Quote Types Yes, you really need to know these
Direct Quotes These are word for word replays of information from sources to provide insight into a story. Direct quotes may be full sentences or parts of sentences. “We’re all excited about the transition to the new library,” Mary Ann Holbrock, head librarian, said. “However, the greatest challenge we face will be transporting the books from the old library to the new one and setting them in the proper order.”
Partial Quotes These consist of more than one word or two, but less than a full sentence taken directly from the source. It is used with a paraphrase and placed in quotation marks. Mary Ann Holbrock, head librarian, said the librarians are looking forward to the move to the new library. The biggest problem they see is “transporting the books from the old library to the new one and setting them in the proper order,” she said.
Fragmentary Quotes This is an exact word or two taken directly from the source and placed in quotation marks with a paraphrase. Mary Ann Holbrock, head librarian, said the librarians are “excited” about opening the new library and predicted the “greatest challenge” will be moving and organizing the books.
Indirect Quotes This consists of only paraphrased material. Getting ready to move into the new library, Mary Ann Holbrock, head librarian, said the librarians are looking forward to it even though shifting and organizing the books will be a big job.
WARNING: PARAPHRASE CAREFULLY!!! Paraphrasing often causes problems for reporters who think they have accurately reworded what their source said only to find out they misrepresented part of it. Also, avoid creating fragmentary or partial quotes that misrepresent the overall opinion of your source. Don’t commit the sin that film ads sometimes do of quoting the one phrase that praises the movie out of a 10-paragraph review that, on the whole, criticizes it.
The A.P. Stylebook and Libel Manual, the standard reference book for journalists in the United States, says this about “quotations in the news”: • “Never alter quotations even to correct minor grammatical errors or word usage. Casual minor tongue slips may be removed by using ellipses […] but even that should be done with extreme caution. If there is a question about a quote, either don’t use it or ask the speaker to clarify. • “If a person is unavailable for comment, detail attempts to reach that person. (Smith was out of the country on business; Jones did not return phone messages left at the office.) • “Do not routinely use abnormal spelling such as gonna in attempts to convey regional dialects or mispronunciations. Such spellings are appropriate when relevant to help to convey a desired touch in a feature.
The A.P. Stylebook and Libel Manual, the standard reference book for journalists in the United States, says this about “quotations in the news”: • “FULL vs. PARTIAL QUOTES: In general, avoid fragmentary quotes. If a speaker’s words are clear and concise, favor the full quote. If cumbersome language can be paraphrased fairly, use an indirect construction, reserving quotation marks for sensitive or controversial passages that must be identified specifically as coming from the speaker. • “CONTEXT: Remember that you can misquote someone by giving a startling remark without its modifying passage or qualifiers. The manner of delivery sometimes is part of the context. Reporting a smile or a negative gesture may be as important as conveying the words themselves.” • The AP Stylebook also gives this advice about “obscenities, profanities, vulgarities”: • “Do not use them in stories unless they are part of direct quotations and there is compelling reason for them.”
Slip-ups Do you include every vocalized pause (“um,” “well,” “you know,” etc.), grammatical error, profanity, or obvious slip? The AP Stylebook directs reporters never to alter quotations, even to correct minor errors or word usage. In practice, however, even professional journalists usually edit out vocalized pauses and correct minor grammatical errors in the interest of helping readers. Besides, it’s just not a good idea to let someone look bad in print when the error is an innocent one. Decisions about how much editing of direct quotes is allowed come under ethical guidelines adopted by the media. For those publications with a strict word-for-word standard, quoted material can be handled through a paraphrase. Most staffs decide to correct grammatical errors, to eliminate profanity, and to omit unnecessary words, such as vocalized pauses.
Get It Right the First Time You certainly want to quote sources correctly for the sake of your own credibility as a reporter and for the sake of your publication’s credibility. THREE reasons to verify quotes are: You want sources to remain open to being interviewed by you again. If you quote them incorrectly or twist what they tell you in some way, you are not likely to get cooperation in the future. Verificationis standard practice in publications with longer deadlines. While daily professional papers don’t usually have the time to verify quotes, professional magazines often employ researchers who do just that. Depending on the frequency of your publication or the amount of time you have to do your interviewing and write your story, you may have time to verify quotes in every story you write. Certainly you will want to verify quotes in controversial pieces or if you have been assigned to interview a source who has had problems with being quoted accurately by your publication in the past.
Tips for Fair and Accurate Quoting • Use the same notebook so you are comfortable with note taking. • Put quotation marks around your word-for-word notes. • Don’t be afraid to ask your source to clarify or repeat. • If you didn’t hear something, ask to have it repeated. • Read back quotes you think you might use for verification. • Don’t be afraid to return later to verify information. • CONSIDER using a tape recorder (but get permission first).