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MLA Formatted Poem: The Most Comprehensive Guide

You probably know that formatting makes up almost half of your success when it comes to a college paper. You may have outstanding ideas or research results but they won’t mean anything if you fail to meet professor’s requirements.


There are many different formatting styles and MLA is undoubtedly one of the most popular ones. It may seem very simple at first but you should still master its peculiarities if you don’t want your work to get a low grade. Especially when it is about a poem and not prose.


In this article we will give you all the necessary information on all of the MLA formatting requirements. Just use them and you will never have to wonder how to cite a poem properly!



Poem citing: why it is important


First of all, you need to understand why it is necessary to cite a poem according to all of the guidelines. While being in a literature, English or art class, you will surely need to deliver multiple essays, including:


  • Compare and contrast;
  • Descriptive;
  • Critical;
  • Reflective;
  • Classification;
  • Argumentative, etc.


Once you complete such essays or other works, you will achieve outstanding results in citing not only books but also poems.


Here is what you must know about poem citing:


  • Every time you want to include a phrase or an idea of the author from the source text, you must use citations. In other cases, it will be considered plagiarism and you will get yourself into big troubles;
  • Explain why borrowed ideas are important for the goals of your paper;
  • In case you paraphrase the author’s ideas there is no need to use quotation marks but you should always use in-text citing at the end of the paraphrased part;
  • Every time you mention the title of the poem, put it into quotation marks;
  • In case you need to delete a line or even more from the analyzed poem, you need to use ellipses. There is nothing wrong in deleting certain sections but you should indicate it in your text.




Peculiarities of MLA Style


MLA formatting style is an abbreviation for a Modern Language Association and is considered the most popular one, used for writing all sorts of papers, including poems reviews. Mainly MLA Style is used for liberal arts and humanities, and considered quite simple to master. However, it contains a range of requirements, which you need to master.


Unfortunately, learning MLA formatting peculiarities is quite boring and time consuming, because it consists of many rules and requirements. It has a separate list of regulations when it comes to poem citing and if you don’t follow all of them, your text may be considered plagiarism and you may have to rewrite everything anew.


However, if you are reading this article, you already know why formatting is so important and you just need to remember all the rules. We have collected all of them and you can get back to our text any time you are asked to use MLA formatting style.


Citing quotes: MLA formatting peculiarities


Once in a while, when you refer to a poem you may need to insert quotes to support your point of view and show that you have read the given piece. Citing means that you put exact parts of the source text into your own.


MLA formatting style offers several ways of adding direct and indirect quotations to the text. Everything depends on the length of the piece.


  • Short quotes, which are shorter than 3 lines;
  • Long quotes that are longer than 3 lines and consist of several paragraphs.


From time to time, you will also have to insert built-in citations to give an explanation to your thoughts or to explain parts, which have no meaning. However, never insert parts that are unnecessary or can be avoided.


Some students think that it is very easy to find a quote and simply copy-paste parts to show that they have read the whole poem. However, choosing the best citing part is quite difficult, because you need to find an example, which renders the meaning of the poem in the best way. You won’t be able to select such a part without excellent research skills.


Citing poem’s title properly


You should always start citing from the first line, i.e. from poem’s title. You can either use italics or quotation marks. The choice depends on the length of the title you are going to cite.


If it is a short title, you can put it into quotation marks. For example, ‘Forever young’, ‘My own battle’, etc. When the title is longer, it is better to use italics: A girl with a broken heart, The noble heart of my man.



5 useful tips on citing a poem, using MLA style


When you work with an MLA formatting style, there is nothing simpler than citing a poem. It will only require a few minutes of your time and almost no efforts. If you want to save your time and don’t want to read tons of guidelines, you can simply stick to our rules.


  1. Every time you need to quote a poetry piece, either it is a single phrase or a big paragraph, you should place it in a citation with quotation marks on both sides. Use parentheses if you want to show what the author said exactly. Don’t forget to put punctuation outside the parenthesis. You can also put a number of a certain line after the quote. Here is an example:


According to the author’s lyrics, “every soul will always find its path” (2).


  1. If you want to quote passages, which come one after another, you can type in the virgule to show where the lines divide. Place author’s name in parenthesis, divided with a hyphen;
  2. In case you need to insert four or more lines, use a so-called long quotation, which is sometimes named ‘block quote’. Write a signal phrase in the starting of the quote; indent twice and double space. Leave all the punctuation marks, as they appeared in the source text;
  3. All other parts of the poem should appear as if you are citing prose, considering all the rights of the author;
  4. Not depending what part you are quoting, always proofread quotations and edit them if necessary.


How to cite poems in an MLA style


Every successful student knows that it is important to master the required formatting style even before writing an essay itself, because it is as important, as https for the website’s address.


There are multiple ways how to get started: get familiar with examples online, find an academic source or guideline, which is dedicated to a particular writing style. Don’t forget to read the poem itself, because you won’t be able to detect which parts of the source text you need to quote and where to place them.


Before working on a proper citing, you need to estimate the length of the chosen part to identify its type. Short quotes are those, which are smaller than three lines. Don’t forget to follow this rule any time you are citing a poetry part not depending on the type of your assignment.


Rules of a correct citing:


  1. Always use quotation marks, when you want to add a direct quote of the initial piece;
  2. Make sure you mention the title of the poetry, the name of the author and number of the page or line;
  3. Don’t forget about punctuation at the end of the quotation in parenthesis;
  4. If exclamation or question marks belong to the cited piece, put them inside quotation marks;
  5. Put them outside if they are not present in the original quote;
  6. All of the quotations should be fully reflected in the Bibliography (the last page of your essay), using MLA formatting style.


Example of MLA citing


When you insert a quotation to the text, make sure you put ‘/’ instead of breaks with a space on both sides. If you add a parenthetical quotation you can place the line number, not the page. Don’t forget to capitalize lines after the slash. However, this rule doesn’t apply to cite a secondary source.


For example,


As she claimed, “Until the rain came pouring / Until the wind surrounded us / We were there for each other” (23-25).


You must provide a number of the line only in case if the source also shared them in parentheses. A number of lines is placed after quotation marks, before the punctuation.


How to add long quotes, using MLA Format


A long quote is a piece of a poem, which is longer than three lines. It has its own formatting peculiarities and here are the main steps how to use an MLA style:


  1. You should use a separate block of text;
  2. Don’t use quotation marks;
  3. Start a quotation from a fresh line;
  4. Every first word of a new paragraph should be indented. This rule is applied only if you need to quote more than two paragraphs;
  5. Use double-spaced in your quote;
  6. Don’t forget to use a parenthetical citation after you place the final punctuation.


For example,


If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;(5-8).


How to apply APA Formatting style

Now, when you know all of the peculiarities of an MLA formatting style, we offer you to get familiar with APA, which is also popular among students and is usually applied in social sciences.


Here are the basic APA formatting rules:


  • If you want to quote a piece of poem, which is shorter than 40 words, you need to enter quotation marks;
  • If you need to include two or more lines of one poem, you should show the line breaks, using a slash between them;
  • In case you want to include a big paragraph to your text, use block quotations and start them with a new line.


Rules of using APA poetry citing in a proper way


  • Explain why you have chosen a certain part. Provide a comment or feedback and give the reader information on why the quote is important for your essay. Make sure you really choose a piece, which fully reflects your ideas;
  • Built-in quotes. You can not only place quotes separately but also embed them into your sentences, placing anywhere you want: at the beginning, at the end or in the central part of the sentence. Don’t forget to place quotation marks and provide information about the author;
  • Skipping words. If you are using an APA format to quote a poem and want to miss out certain words or phrases, you can use ellipses. For example, ‘there she… stood with bare feet” (12). If you want to add any grammar changes, you should type your comments in brackets.


Final guidelines


  1. It doesn’t matter if the quoted piece is short or long: any time you want to change it in order to adjust to your text, it is necessary to use a three-spaced period to show the omitted part;
  2. Skip all the insignificant details. It is more than simple to delete such parts: simply replace them with three-spaced periods;
  3. If you want to add your own comments or interpretations to the quoted part, you should indicate them in square brackets;
  4. Don’t add too many quotations. You may be tempted to include many quotes from the given piece to show how well you have worked with the source text. However, they may distract the reader and make the text difficult to read. Actually, quotations should occupy only a small part of an essay. In case you can’t do without citing, it is better to rewrite or paraphrase words and sentences, indicating authorship.




In this article we have discussed how to use MLA formatting style for citing a poem not depending on the size of the quoted piece. While using quotes is the best way to show that you have read the source text and understood author’s ideas, it is important to quote everything properly.


If you still find it difficult to add a quote to your essay and examples from our article don’t help, there is another effective solution. You can contact our writing service and get academic assistance with the assignment.


Our professional writers, proofreaders and editors know everything about citing and formatting, even if the required style is rare and complicated. We guarantee that you will get only the highest grades and your professor won’t suspect that you weren’t the author.


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