Quote Quotably Nov09


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Quote Quotably

88th Precinct Community Council

Here are a couple of stories from The Local that use quotes particularly effectively:

Victim of Ingersoll Shooting Was a Young Father,” by Kerri Macdonald, 3/17/2011

Mixed Reactions to New Sports Bar Near Planned Arena” by Kyle Thomas McGovern, 8/18/2011

Here are some basic guidelines on quoting:

  • Quotes should go up high – Voices bring a story to life.
  • Don’t lead with a quote unless that quote is the best quote ever and completely self-explanatory. (Most reporters find the elusive quote that is strong enough to lead a story only once or twice in an entire career!)
  • What to quote: strong language, utterances that convey emotion, quotes that deepen the reader’s understanding of the facts
  • What not to quote: basic dull information, quotes that have lies or wrong information in them (unless you’re pointing out that the info is wrong or a lie), quotes that are confusing or hard to follow
  • For the most part, if you mention someone you spoke to in your story, they need to be quoted, not just paraphrased or partially quoted.
  • Don’t “clean up” people’s quotes by fixing their grammar or erasing traces of their dialect. At the same time, AP style is to only very sparingly use words like “wanna” or “gonna,” and only really in features when you’re trying to convey something about the person. Otherwise, take these contractions as a pronunciation of “want to” or “going to.”
  • Set up your quotes by explaining any context or mentioning anything referenced in the quote. For example, from Kerri MacDonald’s story above:

Ms. Rivera Vasquez, 21, was home when she got a call with the news that Mr. Vasquez had been shot.

“From right there, I knew it,” she said. “He was dead.”

  • Start a new paragraph most of the time for complete sentence quotes.
  • Don’t forget your attribution. Unless you have just said “he said” in the previous sentence or it’s completely clear who is speaking, each line of a quote must be attributed.
  • Attribution almost always goes after first sentence of quote.
  • After an attribution, the second part of your quote in the same paragraph doesn’t need another attribution.
  • Use ellipses to indicate any omitted words within a quote. An attribution breaking up a quote acts as ellipses.
  • Don’t forget to punctuate quotes — commas, question marks, periods are not doctoring a quote. They’re necessary for the quote to be understood as it was said.
  • Almost always use “said.” It may seem boring to always use “said,” but really there’s nothing wrong with it — the reader’s eye passes right over it. You can sometimes used “asked,” or “added” – but generally avoid loaded words such as “confessed,” “admitted,” “clarified,” etc. Also, don’t use words that don’t refer to speaking, such as “giggled,” “smiled” or “wept.”

Photo by Eugene Reznik for The Local