APA style direct quotes and block quotes

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Using an APA style direct quote, block quote, or paraphrase is one way to appropriately give credit where it is due and to avoid plagiarism.

What is a direct quote vs. a block quote vs. a paraphrase?

It’s important to know the difference between a direct quote, a block quote, and a paraphrase.

Otherwise, you may get flagged for plagiarizing someone else’s work when you didn’t mean to.

Direct quote:

A direct quote is a statement that is taken verbatim (word-for-word) from a text or speaker.

Block quote:

A block quote is a long direct quote that is separated from the regular text. By APA standards, you use a block text for quotes that are 40 words or longer.

Paraphrase:

A paraphrase differs from a direct quote in that the writer is putting someone else’s thoughts and ideas into their own words.

When you decide to talk about a published work in your paper, the first question to ask is if it’s best to paraphrase or directly quote from that work. Further explanations and examples of a direct quote, a block quote, and a paraphrase are provided below to help you make an educated choice.

Paraphrasing in APA style

Paraphrasing is recommended and often used by academic scholars because it helps to synthesize complex concepts. When a source is paraphrased, a citation still needs to be included.

Regardless of whether a source is paraphrased or directly quoted, it must include an in-text citation to avoid the perils of plagiarism.

Original quote:

Marshall McLuhan famously stated in Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, “the medium is the message” (McLuhan, 1964, p. 2).

Paraphrase example:

Marshall McLuhan proposed in Understanding Media: The Extensions
of Man that the medium used to transmit a message is often more important than the content of the message itself (McLuhan, 1964, p. 2).

Although it is not required in APA citation style, adding the page or paragraph number in the citation for the paraphrase can also help readers locate the passage within the source.

Using direct quotes in APA style

Sometimes it’s necessary to reproduce another work verbatim to convey the exact meaning. In fact, direct quotes should be used when citing a definition and when the author’s specific rhetoric or phrasing is being analyzed.

Keep in mind that different academic journals and instructors may have limits for how many direct quotes they are willing to accept.

Direct quote example:

Gandhi defined democracy as being, “based on the idea that I do, should provide the same opportunities weaker than stronger. Only nonviolence can achieve this goal” (Gandhi, 1952).


In-text citations: Parenthetical vs. narrative citation

There are two different ways to include an APA in-text citation with a quote: parenthetical and narrative.

Both are mentioned within the text and include the author’s last name and the year the source was published. The difference is whether the author’s surname is used as a descriptive element within the sentence or simply to cite the work.

Parenthetical in-text citations

A parenthetical citation can appear within or at the end of a sentence, but it must include both the author and the date in parenthesis, separated by a comma.

Single author parenthetical citation example:

“Oh father – do you mean you have found a new way to work?”  exclaims the character Cassandra in the novel, I Capture the Castle (Dodie, 1948, p. 341).

Organizational author parenthetical citation example:

The incidence of the novel coronavirus in the United States from June–August 2020 was highest in persons aged 20–29 years (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020).

Two authors parenthetical citation example:

Their relationship is explained in All the President’s Men as, “Bernstein looked like one of those counterculture journalists that Woodward despised. Bernstein thought that Woodward’s rapid rise at the Post had less to do with his ability than his Establishment credentials” (Bernstein & Woodward, 1974, p. 15).

Three or more authors parenthetical citation example:

Internal communication is integral to internal public relations with links to positive organizational and employee outcomes (Karanges et al., 2014).

Narrative in-text citations

For a narrative citation, the author’s surname appears within a sentence and the date shows up in parentheses immediately after the author’s name.

Single author narrative citation example:

In her poem, I know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou (1969) describes opposing experiences.

Organizational author narrative citation example:

The U.S. Census Bureau (2020) found that only 10% of all U.S. homes, or about 11 million housing units, were aging-ready, based on the 2011 data.

Two authors narrative citation example:

Vialli and Marcotti (2007) detail how the characteristics of England and Italy, two of the most passionate soccer-playing countries, affect the game.

Three or more authors narrative citation example:

Milli et al. (2017) assert that despite being paid less, women’s earnings are increasingly important to the economic stability of families.


Using short, direct quotations

Short quotes are those consisting of less than 40 words, and they are incorporated into the sentence. Also, an ellipsis (with a space before and after) should only be used at the beginning or end of a quotation if the source includes an ellipsis.

Including page numbers

When using a direct quote, always provide the author, year, and page number of the source for both parenthetical and narrative citations. When the quote is from a single page simply use “p.” But when there are multiple pages being referenced, use the abbreviation “pp.” and an en dash to indicate the page range (pp. 34–38). If the pages are not within a range, simply use a comma to indicate the disparate pages (pp. 45, 72).

No pages numbers, no problem

When a direct quote has no page number, for any number of reasons (it’s a webpage or e-book, for example), provide an alternative method for locating the quoted passage. A subsection heading, or paragraph number can work in place of a page number.

When quotes include errors

Direct quotes often contain errors because writers and speakers are fallible. If the error is distracting, it is recommended that content be paraphrased. If the direct quote is required to understand the full meaning of the statement, the direct quote must match the original verbatim, including spelling and punctuation. If errors make the direct quote difficult to read, the word “[sic],” italicized and in brackets, can be inserted immediately after the error within the quote.

Changing quotes

There are a very limited number of cases in which a direct quote may need to be edited or changed, such as capitalizing the beginning of a sentence or adding punctuation to the end of the quote. All changes must be indicated. Square brackets should be used to highlight any additions or explanations inserted into a direct quote. In the case of omitting words within a quotation, an ellipsis in parenthesis can be used.

When respondents provide direct quotes

When conducting research, participants are often quoted regarding their perceptions or experiences. The same rules apply, but it is important to mention that the quote is from a research respondent. Ethical considerations should also take priority when determining whether to name direct quotes from participants.

Short, direct quote examples:

Mr. Ripley remarked, “I certainly didn’t mean to alarm anybody when I said what I did about his depression. I felt it was a kind of duty to tell you and Mr. Greenleaf” in his attempt to shift attention away from his wrongdoing (Highsmith, 1955, p. 190).

As Highsmith (1955) describes, Mr. Ripley couldn’t be sure if he had been found out, “Tom was wringing the shoe in his hands like a pair of gloves now, yet still keeping the shoe in position, because Marge was staring at him in a funny way. She was thinking. Was she kidding him?” (p. 216).


Block quotes: The longer the quote, the bigger the block

Sometimes less than 40 words isn’t long enough for a direct quote to make its mark. That’s when a block quote is necessary.

Here are block quote guidelines:

  • A block quotation starts on a new line with a 0.5-inch indentation from the left margin.
  • The lines are double spaced (like the rest of the paper).
  • There are no quotation marks at either the beginning or end of the block.
  • Place the period of the sentence at the end of the quote, but before the in-text citation parenthesis.

Block quote example 1:

Lawyers often enjoy laughing at themselves, as is evident in the book, The World’s Funniest Lawyer Jokes, which includes this anecdote:

An airliner was having engine trouble, and the pilot instructed the cabin crew to have the passengers take their seats and get prepared for an emergency landing. A few minutes later, the pilot asked the flight attendants if everyone was buckled up and ready. ‘All set back here, Captain.’ came the reply, ‘except the lawyers are still going around passing out business cards.’ (Price, 2011, p. 103)

Block quote example 2:

McCullough (1968) describes the Johnstown Flood of 1889 as it passed through and devastated several Pennsylvania towns:

Unlike East Conemaugh, Woodvale got no warning. It was all over in about five minutes. The only building left standing was the woolen mill, and there was only part of that. At the western end of the town, the end almost touching Johnstown, stood the Gautier works, part of it in Woodvale, part in Conemaugh borough. The huge works sent up a terrific geyser of steam when the water hit its boilers, and then the whole of it seemed simply to lift up and slide off with the water … There was not a tree, not a telegraph pole, not a sign of where the railroad has been. Two hundred and fifty-five houses had been taken off, and there was no way of telling where they had been. (p. 127)


Published October 28, 2020.


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