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Run-On Sentences

Run-on sentences occur when writers try to combine more than one idea into a single sentence. They cause confusion because readers are not sure when one idea ends and the next one begins. Read our entry and test your knowledge with our quiz!

The Modern Language Association (MLA) handbook gives rules for presenting research in language and literature. Most English students format their work in MLA style. This document will explain general rules for quotations from the MLA Handbook. Since English literature includes several types of sources, including poetry and drama, the rules for quotations are extensive. See our other pages if you want to learn more about formatting papers or citing sources in MLA.

  1. Basic Quotations
  2. Block Quotations
  3. Quoting Poetry
  4. Quoting Drama
  5. Using Ellipses to Replace Parts of a Quotation


Basic Quotations (92-93)

Most quotations—from novels, short stories, and other primary or secondary sources—should fit directly into the sentence structure. If the text leading into the quote is not complete on its own, use a comma between it and the quotation.


The cow said, “I have strong opinions about that moovie.”


If the leading text is complete, use a colon instead.


Roger Ebert had a different take: “I hated, hated, hated this movie.”


If you have edited the quotation to fit into the existing sentence structure, you can avoid using punctuation to lead into the quotation.


The director told his audience that “the film takes viewers on a journey into mystery.”


The citation will follow the quotation, but come before the period.


Block Quotations (94)

If the quotation is more than four lines long, then use the block quotation format. Begin the quotation on a new line, indenting the entire quotation one inch from the left. Double-space the entire quotation. You won’t use quotation marks, since the quotation has already been separated from your main text by the indent. Include the citation for the quote after the final period, not before.


If the block quote is multiple paragraphs, indent the first line an additional quarter inch, as long as it is the beginning of a paragraph in the quoted work.


Quoting Poetry (95-96)

Poetry sometimes uses unique spacing to create meaning. If quoting 1-2 lines of poetry, place them in the text like other quotations. If quoting three or more lines, begin on a new line, following the same rules as a block quote.


If a line of poetry is longer than the length of the page, continue on the next line, but indent another quarter inch.


Reproduce odd spatial arrangements as closely as possible.


If you are quoting only part of a poetry line, begin the quotation as closely as possible to its original position.


Quoting Drama (96-97)

Drama typically consists of two types of information: dialogue and description. You’ll set dialogue off from the text by indenting, in the same manner as block quotes and poetry.


Use ALL-CAPS for character names, and follow the character name by a period. The second and subsequent lines are indented by an additional quarter inch.


HAMLET. I am a character in a play. This play is the most fantastic play in all the world.


Using Ellipses to Replace Parts of a Quotation

Use an ellipsis to show that you have removed part of the text. Place a space before and after each of the three periods:


“The brain . . . has suffered extensive damage.”


When an ellipsis ends a sentence, remove the first space, and add a fourth period at the end (except when there is a citation).


“Son, your real father is. . . .”


When an ellipsis replaces a line or more of poetry, continue periods across the length of a poem line:


            There once was a man from Nantucket


            . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


            And as for the bucket, Nantucket.


If the original source uses ellipses, you can include a note to avoid confusion and use brackets to separate your ellipses from others.