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The Comprehensive Guide to Finding and Using Quotes in Your English Essays

Person reading a book on a sofa - Quotes in English Essays

Quotes are key to writing a solid English essay. But, what is a quote? And how can we use quotes in our writing?

Here’s an essential guide that breaks down all the important things you need to know about quotes, including the types of quotes out there, how to find them and how to weave them into your essay.

Let’s get started!

What is a Quote?
Types of Quotes in an English Essay
Why Should you Use Quotes in English Essays?
When Should Quotes Be Used in an English Essay? 
How to Find Quotes to Use in an English Essays
How to Use Quotes in an English Essay 
Common Errors When Using Quotes 
Quotes Master List from Various Texts

What is a Quote?

A quote is a part of the author’s text that you take and put into your own essay.

Quotes can be long or short, depending on what its purpose is. For most of the time, you will need to place quotation marks around your quotes to tell them apart from your own writing. 

For some English assessments, you will be asked to reference your quotes. To reference, you will need to use specific guidelines to tell your marker which text you extracted your quote from

It is important that you reference your quotes when you are told to do so! This is because you risk receiving a mark of zero if your teachers find you committing plagiarism, otherwise known as taking someone else’s words and claiming them as your own. 

Note: Just a heads up, quotes may need to be referenced for English essay assignments, but not for in-class or exam-style tasks where you will have to write the essay on the spot.

Types of Quotes in an English Essay

There are 3 types of quotes that exist! Let us take you through each of them, including some hints on the common types of quotes that you will use in your English essay. 

We’ll use the same extract from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet as an example to demonstrate how these quotes may look in writing. 

Studying Romeo and Juliet? Check out our Top 50 Romeo and Juliet Quotes with analysis of themes and techniques!

Direct Quotes

Direct Quote

A direct quote is a long paragraph that you take from a text without adding any changes to it.

These are often used to conclude your points without any further explanation needed. Quotation marks are a must when it comes to direct quotes!

It’s good to note that direct quotes are rarely used in high school English essays.

However, in university, you may need to use direct quotes depending on what degree you are enrolled in. For example, if you’re doing a Bachelor of Arts, you will definitely be asked to use direct quotes in your assessment tasks!

For example, a direct quote can look like this: 

Shakespeare uses foreshadowing in the prologue, as demonstrated in:

“…A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life;

Whose misadventured piteous overthrows

Do with their death bury their parents’ strife.

The fearful passage of their death-mark’d love,

And the continuance of their parents’ rage,

Which, but their children’s end, nought could remove,

Is now the two hours’ traffic of our stage;

The which if you with patient ears attend,

What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.” 

– Act 1, Prologue, Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare 

In-text Quote

In-text quote

Think of in-text quotes as a type of direct quotes, but shorter in length!

In-text quotes are often slipped into sentences or used to finish off a sentence. It can also be used to add an interesting flair to your writing. Like the direct quote, in-text quotes need to be framed with quotation marks

Though, unlike the direct quote, the use of in-text quotes is most common in English essays at a high school level. In-text quotes can be used as E for “Example” in your PEEL paragraphs. You may also use in-text quotes to help your essay flow better.

For example, an in-text quote can be written like this: 

Shakespeare uses foreshadowing by casting Romeo and Juliet as “star-crossed lovers” who are destined to “take their li(ves)” to end the “ancient grudge” between their two families. 

Indirect Quote

Indirect Quote

An indirect quote is when you paraphrase what the author has said.

Note: To paraphrase means to write an extract in your own words, rather than using the exact quote from the author. 

This is used when the main idea is significant, but the quotes are too long to fit into your essay. The good news is, you don’t need to include quotation marks for indirect quotes. 

Indirect quotes can be used in English essays, but not as much as in-text quotes.

This is because indirect quotes can be challenging to feature specific examples from the text, which can make your argument appear weaker without enough evidence.

To give you an idea, an indirect quote can look like this: 

Shakespeare uses foreshadowing in the prologue to reveal how Romeo and Juliet are destined to end their lives to restore peace between the two households. 

As you can tell, an in-direct quote does not provide specific references to the text, which makes it sound less strong than one with in-text quotes. 

Why Should You Use Quotes in Your English Essays? 

Our teachers have always told us that quotes are super important in English essays. But why is this the case?

Here are three main reasons.

#1: To Strengthen your Argument 

In English essays, you will need to write about your argument. It is not enough to simply write what you think about the topic though, because you will need evidence to back it up too

Quotes can act as evidence to strengthen your argument in your English essay. It can help to reinforce your argument as it provides a second voice that resonates with your ideas, beliefs and opinions.

Some effective quotes that can support your argument include related stories, metaphors, facts or statistics. 

Plus, you will improve your credibility, as the quote implies that there are others who agree with your argument as well!

To learn more about strengthening your argument in an English essay, check out our guide to writing a persuasive text here!

#2: To Write In-Depth Analysis 

An in-depth analysis of text examples is important when writing an amazing English essay! 

Quotes can be used to provide specific examples from the texts to allow for in-depth analysis. In other words, you can use quotes as the “E” for “Example” in PEEL paragraphs to help you break down the text.

By doing this, it helps your markers pin point where the technique and its effect is coming from.

As a result, it demonstrates your extensive knowledge in English that can knock the socks off your teachers!

#3: To Add Variety 

Is your English essay starting to sound a bit boring?  

A good way to spice it up is to use quotes! Quotes can add variety to your sentence structures and break the monotony.

They may also provide a new way of phrasing things that may get the point across more effectively too! 

At times, quotes can provide a more concise, notable way of promoting your argument. Famous quotes are a great way to capture the attention of your readers!


When Should Quotes Be Used in an English Essay? 

Quotes are a great way to write an effective English essay with a strong argument! 

However, students make the mistake of stuffing as many quotes as they can into their essays. It is important that we avoid going overboard with quotes as it may overtake your main ideas and leave your marker confused with what your main argument is. 

Instead of using quotes as mere “sentence fillers”, we want to be strategic.

Be sure to use quotes when you want to share accurate evidence from your texts to strengthen your argument. On another note, you can also use quotes when you want to reinforce how your idea is linked to your texts. 

How to Find Quotes to Use in an English Essay

Here are 2 key strategies you should know when it comes to finding quotes for your essay.

#1: Find a Quote that Supports your Idea

The main purpose of writing an English essay is to promote your point of view on the topic. 

Therefore, the first step to find quotes is to identify a quote that supports your point. It’s also a good idea to be on a lookout for a quote that also encompasses at least one technique.

This will allow you to dive into an in-depth analysis about its effect and how it links to your argument. 

For example, when writing about Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, you may choose to use quotes such as “death mark’d love” with an oxymoron to argue that love has two sides to it, a rewarding one and also a lethal one. 

#2: Make Sure it is Relevant 

Secondly, you should aim for quotes that focus on the aspect of the text you are discussing, whether it be the character, setting or a particular literary technique!

If you want to make a statement about a character, you may choose to use a quote about their personality, their strengths or their flaws.

Alternatively, if you want to write about the setting, you may choose to include quotes that describe the environment, the mood or the way the characters feel in that time or place.

You can even choose quotes that feature a specific literary technique that you’d like to focus on!

How to Use Quotes in an English Essay 

In a basic English essay, we need at least 4 to 5 quotes in each paragraph.

In-text quotes are used the most often, and they need to be weaved into sentences unlike the longer direct quotes or paraphrased indirect quotes. 

For one, we should avoid writing “as seen in this quote” or “as quoted by” when introducing your quote as it disrupts the flow of your essay. So here’s the real question, how can we embed quotes into our English essay?

Here is a 3-step guide that teaches you how to embed your in-text quotes! 

#1: Write your Introduction Statement 

Before inserting your quote, the first step is to introduce where the quote is coming from.

You can choose a quote that comes from a scene or someoneIf you choose to feature a quote about a scene or action, you should identify who is engaging in the action before entering your quote. 


As Romeo “def(ies)…stars”, Shakespeare…

Signal Phrases

Alternatively, if you are choosing to write about a quote that comes from someone, whether it be the author or the character, it is always good practice to use signal phrases.

Signal phrases can not only help you introduce what the person is saying, but also hints what their message is. Signal phrases could include according to, discusses, states, argues, claims, explains, demonstrates… the list goes on. 

Set-Off Quotations and Build-In Quotations

There are two strategies to write about a quote that comes from someone, which includes “set off quotations” or “build in quotations.”

For “set off quotations”, use a signal phrase, and then a comma before inserting the quote. Make sure that the first word of your quote is capitalised if you are using this strategy. 


As Romeo claims, “ I defy you, stars!”…

For “build in quotations”, identify who is saying the quote, then use a signal phrase, followed by the use of the word “that” before entering your quote. 


Romeo announces that “I defy you, stars!”…


#2: Insert your Quotation 

The next part is easy! You just need to write out the quotation word by word from the text.

Make sure you use quotation marks to frame the quote. 

At times, you may need to modify your quote so you can fit it into your sentence in a way that has correct grammar. One way to do this is to write the grammatically correct version in brackets, so you acknowledge that you have changed the quote.

You may also add in ellipsis to cut down irrelevant parts of they quote so it flows better. 


Let’s use the original quote from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet may be “I defy you, stars!”

Romeo “defy you stars!” 

Instead, you can write: 

Romeo “def(ies)…stars” 

#3: Frame your Quote

So, what do you write after inserting your quote?

After entering your quote, you must explain why you included it and how it relates to your argument. If you are using the PEEL paragraph structure, this will be your “Explain” and “Link” part of the sentence.

This part is important as it can help support your argument to make your English essay stronger!


As Romeo claims, “I defy you, stars!”, Shakespeare uses the astrological allusion in “stars” as a symbol of fate to reveal our human capacity to shape our own destinies against predetermined forces. 

Common Errors When Using Quotes 

It is good to be familiar with the common errors we make when we embed quotes into our English essays, so we know what to avoid when we write!

Here are 3 common mistakes students make when using quotes.

#1: Who Said it?

When introducing a quote that someone has said, it is important that your sentences are structured in a way that makes it clear who the quote is coming from.

In other words, a mistake is made when you state the person in the introductory phrase, but not as the subject before inserting the quote

Instead, you should identify the person before you enter the quote. For example,

Do not:

In Shakespeare’s book about two lovers, he claims that “a pair of star crossed lovers” are doomed to “take their life.


In his book about two lovers, Shakespeare claims that “a pair of star crossed lovers” are doomed to “take their life.”

#2: Floating Quotes 

Another common error that most students make is using a quote to make up one whole sentence

Instead, a quote should not take up an entire sentence. Otherwise, it sounds incomplete and will make it difficult for your marker to understand how your quote links to your argument. For example, 

Do not:

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is about two teenagers. “A pair of star-crossed lovers who take their life.” Reveal the unparalleled power of fate over individual power. 


Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is about two “star-crossed lovers” who are destined to “take their life”, to reveal the unparalleled power of fate over individual power. 

#3: Using the Entire Quote 

Having quotes in your essay is good, but too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. 

Instead of inserting the entire quote in your essay, quotes should be succinct and straight to the point, especially if you are using an in-text quote.

For example, if you want to use a long monologue, try to cut it down to the most relevant parts. This will not only make your essay more concise, but also make memorising quotes easier as you go into the exam. 

A trick is to use ellipses to feature the main parts of the quotes and cut out the not so important parts! For example,

Do not: 

As Juliet claims, “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name.Or if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love. And I’ll no longer be a Capulet. ‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy: Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.”, Shakespeare’s use of monologue  highlights love can necessitate the lost of one’s identity and belonging to their family. 


As Juliet claims, “Deny thy father and refuse thy name… I’ll no longer be a Capulet”, Shakespeare use of monologue highlights how love can necessitate the lost of one’s identity and belonging to their family. 

As you can tell, when you cut the quotes down, your points come across clearer and more straight to the point! 

Ready to embed quotes in your English essay? Find our lists for quotes from various texts below!

Non-Fiction and Media

On the hunt for other useful resources?

Check out some of the other Year 11-12 articles we’ve created below:

For students in Years 10 and below:

Are you looking for some extra help with finding and using quotes for your English essay?

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Kate Lynn Law graduated in 2017 with an all rounders HSC award and an ATAR of 97.65. Passionate about mentoring, she enjoys working with high school students to improve their academic, work and life skills in preparation for the HSC and what comes next. An avid blogger, Kate had administered a creative writing page for over 2000 people since 2013, writing to an international audience since her early teenage years.

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