in a coma.”1

Do note, however, that in CMS style you do not have to use square brackets to change the first letter of a quotation from lowercase to uppercase, or vice versa.

3. If there’s a mistake in the quotation (let’s say a spelling error), you can insert [sic] behind it to indicate that the mistake belongs to the original author of the quotation:

According to Bert Rottweiler, “Carl Jang’s [Sic] theory of the anima and animus can be explained by means of the concept of yin and yang.”1

If you’re following Turabian style you can fix the spelling without noting the mistake. You can also avoid coming across as pedantic by rewriting slightly:

Bert Rottweiler argues that Carl Jung’s use of the terms anima and animus “can be explained by means of the concept of yin and yang.”1

In other words, try to minimize the use of square brackets.


A paraphrase is when you sum up a passage in your own words and provide an appropriate citation. Quotations take up a lot of space, so paraphrases can be a useful way of incorporating the ideas of others.

Let’s say you want to paraphrase the following passage (found online on Adler University’s website):

Perhaps Adler’s most influential concept – and the one that drives Adler University today – is that of social interest. Not to be confused as another form of extraversion, social interest should be viewed as an individual’s personal interest in furthering the welfare of others. Collaborating and cooperating with one another as individuals and communities can progress to benefit society as a whole.

Here’s how you might paraphrase part of this passage:

Alfred Adler’s most important contribution was his emphasis on a person’s social interest.1

Be careful that you don’t use entire phrases from the original text. This is how not to do it:

Adler’s concept of social interest is not another form of extraversion, but refers to a person’s interest in further other people’s welfare.1

When too many specific words or phrases are copied directly from the original passage, you may be guilty of plagiarism, even when you have cited your source.

Final Advice

It’s always important to remember why you are using quotations in the first place. An essay is not just a patchwork of quotations. Think of yourself more as a curator at a museum. You get to put on a show and tell a story. You organize the spaces and write the captions. In the same way you need to help the reader make sense of the ideas of others.

So don’t let the quotations swamp your own analysis. Introduce every quotation carefully and be sure to explain, interpret, and apply quotations before you move on with your argument.

For more information about the CMS guidelines for integrating quotations, see especially chapter 13 of the Chicago Manual of Style (17th ed.), and chapter 25 of Kate L. Turabian’s A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (9th ed.).