We have divided the following information into two sections. Part A describes those rules which it is essential to master no matter what kind of essay you are writing (including examination answers). Part B sets out some of the more detailed conventions which govern the documentation of essays.
PART A: LAYOUT
Titles of texts
Titles of published books, plays (of any length), long poems, pamphlets and periodicals (including newspapers and magazines), works of classical literature, and films should be underlined: e.g. David Copperfield (novel), Twelfth Night (play), Paradise Lost (long poem), Critical Quarterly (periodical), Horace’s Ars Poetica (Classical work), Apocalypse Now (film).
Notice how important it is to distinguish between titles and other names. Hamlet is the play; Hamlet the prince. Wuthering Heights is the novel; Wuthering Heights the house. Underlining is the equivalent in handwritten or typed manuscripts of printed italics. So what normally appears in this, volume as Othello would be written as Othello in your essay.
Titles of articles, essays, short stories; short poems, songs, chapters of books, speeches, and newspaper articles are enclosed in quotation marks; e.g. The Flea’ (short poem), The Prussian Officer’., (short story), ‘Middleton’s Chess Strategies’ (article), ‘Thatcher Defects!’ (newspaper headline).
Exceptions: Underlining titles or placing them within quotation marks does not apply to sacred writings (e.g. Bible, Koran, Old Testament, Gospels) or parts of a book (e.g. Preface, Introduction, Appendix).
It is generally incorrect to place quotation marks around a title of a published book which you have underlined. The exception is ‘titles within titles’: e.g. ‘Vanity Fair’: A Critical Study (title of a book about Vanity Fair).
Short verse quotations of a single line or part of a line should be incorporated within quotation marks as part of the running text of your essay. Quotations of two or three lines of verse are treated in the same way, with line endings indicated by a slash(/). For example:
- In Julius Caesar, Antony says of Brutus, This was the noblest Roman of them all’.
- The opening of Antony’s famous funeral oration, ‘Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears;/ I come to bury Caesar not to praise him’, is a carefully controlled piece of rhetoric.
Longer verse quotations of more than three lines should be indented from the main body of the text and introduced in most cases with a colon. Do not enclose indented quotations within quotation marks. For example:
It is woprth pausing to consider the reasons Brutus gives to justify his-decision to assassinate Caesar:It must be by his death; and for my part,I know no personal cause to spurn at him,But for the general. He would be crowned.How might that change his nature, there’s the question.At first glance his rationale may appear logical ...
Prose quotations of less than three lines should be incorporated in the text of the essay, within quotation marks. Longer prose quotations should be indented and the quotation marks omitted. For example:
- Before his downfall, Caesar rules with an iron hand. His political opponents, the Tribunes Marullus and Flavius, are ‘put to silence’ for the trivial offence of ‘pulling scarfs off Caesar’s image’.
- It is interesting to note the rhetorical structure of Brutus’s Forum speech:
Romans, countrymen, and lovers, hear me for my cause, and be silent that you may hear. Believe me for my honour, and have respect to mine honour that you may believe. Censure me in your wisdom, and awake your senses, that you may the better judge.
Tenses: When you are relating the events that occur within a work of fiction, or describing the author’s technique, it is the convention to use the present tense. Even though Orwell published Animal Farm in 1945, the book describes the animals' seizure of Manor Farm. Similarly, Macbeth always murders Duncan, despite the passage of time.
PART B: DOCUMENTATION
When quoting from verse of more than twenty lines, provide line references; e.g. In 'Upon Appleton House' Marvell’s mower moves 'With whistling scythe and elbow strong' (1.393).
Quotations from plays should be identified by act, scene and line references: e.g. Prospero, in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, refers to Caliban as 'A devil, a born devil' (IV. 1.188). (i.e. Act 4. Scene 1. Line 188).
Quotations from prose works should provide a chapter reference and, where appropriate, a page reference.
Bibliographies should list full . details of all sources consulted. The way is which they are presented varies, but one standard format is as follows:
- Books and articles are listed in alphabetical order by the author’s last name. Initials are placed'after the surname.
- If you are referring to a chapter or article within a larger work, you list it by reference to the author of the article or chapter, not the editor 'although the editor is also named in the reference).
- Give (in parentheses) the place and date of publication, e.g. (London, 1962) These details can be found within the book itself Here are some examples:
- Brockbank, J.P., ‘Shakespeare’s Histories, English and Roman’, in Kicks, C. (ed.) English Drama to 1710 (Sphere History of Literature in the English Language) 19711
- Gurr, A., 'Richard III and the Democratic Process', Essays in Criticism 24 (1974), pp. 39-47.
Footnotes: In general, try to avoid using footnotes and build your references into tie body of the essay wherever possible. When you do use them give the full bibliographic reference to a work in the first instance and then use a short title: e.g. See K. Smidt, Unconformities in Shakespeare’s History Plavs (London, 1982), pp. 43-47 becomes Smidt (pp. 43-47) thereafter. Do not use terms such as 'ibid.' or 'op. cit.' unless you are absolutely sure of their meaning.
- Spivack, B., Shakespeare and the Allegory of Evil (New York, 1958).
There is a principle behind all this seeming pedantry. The reader ought to be able to find and check your references and quotations as quickly and easily as possible. Give additional information, such as canto or volume number whenever you think it will assist your reader.