In this chapter, we discuss what quotes are, why they are necessary and how to use them properly. In the following chapter, we also discuss the correct ways of attributing quotes and other information to people.
A quote is the written form of the words which people have spoken. Occasionally it will also apply to words they have written down, perhaps in a book or a press release. In print journalism, quotes are shown surrounded by quotation marks, either single (‘) or double ("). These are sometimes called inverted commas. The alternative to using a quote is to rewrite the sentence Never start a news story with a quote into what we call reported speech. We will discuss how to move between quotes and reported speech later in this chapter.
Quotes should not be used on radio, which should broadcast the words in the spoken form, sometimes called audio. Television journalists can use quotes shown as text on the screen.
Attribution is stating who made the quote or gave the information. The most common form of attribution uses the verb to say. Always say who is speaking. In America, attribution is called the tag. We discuss attribution in greater detail in the following chapter.
Why use quotes?
There are Never start a news story with a quote three main reasons why you should use quotes in print journalism:
Remember too that, as a journalist, you are simply the channel through which people with something to say speak to people who want to know what Never start a news story with a quote they said. The best way of keeping the channel clear is to let people tell things in their own way. One of the golden rules of journalism is: Let people speak for themselves. Use quotes.
In print we hear people's voices through quotes, in broadcasting the voices are heard in the form ofaudio or actuality.
Because radio journalists should avoid quotes altogether, and television journalists should use them as graphics on the screen, this chapter will concentrate on using quotes in the print media.
When to use quotes
Quotes serve many useful purposes in print journalism but they cannot be Never start a news story with a quote used everywhere in your story. You will make your writing more effective if you obey the following rules.
Never start a news story with a quote
The most important reason for not starting a story with a quote is that a quote itself seldom shows the news value of your story. It is your task as a journalist to tell the reader what is news. You should tell them what is new, unusual, interesting or significant about the information you present. Only when you have told them what is news should you use a quote to support your intro Never start a news story with a quote.
A standard intro in reported speech is the most effective method of expressing an idea. Very few people speak well enough to say in one sentence what a good journalist can compress into a well-written intro.
Starting a news story with a quote produces awkward punctuation. By putting words inside quotation marks, you give readers an extra obstacle to overcome just at the time when you are trying to grab their attention.
Beginning with a quote also means that your readers see the quote before they know who has said it. How can they judge the importance of Never start a news story with a quote the quote without knowing the speaker?
A quote can often be most effective following straight after a hard news intro. See how effective a short quote becomes when it follows a short, sharp intro:
The Minister for Finance, Mr Joe Wau, yesterday attacked laziness in the public service.
"Government employees must get off their backsides and work," he told a lunchtime meeting of senior department heads.