Ways of Quoting a Book

Whether you write nonfiction novels, white papers for peer review, or grant proposals, at some point in your writing career, you’re going to need to quote someone else’s work. Even a blog on cooking might have references to someone else’s recipe. Claiming something as your original idea when it’s actually not is called plagiarism, and it could ruin your professional reputation. Read on to find out how to simplify quoting a book in different writing genres.

What’s a quotation?

Merriam-Webster.com defines a quotation as: “Something that is quoted especially: a passage referred to, repeated, or adduced.” This means that when you’re writing your article, book, or pamphlet, and you find useful information in someone else’s book, you need to put that verbatim text in quotation marks to show someone else said it or wrote it.

In the FirstEditing.com blog titled “Various Ways of Quoting a Book or Dialogue,” founder JoEllen Nordstrom notes, “The main rule for quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing is simple: give credit where credit is due.” Some writers may think it’s okay to skip this simple step for a number of reasons; they don’t think anyone will ever find out, they don’t think it’s important, or they simply don’t know how to quote correctly. Here are some tips for different ways of quoting for you to use in your writing.

Tip 1 – Keep a reference list as you’re writing

Whether you copy and paste URLs into a footnote or end note or reference page/bibliography, make it a habit to keep track of all the sources you use when writing. You could even go old-school and write them down on a piece of paper or in a notebook. This will make it much easier to double-check the source of the quotation you’re using in your writing for accuracy during the self-editing stage.

Tip 2 – Keep an example quotation handy

Use a plain index card with a properly written quotation on it as a guide. Keep it next to your laptop so you can quickly glance at it whenever you need to quote a book in your writing. Make it big and bold, with the correct punctuation and styling needed for quoting a book in your genre of writing.

Tip 3 – Use a variety of in-text and block quotations

A sentence or a few lines of quoted material can be worked into the running text of your writing. But if you have 40 or more words (four or more lines), you may want to consider a block quotation instead. In longer works, this has the added benefit of breaking up the page of text for the reader. There are different quotation mark rules for block quotations, so that’s something to keep in mind when considering ways of quoting for you in your genre.

Types of quotation styles (APA, MLA & Chicago)

Let’s take a look at some different ways of quoting for you to choose from.

The three main style guides used by most writers are American Psychological Association (APA), Modern Language Association (MLA), and Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS). APA is used mainly for academic writing, such as for articles in medical journals, MLA for college-level writing in the arts and humanities, as when writing a dissertation, and CMOS is used for the remaining fiction and nonfiction writing, anything from a tweet to a novel.


Let’s use one quote from one book to show you what it would look like using the three different style guides mentioned above. The line is from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce. (Adding the citation is a subject for a different post.) These will all be in-text quotations and will have some sort of introductory phrase before the quote.

APA – As we all know, “Rody Kickham was a decent fellow but Nasty Roche was a stink” (Joyce, 1916, p. 2).

Here we have the original author’s last name, the year the book was published, and the page number where the quotation can be found. Note that the end punctuation goes outside the closing parenthesis, not inside the closing quotation marks.

MLA – As we all know, “Rody Kickham was a decent fellow but Nasty Roche was a stink” (Joyce, 2).

When quoting a book in MLA style, use the original author’s last name and the page number the quotation can be found on, but no year of publication and no “p.” before the page number. The end punctuation still goes outside the closing parenthesis and not inside the closing quotation marks.

CMOS – When quoting a book in CMOS, footnotes (or end notes) are used. The footnote will contain the original author’s last name, the name of the book, and the page number. In this case, the end punctuation does go inside the closing quotation marks. The footnote number goes just outside the closing quotation marks. MS Word’s References/Insert Footnote feature makes this process a breeze.

As we all know, “Rody Kickham was a decent fellow but Nasty Roche was a stink.”[1]

Give Credit Where Credit Is Due

Once you’ve narrowed down the genre you’re writing in, you’ll know which style guide to use for quoting a book in your writing. Keeping track of where your quotations came from so you can double-check them later, keeping an index card with an example of your quotation style handy, and using in-text or block quotations where appropriate will be three habits you can form and use every time you write.

Additionally, as noted in FirstEditing.com’s very helpful blog “How to Write and Edit Quotations,” US English and British English have slightly different ways of quoting for you to learn. US English puts the end punctuation inside the closing quotation marks, while British English puts it on the outside (and sometimes only uses single quotation marks instead of double). Many writers using British English today prefer American-style punctuation.

If you have any doubts about quoting a book in your writing, the editors at FirstEditing.com are standing by and ready to help.


[1] Joyce, A Portrait of the Author as a Young Man, 2


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