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What You Can Omit When Quoting Sources

By Angela Gibson

When quoting from a source, you should transcribe the source exactly (for the few acceptable alterations, see 1.3.1 and 1.3.6 of the MLA Handbook).

There is, however, an entire category of material that you do not reproduce from a source: the editorial apparatus–namely, note numbers or symbols, in-text citations, and typographic flags. You also do not reproduce most formatting and design features.

Numbered Notes


Smallpox was deployed as a weapon against the Native Americans by the British in the eighteenth century.10

Source as Quoted

As Philip Bobbitt notes, “Smallpox was deployed as a weapon against the Native Americans by the British in the eighteenth century” (353).

Note Symbols


Strategic requirements determined these interests.*

Source as Quoted

As Philip Bobbitt notes, “Strategic requirements determined these interests” (353).

In-Text Citations


Jack London achieved his breakthrough in a magazine with national circulation (Auerbach 38).

Source as Quoted

Sara Hodson, documenting his shrewdness in building his career, notes that “Jack London achieved his breakthrough in a magazine with national circulation” (29).

As the examples above show, you omit the reference markers used by your source and, when called for, replace them with your own, to clarify your source for the information.

Typographic Flags

Other methods of cross-referencing the text to explanatory material, like the underlining used in the MLA Handbook that keys to marginal notes, should also be omitted when quoting.


Source as Quoted

As the MLA Handbook notes, you should “[e]xamine the work itself for the facts about its publication” (13).

Design and Formatting

You should generally ignore shading, boldface, and other design and formatting features when quoting.


Source as Quoted

The MLA Handbook advises writers that the “title of an episode of a television series” is styled thus: “Hush” (28).

The exception is italic font, which is used, by convention, to indicate emphasis. Reproduce italic font when it is used alongside roman font in this way.


Integrity! He talks to me of integrity!

Source as Quoted

The narrator’s incredulity with the Brotherhood is evident when he reflects on Hambro’s comments: “Integrity! He talks to me of integrity!” (503).

Also render italics when used to indicate titles.


Example sources taken from Philip Bobbitt’s The Shield of Achilles (Anchor Books, 2002); Sarah Hodson’s “Jack London, Celebrity” (Approaches to Teaching Jack London, edited by Kenneth K. Brandt and Jeanne Campbell Reesman, MLA, 2015, pp. 25-35); MLA Handbook (8th ed., MLA, 2016); and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (Vintage International, 1980).

Published 24 January 2018

3 comments on “What You Can Omit When Quoting Sources”

  1. Hello, My question is– When quoting a famous speech by a president– Ex. “A date that will live in infamy.” Is the president’s name in parenthesis or the speech name? or if Ringo Starr gives a statement– is his name in parenthesis? but it also has to be in the works cited — and this is the difficulty — I am running into this year.
    Thank you.

  2. Hi,

    I want to publish a letter that I wrote to a judge, but I don’t want to include the judge’s last name publicly. (As originally written, the letter started: “Dear Judge Camacho”.) What are my options for correctly removing “Camacho”?

    Thank you!

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