Using Scripture in Our Writing
Last week in my blog post I gave some guidelines for using Scripture in our writing. This week I’ll continue to do that, focusing on the correct mechanics of using parenthetic documentation (in-text citation) for long quotations.
What are the proper guidelines for including a long quotation of Scripture such as the one below?
Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7)
Note the following guidelines:
- A long quotation is more than four typed lines.
- Indent a half inch from the left margin, with each line being indented. This creates a free-standing block of quotation.
- Start the quote on a new line.
- Maintain double-spacing.
- Do not use quotation marks.
- The punctuation goes at the end of the sentence; in other words, before the parentheses.
- The parenthetic documentation is included in the last line of the quotation.
- Introduce the block quotation with a sentence and a colon. For example, before the above quotation I might use this introductory phrase: The famous Christmas story can be found in the gospel of Luke:
Other guidelines about long quotations
Long quotations of Scripture should be used sparingly. We want to interweave our words of teaching and stories with God’s Word. Also, sometimes readers might find constant long passages of Scripture overwhelming, causing them to gloss over reading the actual Scripture quotation.
A better practice might be to paraphrase, to put into our own words, parts of the Scripture and then to quote a smaller section.
One of my goals as a Christian writer is to have my reader open her own Bible. I don’t want her to rely simply on what I write on a subject. I always want to point her to Jesus, the Word. As a result, I like to quote some Scripture, but then I like to give her Scripture references to look up on her own.