I'm writing an essay (MLA style) for class and I am quoting a whole sentence within my sentence.

For example: They published a “manifesto” proclaiming that “[a]ll are welcome to walk through our doors and speak."

In the article the word 'all' is capitalized because it is the beginning of the sentence. However, when quoting the sentence do I keep it capitalized, can I just switch it to lowercase, or do I have it right as is?

  • What exactly do you mean when you say "do I have it right as is"? Do you mean that your actual written sentence is using [a]ll ? – Pravesh Parekh Apr 3 '14 at 5:28
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    As per MLA, you have got it correct. You place any changes in [ ]. – Pravesh Parekh Apr 3 '14 at 12:53
  • I think the last post by user8356 is quite correct per MLA 8th edition i.e. the guide says to keep an initial capital if quoting a full sentence and no need for brackets. But can anyone please bring this thread up to date regarding other cases? For example, what if I want to start a sentence by quoting from the middle of a sentence? I have to capitalize but can I ignore those square brackets? The 8th MLA style guide does not go into this. – Nick Sergeant Jul 24 '17 at 8:17

When using the MLA guideline and quoting a text, if you are introducing any modifications into the quotation, mark the same by placing square brackets [ ] at the appropriate spot.

For example (adapted from here)

Original quotation: "Reading is also a process and it also changes you."

1) Margaret Atwood wants her readers to realize that "[r]eading is also a process and it also changes [them]"

2) According to Atwood, reading can "also change[] you"

In Example 1, in order for the direct quotation to fit into the writer's sentence, the capitalized letter at the beginning of the quote and the pronoun at the end need to be changed. The square brackets around [r] and [them] indicate that these are the writer's modifications and do not appear in the original source text.

In Example 2, the writer has changed the verb tense by removing the "s" from "changes." Empty square brackets indicate this change from the original.

If there are typographical or grammatical error in the source being quoted, do not correct the mistake. However, include a "(sic)" (without the quotes but with the brackets) at the appropriate spot to indicate that there is a error in the quoted source. Sic (Latin) translates to something like "just as that" or "thus" or "so", indicating that you have taken the quote just the way it originally appeared.

It may also be worthwhile to have a look at the following references:

Principal reference: https://depts.washington.edu/engl/askbetty/changing_quotations.php



http://victorianconversations.blogspot.in/2008/03/mla-quotation-style-review.html (you can search for "capitalization")


According to the MLA style guide, “[u]nless indicated in square brackets or parentheses, changes must not be made in the spelling, capitalization, or interior punctuation of the source” (75). So how you've written it is correct.


I'd leave the capital letter in. Seems less problematic to have a capital letter than to have that bracket monstrosity:

They published a “manifesto” proclaiming “All are welcome to walk through our doors and speak."

Just a suggestion. Style should be about helping readers, not creating symbolically correct code.

  • 4
    MLA has a rule about the topic asked in this question – Pravesh Parekh Apr 4 '14 at 12:01

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