Quotation or reference?

Sometimes a single quotation doesn’t have all the evidence you need to back up the point you want to make.

Short quotations

Quote from Eden RockQuote from 'Eden Rock' by Charles Causley

If you want to reference a short phrase or several words from the poem, you can do so by using speech marks within a sentence, like this:

‘The sky whitens as if lit by three suns.’ is an unusual line that offers a dream-like symbol of the three members of the family in the poem.

Quotations as short as this don't need to be indented as this would spoil the flow of your writing and make it hard for your reader to follow. Instead, put each phrase you want to mention inside its own set of speech marks.


Reference to the poem Eden Rock 'The three suns in the sky might be a dream-like symbol of the three members of the family.'Reference of a quote from 'Eden Rock' by Charles Causley

Sometimes you may want to comment on lines from different parts of a poem. Rather than try to link two quotations, you can make a textual reference instead. This means summarising what the lines say and adding your comment. You may want to comment on the similarities between the first two lines from Eden Rock by Charles Causley. You could do it with a textual reference and without need for speech marks like this:

Three suns seem to be in the sky. Perhaps, like the three plates in the poem, they are a dream-like symbol representing the three members of the family.


If you’re writing an essay, use both quotations and textual references to keep your reader engaged and interested. If you always make your points in the same way, it can make your writing seem dull and repetitive. Therefore, try to use a mixture of:

  • short quotations - worked into your sentences
  • longer quotations - indented from the margin and framed by your introduction and follow-up sentences
  • textual references - summarising parts of the poem and adding your comment