MLA guidelines on how to cite a poem: everything you should know


Academic writing almost in every case implies citing other sources of information. It can be another essay, an article, a book or even a poem. One of the most common citing approaches is the MLA formatting style. It is often recommended and preferred. It may seem simple, but anyway you should know how to cite a poem properly in this format. The thing is that essays are written in prose while poetry has a completely different structure, so the citation has its issues as well. In this article, we will disclose this issue and provide you with a complete guide on how to do citations from the poetry.

Cases when you might need to cite a poem

Students do not always understand why it is important to include citations of poetry in their writings sometimes. But it is important for showing your expertise in topic as well as in the literature in general. This is especially significant for students of English, Literature or Art classes. They receive numerous writing assignments like:

  • descriptive essays;
  • classification essays;
  • reflective essays;
  • argumentative essays;
  • essays on critical thinking;
  • compare & contrast, etc.

So any time you have to prepare one of these tasks, you should probably be good at literature, poetry as well as in its proper citing.

Citing a poem: what you should know

  • Anytime you want to refer to the words of other authors using his/her words, you should add them in your text as a quote by specifying the exact source of the phrase. Otherwise, you can be accused of plagiarism.
  • Show to your reader that mentioned statements are borrowed, but you add them for a reason.
  • Even if you paraphrase the text from another author, you still have to put the in-text citation at the end of the statement. But in this case, there is no need to add quotation marks.
  • Titles of the poems you quote should be placed in quotation marks, but not underlined.
  • If you need to exclude the part of the text (when it is unnecessary), just place a line of ellipses on the place of the missing part.

Explaining the MLA formatting style

MLA means Modern Language Association formatting style. This is one of the most used styles that are common for formatting academic papers. It also has regulations for a poem citation that are frequently used in essays on the humanitarian disciplines. This formatting style is pretty simple, but still, it is important to take a closer look at its requirements to make sure you will do everything just right. You don’t have to learn all the rules. But when it comes to a citation, you have to be sure that you marked every quote correctly and your essay does not contain any plagiarism. In this article, we will disclose the most important parts of MLA citation formatting.

More info about citing a poem in MLA style

There are direct and indirect quotations. In the second case, you simply identify the fact that you are aware of the particular piece of poetry. But as soon as you add the exact words from the poem, you do a citation and it should be identified properly. The citations can be divided according to the length:

  • short ones that have no more than 3 lines from a poem and 4 from prose;
  • long ones when a cite has more than 3 lines from a poem and more than 4 from prose. In this case, you have to mark each of the quoted paragraphs.

Students are allowed to exclude the unnecessary parts of the quote. Your main task in this case to find the most suitable words and phrases to cite in your text. They should support the statement and do not distract with the excess words.

Correct way for citing the title of the poem

The correct citing starts with the title. In some cases, you can put it in the quotation marks, but it is also appropriate to use italics. Let’s take a close look when we should use each of the ways.

The main aspect here is the size of a title. Short ones can be placed in quotation marks (“Venus and Adonis”, “Forever”). While the longer titles should be presented in italics (And I raised my hand in return, To the engraver of my skin).

5 insights on citing MLA format

If you are going to work in MLA format and you need to cite a piece of poetry then you are lucky as you will not have to bother with complex requirements. The following guidelines will provide you with all the info you need:

  1. When you are going to cite a piece of poetry (whether it is a few words or the entire paragraph), place the text in the citation marks. Use parentheses to mark the direct author’s words. Put the punctuation marks like a period or comma outside the final of parenthesis. Define the line with the number after the citation mark.
    “As the author says, “and every fair from fair sometime declines” (7).
  2. While citing the lines that follow each other, use a virgule mark (/) to separate the lines. The name of the author should be added in parenthesis.
  3. When you want to cite more than 4 lines of a poem, use the rules according to the long citation requirements (block quote). Type a short phrase at the beginning of a quote, make two indentions and double spacing. Leave the original punctuation of a quote.
  4. Other elements of a quote should be added according to the general citation rule for prose texts.
  5. Check any quote you add to make sure it is placed correctly and mistake-free.

Important requirements for the right citing

  1. Always use quotation marks (where they are implied according to rules). They are needed when you use the direct words from the source text.
  2. While marking the citation, specify the title of the poem, page, and line number, as well as the author’s name.
  3. Place the punctuation marks after the parenthetical quotation.
  4. If the quote has question or exclamation marks, place them inside the citation marks.
  5. If they are the part of your text and are absent in the source text, leave them outside the citation marks.
  6. Create a complete bibliography page where you have to mention all the sources you referred to in your work.

Citing long direct quotes

In case you need to add in your text long part of a poem (that will include more than 3 lines of it), follow these guidelines to make everything right:

  1. For this citation use a free-standing block of text.
  2. Do not add the quotation marks.
  3. Start the citation right from the new poem line.
  4. Make indention before the first word of a line when you have multiple paragraphs to cite.
  5. Use double-spacing formatting in the citation.
  6. After the final punctuation mark add parenthetical quotation.

A final tip

We hope that this article was useful for you and now you will not have any problems thinking about how to cite a poem. Save these recommendations in order to get back to them when you will receive a relevant task.

However, it is fine if you face complications with citing poetry in your essays. We can offer you a solution that is better than numerous examples on the internet or any other sets of guidelines and tips. Just ask professional writers of our service for assistance. They can not only check the correctness of your own work but even write the whole essay really quickly. That is how you can save time and energy and have well-written paper anyway. We are waiting for your order! Do not hesitate to write to us at any time.

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