Some Notes on Formatting a Literature Essay

General Appearance: Essays should be double-spaced and include page numbers after the first page. All essays must have a title; it can appear on a separate title page, along with your name, the class name, and the date, or at the top of the first page.

Quotation: Quotations should always be introduced, cited properly, and interpreted. Generally, this means that quotations appear in the middle of a paragraph, rather than at the beginning or at the end, but this is not an absolute rule. Quotations less than four lines of type long should be in quotation marks; quotations four lines or more long should be indented as block quotations, and should not be in quotation marks. Review the rules for using quotation marks if you are uncertain of them.

For example, if I quote just one sentence by Hacker, it goes like this: "Long sentences should be introduced by an informative sentence, usually followed by a colon" (Hacker 266). If it is longer, it goes like this:

Long sentences should be introduced by an informative sentence, usually followed by a colon. Quotation

marks are unnecessary because the indented format tells readers that the words are taken directly from the

source. Notice that at the end of an indented quotation the parenthetical citation goes outside the final

period. (Hacker 266)

Your essay (double spaced, of course) will continue after the quotation, starting all the way to the left if the paragraph continues as it usually should.

Poetry: Poetry quotations have a slightly different form. If you cite one line of poetry, put it in quotation marks: "I think that I shall never see . . ." If you cite two lines, put a slash between the lines: "I think that I shall never see, / A poem as lovely as a tree." With three lines or more, indent it as you would any block quotation, but put each line of poetry on its own line, that is, as it appeared in the original poem:
 

Know then thyself, presume not God to scan;

The proper study of Mankind is Man.

Placíd on this isthmus of a middle state,

A being darkly wise, and rudely great. (Pope 131)


As in all things, see Hacker or the MLA Handbook for details.

Citation Style: MLA parenthetical citation style is usually simplest, although The Chicago Manual of Style footnote style is also simple and correct. Choose one and use it right. Hacker describes MLA style well; have a look and review it. The most common citation errors include putting too much information in the parentheses, inserting a comma between the authorís name and the page number, and using "p.," "pp.," or even "page," even though MLA style was invented to eliminate all that. If you donít already have it straight, look it up in Hacker.

Fonts: Please, use 12 point Times/Roman or its equivalent; my eyes hurt enough already. Avoid the use of italics, boldface, etc. for emphasis. Good prose is emphatic enough.

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