Using Quotes in Newswriting


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how to use quotes in journalism

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Using Quotes in Newswriting

  1. 1. Tips for Quotes in Newswriting By Prof. Mark Grabowski
  2. 2. What is a quote? • A quote is the exact wording of a statement from a source
  3. 3. Attribution • Be sure to attribute – full name and title/description – e.g. said John Smith, a junior at Adelphi University
  4. 4. Punctuation • Punctuate this way (generally, but there are some exceptions): – “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
  5. 5. Punctuation • 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 Grabowski.
  6. 6. Journalism =/= Academic Writing • Never use footnotes or parenthetical notes – this is journalism, not academic writing. So, avoid: – “President Scott is a great leader.” 1 – “I am interested in offering online courses.” (Gayle Insler, 2013)
  7. 7. Use paragraph breaks • Generally, quotes should be offset into a separate paragraph. – Coach Rick Smith was disappointed by the loss. – “This is a game we should have won,” he said. “But the players came out flat.”
  8. 8. 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 Grabowski. – Instead, paraphrase: Grabowski was born in Philadelphia.
  9. 9. When NOT to use quotes • Don’t use quotes to state the obvious, such as: – “I’m so happy we won the championship,” Coach Johnson said. (Oh really? I thought you’d be disappointed!)
  10. 10. 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,” he said. – Yes: Wise said he was frustrated by Prentice’s response. “He has refused to meet with us,” he said.
  11. 11. 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.
  12. 12. 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 class. – “I really like Kanye West’s new album, ‘Yeezus,’” said Sara Robinson.
  13. 13. 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 a quote. – “I think [Mariano] Rivera is the greatest closer ever,” Yankees pitcher Andy Pettite said.
  14. 14. Also: • It’s OK to make minor edits to quotes to correct grammar • It’s also OK to leave out fillers people often use when they speak, such as um, like, you know.
  15. 15. Some tips • 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 redundant.
  16. 16. For more info… • See Prof. Grabowski’s video lecture at: