When should a short quotation be used?

Whether they are used to provide evidence, support for an argument, or to illustrate an idea using another writer’s words, short quotations are valuable tools that can enhance any essay. Because short quotations contain fewer than 40 words, they should be integrated into the surrounding paragraph using introductory phrases that provide some context for the quoted material.

How should a short quotation be formatted?

The formatting of a short quotation contrasts with that of a block quotation in several ways. A short quotation should be surrounded by quotation marks and followed by a parenthetical in-text citation. The final punctuation of the sentence is then typed after the in-text citation, outside of the parentheses. Note the placement order of the quotation marks, parentheses, and period following a short quotation:

Let’s look at an example:

However, as one researcher points out, “science can be seen as an ideal and altruistic activity conducted for the best of mankind, where knowledge is in itself a value” (Simonsen, 2012, p. 46). [1]

An alternate method of formatting a short quotation is to include the author(s) and year of publication in the introductory clause, while the original page number remains in parentheses at the end of the sentence. Consider the placement of the author’s name and year of publication as the quotation is introduced.

Let’s look at two more examples:

As Simonsen (2012) goes on to explain, “science can be seen as an ideal and altruistic activity conducted for the best of mankind, where knowledge is in itself a value” (p. 46). [1]

In a work published in 2012, Simonsen suggested that “science can be seen as an ideal and altruistic activity conducted for the best of mankind, where knowledge is in itself a value” (p. 46). [1] 

For more information about using quotations, see also:


[1] Simonsen, S. (2012). Acceptable risk in biomedical research. New York, NY: Springer.