What percent of a source may I directly quote in my paper?

Note: This post relates to content in the eighth edition of the MLA Handbook. For up-to-date guidance, see the ninth edition of the MLA Handbook.

Writers, including student writers, should quote only what is necessary to make their point. Relying on a percentage to determine what’s necessary is unlikely to be useful.

Writers preparing to publish their work should keep copyright laws in mind and consider the principles of fair use. One consideration in determining fair use (but certainly not the only one) is the amount borrowed. The MLA is updating its fair use guidelines, formerly published in the MLA Style Manual. In the meantime, we recommend the guidelines offered by the United States Copyright Office and the Association of University Presses.