Learn English – How to quote nonconsecutive lines from a poem


I'm writing an analysis of a poem and want to quote nonconsecutive lines. Is there a specific way to do this, or would I just use an ellipsis and no slash?

Best Answer

khenderson at jeffstateonline.com suggests indicating elided lines by using commas in the page-number citation list:

15. When quoting separate lines, place the citation at the end of the sentence and denote non-consecutive line numbers by using a comma instead of a dash. [e.g.] · T. S. Eliot’s speaker frets, “I have measured out my life in coffee spoons,” after asking, “Do I dare / Disturb the universe?” (lines 50, 45-46).

mclayton at mtsu.edu suggests the same:

... use parenthetical citations [to] refer the reader ... to line numbers for poetry--(7), (2-6) for multiple lines, (2, 4, 7) for multiple, non-consecutive lines

after commenting,

Take time to go over the review provided in the MLA Documentation PP in the Study Tools area; more detail on parenthetical citations is offered in Harbrace pp. 579-89.

An ehow.com article says:

Use an ellipsis (...) if you just want to quote part of a line, or if you want to skip a line of the poem in a quotation. This shows that you have left out something from the quote. You do not need to use an ellipsis when skipping a line of poetry in block format. [E.g.] "An elephant, a ponderous house / [...] / O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers!" (2, 4).

Comment: If you are writing the analysis for your own delectation, then quote the lines however you like. But if you are writing for publication or for classwork, ask your editor or instructor what set of style guidelines they require.

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