Tips on Handling Quotes  | American Journalism Review
 AJR  Features
From AJR,   September 1995

Tips on Handling Quotes   

Veteran writing coach Roy Peter Clark offers these tips on handling quotes.

By Roy Peter Clark
     


Veteran writing coach Roy Peter Clark offers these tips on handling quotes:

1. Be truthful. Quotes should be faithful to the words and meaning of the speaker.

2 . Adding language to quotes is more dangerous than taking stuff out, although both can distort meaning.

3. Because of language prejudice on race and class, be careful with slang and dialect.

4. That said, the American language is a great treasure. If everyone you quote sounds like you, your readers are in trouble.

5 . Be polite. Tidy up the quote rather than make someone sound stupid.

6. It's not a good idea to blend quotes from different interviews without a signal to readers.

7. When you quote, imagine that someone has taped the interview, even if you have not.

8. No one takes notes at the speed of light. It's OK to reconstruct a quote using both notes and memory. When you do this, it's always best to read the quote back to the source.

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