Tips for Quotes in Newswriting
By Prof. Mark Grabowski
What is a quote?
• A quote is the exact wording of a statement
from a source
• Be sure to attribute – full name and
– e.g. said John Smith, a junior at Adelphi University
• Punctuate this way (generally, but there are
– “First sentence of quote,” said _______ (insert
name of source). “Second sentence of quote, if
there is one. Third sentence. Etc.”
– (Note the use of the comma at the end of the first
sentence instead of a period.)
– (Also: Sometimes the source should appear before
the quotation, however. For more details, see my
video lesson at http://vimeo.com/8408257)
• Do NOT punctuate this way:
– “I love Adelphi.” Said Mark Grabowski.
• Or this way:
– “I love Adelphi. The students, campus and staff are
all great. It’s my favorite school,” said Mark
Journalism =/= Academic Writing
• Never use footnotes or parenthetical notes –
this is journalism, not academic writing. So,
– “President Scott is a great leader.” 1
– “I am interested in offering online courses.” (Gayle
Use paragraph breaks
• Generally, quotes should be offset into a
– Coach Rick Smith was disappointed by the loss.
– “This is a game we should have won,” he said.
“But the players came out flat.”
When to use quotes
• Use quotes to express emotion, feeling,
opinion or to elaborate on things. Don’t use
quotes to state basic facts.
– Avoid: “I was born in Philadelphia,” said
– Instead, paraphrase: Grabowski was born in
When NOT to use quotes
• Don’t use quotes to state the obvious, such as:
– “I’m so happy we won the championship,” Coach
(Oh really? I thought you’d be disappointed!)
When NOT to use quotes
• Don’t use quotes to repeat information:
– No: Wise said Prentice has refused to meet with
him and Bullard. “He has refused to meet with us,”
– Yes: Wise said he was frustrated by Prentice’s
response. “He has refused to meet with us,” he
Use only “said”
• Generally, you should only use the attribution
verb “said”. Never use verbs that indicate a
movement other than speaking, such as
“shrugged” or “smiled.” You can’t shrug or
smile a word. So, don’t write:
– “I like Adelphi,” smiled Mark Grabowski.
Using double quotation marks
• Never use single quotes, unless it’s a quote
within a quote, such as:
– “Mark Grabowski told me he ‘loves Adelphi,’” said
Peter Novak, who’s a student in his journalism
– “I really like Kanye West’s new album, ‘Yeezus,’”
said Sara Robinson.
A few last rules
• Do not use a quotation as a lead sentence in a
story. It’s confusing because it lacks context.
• Use ellipses only when the middle part of the
quote has been deleted.
• Use brackets if info needs to be inserted to clarify
– “I think [Mariano] Rivera is the greatest closer ever,”
Yankees pitcher Andy Pettite said.
• It’s OK to make minor edits to quotes to
• It’s also OK to leave out fillers people often
use when they speak, such as um, like, you
• Get many quotes, but use sparingly. Sprinkle
quotes throughout your story. Don’t use
quotes to carry a narrative
• Don’t preface quotes with “when asked” –
instead rephrase to avoid doing that.
• Don’t say someone “commented on
[whatever] and then write the quote – it’s
For more info…
• See Prof. Grabowski’s video lecture at: