• 2-minute read
  • 21st October 2017

Essay Tips: How to Use Block Quotes

Most essays include at least a few quotes. As such, there are rules for how to present other people’s words in your work. This depends in part on the referencing system you’re using. But it also depends on how much you’re quoting. Which is where block quotes become important.

Block Quotes: The Basics

As you may have guessed from the name, a block quote is a block of quoted text.

Block quoting in action.

Generally, these are used when quoting longer passages of text. Doing this sets the quote apart from your own writing, making it easier for the reader to see that you’re quoting a source.

How to Present Block Quotes

The rules for formatting a block quote vary among style guides. As such, it’s vital to check your university’s guide for advice. Nevertheless, there are a few general rules you can follow:

  • Start the block quote on a new line (usually after a colon or comma)
  • Indent the whole block of text (usually by around 1.27cm)
  • Don’t use quote marks, but do cite your source as usual
  • If quoting more than one paragraph, indent the first line of each after the first

After the block quote, your own text should resume on a new line with standard formatting.

When to Use a Block Quote

In academic writing, it is usually best not to quote large blocks of text. This is because paraphrasing something is a more effective way of showing that you’ve understood it.

However, you can quote longer passages if you’re analysing a text, or if your argument depends on how something is written. Essentially, block quotes are most useful when the specific wording used in the source is important to what you’re saying.

In terms of the amount of text, this again depends on the style guide you’re using. However, a good rule of thumb is that you should use block quotes for passages of more than 40 words.

This, for example, is standard in most forms of Harvard referencing. It’s important to check your style guide, though, as some systems have specific requirements, including:


Length of Block Quote


40 or more words


Four or more lines


Five or more lines


40 or more words

If you’re not sure which system your university uses, try asking your supervisor.

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