Issue 19 September, 2014
Using quotes in your writing will “put the rosiness into the cheeks of the palest stories,” says The Canadian Press Stylebook. This issue of Wordnerdery has a few suggestions about getting and using quotable quotes.
And you can quote me...
In newsletter articles, news releases and other writing, adding quotes adds life and interest. Here are tips for getting and using quotes in your content:
- Find the expert: If you’re describing or explaining something, find the person who is qualified to talk about it. Naming a person is better than the royal “we” or “the company.”
- Say ‘no’ to jargon: As Canadian Press says, “Quotes containing bafflegab are [or should be!] routinely paraphrased in plain English.”
- Ask questions. Get to the heart of a subject with questions like how and why and who and how much. Get details that convey meaning.
- Who’s talking? Identify the speaker after the first line of the quote. Don’t make your reader wonder, “Who is speaking?” for a couple of sentences.
- Break it up: Alternate quotes with a paragraph or two of explanation, detail, statistics and so on.
- Said? Laughed? Don’t feel you have to switch up the word “said” with laughed, stated, questioned, etc.; although I think “explained” works. “Editors of mainstream publications demand you use only the simple word said (or says),” according to journalist Simon Townsend.
- Word for word: It’s okay to tinker (slightly!) with wording, for instance, to correct slips of grammar. The Canadian Press admits it takes “a somewhat stern approach to any tampering with just what was said,” but a company newsletter has more flexibility, especially if the person quoted has a chance to review it.
- Paraphrase. Save actual quotes for the best and most interesting comments, ones that express emotion or use description. For detail that doesn’t add colour, paraphrase.
- Don’t make up quotes. Readers can usually tell when no human actually uttered a pretend quote.
Images: Microphone by Master Isolated Images and FreeDigitalPhotos.net. Sue by Chris Salvo, salvophoto.com.