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How to Cite a Poem, a Book, a Play, a Quote, or Song Lyrics

Citing refers to the action of referencing a passage or words from a particular source using their terms or your own. It applies to any scenario where you are doing the following:

  1. Directly quoting a person
  2. Paraphrasing someone’s words
  3. Summarizing a person’s ideas

According to the different disciplines, students are expected to cite their sources whenever they conduct any form of research. These sources may vary from books to poems or even song lyrics. For each type of source, some guidelines dictate the format the citations should take.

In this article, you will find the principles that determine how you cite your sources. The information you will find here, however, only applies to the MLA formatting style. If you are searching for how to cite a quote in MLA, you are in the right place.

How to Cite a Poem

When quoting a poem line (or part of it), you should place it within quotation marks. However, if you are citing two or three lines, use a forward slash to indicate the line breaks. Precede and follow the slash with space.

Maintain the capitalization, punctuation, and style of the original poem. Use a double slash between the lines to mark a stanza break.

When you are quoting more than 40 words, place them as a blockquote. The quotation should start in a new line, and you should indent it half an inch away from the left margin. It should have no quotation marks but should have line breaks.

Preserve the original formatting as much as possible, including unusual spacing.

In-text Citations

When you quote a poem, the last name of the poet should be clear. It will assist your reader in locating the source in the works cited list readily. If you are handling more than one poem by the same author, you should identify the title of the piece you are quoting.

You do not want any ambiguity when referring to a poem. You could use a parenthetical citation after the quote where you include the author’s name and the title.

Parenthetical Citations – Line and Page Numbers

At times, publishers include line numbers in the margin of a poem. In such a case, you should use the line numbers within your in-text citation. It will assist in locating the quote more precisely. Only in the first citation should you use the term ‘line(s).’ You will use numbers in the rest of the quotations.

If no line numbers are available in the source, use the page number in its place. If no page numbers are available, only include the poet’s name.

Do not use parenthetical citation when you have already mentioned the name, and there are no line or page numbers.

How to Cite a Book in MLA

When quoting a book, give a signal word/phrase and a page number. The signal word is usually the author’s last name. If you include it in the sentence, you do not need to do so in the parenthetical citation.

1. Books with Corporate Authors

If a book has a corporate author, it is okay to use the name of the corporation and the accompanying page number for the in-text citation.

You may want to use abbreviations where appropriate so that you avoid using long parenthetical citations that may interrupt the flow of reading.

2. Books with no Known Authors

When a book does not have a known author, use a shortened title in the place of the author’s name. You should italicize the title and give a page number (if available).

3. Authors with Similar Last Names

If two or more authors share the last name, you should give both authors’ first initials. If they share even initials, provide their full names.

4. A Book by Multiple Authors

For a book with two authors, provide the authors’ last names in the parenthetical citation or the text.

If a book has three or more authors, only list the first author’s last name and replace the rest with et al.

5. Citing Two Books by the Same Author

When citing more than one book by an author, include a shortened title for it to distinguish it from the rest. The short titles should be in italics.

If the name of the author is not in the sentence, you should format the citation with the author’s name, then a comma, then a shortened title of the book, and the page number, when appropriate.

How to Cite a Play in MLA

 There are unique guidelines for quoting sources that form a dialogue of two or more participants. You will want to write the speaker’s name in all capitals at the beginning of each line of dialog. It will be essential to indent the line half an inch from the margin.

A period should follow the speaker’s name. Write the dialog after the period. Each subsequent line should have an additional indentation. When another character starts speaking, indent the person’s name half an inch and begin the new line. You will repeat this action every time the speaker changes.

If stage directions appear in the source, you can include them in the quote.

Finish with a parenthetical explaining where to find the extracted portion in the source. You may use a signal phrase to mention the author and title before quoting an excerpt.

If you do so, you can give the page number or an act-scene indicator in the concluding parenthetical.

How to Cite a Short Story

When citing a short story in MLA, you should place the author’s last name and the page number without any punctuation between them.

Place the quotation marks around the excerpt. The end quotes should be before the in-text citation. 

When citing more than three lines, indent the entire block 0.5 inches from the left margin. When the block of text is indented, there is no need to add quotation marks.

You will need to place the parenthesis at the end of the quote. Keep in mind that period signs and commas should appear after the citation.

For an MLA short story citation, follow the following procedure;

Provide; the name of the author and the title of the short story. When citing, the author’s last name goes first, followed by their first name.

Appropriately cite all anthological information. When you locate the anthology, indicate the name and italicize the anthology title. You should also include the editor’s name.

To properly cite a short story in MLA, you should include vital information about the publisher of the story. As such, you will need to include; the city of publication, the year of writing, and the publisher’s name.

For printed short stories, cite all page numbers and finish the citation with the word ‘Print.’

How to Cite Song Lyrics

To quote song lyrics, you will need the following information;

  1. Singer’s name
  2. Songwriter’s name
  3. Title of the song
  4. Title of the album
  5. Album’s edition
  6. Track number
  7. Publisher
  8. Year of publication
  9. The name of the website you can find the lyrics
  10. The website’s URL
  11. The names of other contributors.

When citing song lyrics in MLA, begin with the author’s or songwriter’s name. You should state the last name first, followed by the first name.

If there are several songwriters, list them according to how they appear in the copyright information.

Next, indicate the title of the song and enclose it within quotation marks. The title of the album should follow this, italicized. Then, the other contributor’s names, Album’s publisher, the year of publication, track number, and a period.

Following this should be the name of the website and the URL (without the HTTP:// or https://)

How to Cite an Essay

You may typically find an essay in another published work like an edited book or a collection.

To cite an essay in MLA format, begin with the last name of the essay’s author and follow it with a comma. Next, write the author’s first name, followed by a period.

After the name, indicate the essay’s title in title case. This means that you capitalize the first word and all other essential words in the title. Place the title within quotation marks and place a period in the end before the closing quotation marks.

If you found the essay within a more extensive work, provide the title (of the more substantial work) in italics. Use title case for this title as well. Place a comma after the title and follow it with the word ‘by’ and the name of the author. The author’s name should start with the first name and then with the last name.

A comma follows the name and then the year of publication of the more extensive work. It should also be followed by a comma.

Next, you should tell your reader where within the collection, the essay is found. Insert the abbreviation ‘pp.’ followed by the first page of the article, a hyphen, then the last page of the piece. After the final page number, place a period.

For in-text citations, use the author’s last name and the page number.

How to Explain a Quote

After citing a quote, the next logical step is to explain it. To do this, you will need to provide the context for the quote you want to translate. The setting will establish the when, where, and why of the quote. It will help your reader understand the relevance of the quote in the context of your work.

The next thing to do will be to explain the significance of the quote or its context to your writing. It would be best if you told the reader why what was said by another author is particularly relevant to the argument you are developing.

Final Thoughts

The importance of citing cannot be overemphasized. When you list your sources, it shows your reader that you have conducted proper research. At the same time, it demonstrates your moral competence since you are acknowledging and giving credit to other researchers.

Citing is the right way of avoiding plagiarism and allows your readers to follow up on the sources so that they may interpret the information for themselves.

Using this guide, you can understand how to cite a quote from different sources in MLA style. Whether it is; books, poems, essays, song lyrics, plays, or even short stories, you can now correctly cite your work and receive the recognition of a good researcher from your instructor.

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