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"Please don't do this (put your words inside other people's quotes)," he said.

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by inthesuburbs, Sep 19, 2016.

  1. inthesuburbs

    inthesuburbs Member

    This is partly a lesson in copy editing. But it's really a lesson in setting up a quote, which Bob Ryan properly calls the key to good sportswriting.

    Example: Why would anyone add this phrase in parentheses?

    "When you lose your starting quarterback, it's always going to raise a couple eyebrows and (lead to) a couple of questions," Gators cornerback Jalen Tabor told reporters after Saturday night's game.

    We see this in copy every day. Stuffing our words into other people's quotes.

    Is there any reader who needed the parenthetical? What made the writer do this? Without it, the quotation wasn't even ungrammatical, much less unclear.

    Writers, if a quote is unclear, introduce it, follow it, interrupt it with a phrase outside of quotation marks, truncate it, or use another quote. You have many options. But never put your words inside of someone else's quotation marks. Never remove a word from the quote and put your own word in its place inside brackets or parentheses, because then the reader has no way to know what really was said, which is the point of a quote.

    It can be done artfully. It takes just a second of effort. Yes, it can take more words. But quote marks mean their words, not ours.

    So instead of:

    "That (racism) has been going on ever since my dad (Bobby) was playing baseball."


    "That's been going on ever since my dad was playing baseball," Bonds said, referring to racism by fans. His father, Bobby Bonds, played from 1968 to 1981.

    Or if you're sure it needs context before you get to "that":

    Describing racism by fans, Bonds said, "That's been going on ever since my dad was playing baseball." Bobby Bonds played from 1968 to 1981.

    You won't need that last approach if the quote has been set up properly. If the right context precedes the quote, which will give the quote maximum impact, you won't need to interrupt the quote.

    See how "That (racism) has been going on ever since my dad (Bobby)..." totally robs the quote of its power, of its voice. Build up to the quote. Don't waste it.
    HejiraHenry and Double Down like this.
  2. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    "I couldn't (have) said it better."
    Doc Holliday likes this.
  3. MisterCreosote

    MisterCreosote Well-Known Member

    I've been scolded numerous times at SJ for saying editing quotes is not an acceptable practice.
  4. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    Certainly editing quotes is an acceptable practice.

    If you send in a story with a quote like -- "We just play them one at a time," coach Creosote said. -- I'll likely edit it out of the story entirely.
    Doc Holliday, wicked and pseudo like this.
  5. MisterCreosote

    MisterCreosote Well-Known Member

    I left it all out there (on this thread), Ace.
    Doc Holliday and Ace like this.
  6. I Should Coco

    I Should Coco Well-Known Member

    My pet peeve: Writing lead-in graphs that basically repeat what the quote said.

    "Lead-in graphs that repeat what sources say are the worst," I Should Coco added.

    Just paraphrase it instead.
    studthug12, Bronco77 and SFIND like this.
  7. Riptide

    Riptide Well-Known Member

    Reached for comment, Area Man said: "LOL. You dummy."
  8. MNgremlin

    MNgremlin Active Member

    I'll be honest, as someone relatively under-schooled in terms of journalism courses, I've tried to pick up things as I went along by reading other articles. I saw this so much, I just assumed that it's how it's supposed to be done and did the same in my own writing. Same applies to what I Should Coco commented. That's the one I've really tried to eliminate from my writing lately.
    inthesuburbs likes this.
  9. This is a good thread.

    What about using names?

    "I thought he was great," Podunk varsity coach Bob Bubble said of Tom Titan. ... or ...
    "I thought (Tom Titan) was great," said Podunk varsity coach Bob Bubble.
  10. Dog8Cats

    Dog8Cats Member

    No, don't add names to a quote, as in your second example.

    You can set up a quote such as that ... Tom Titan carried the ball 16 times for 179 yards and four touchdowns. <ep> "I think he was great," Podunk coach Jim Jeffrey said.

    I had an ME who hated "said of" constructions; not sure why, but I've tried to avoid them.

    Another alternative, but I think this also requires some setting up: "I think he was great," Podunk coach Jim Jeffrey said, adding that he didn't expect such a performance from Titan.
    Kayaugstin Kott likes this.
  11. dirtybird

    dirtybird Well-Known Member

    Some people really hate that one. I've never really cared, but I'm not that militant on this front.

    I did work at one shop that insisted on changing days to make them align with the day the paper came out. So "Man we ran the ball well today, going to look good on film tomorrow." Became "Man we ran the ball well (Friday), going to look good on film (today)."

    That was not great.
    inthesuburbs, Ace and Kayaugstin Kott like this.
  12. TGO157

    TGO157 Active Member

    I have worked at papers where they say you should take out any reference in a quote of "today" or "tomorrow" for the print version of an article. They argued it's unnecessary, especially for gamers when you establish early on what day the game happened. At first, I thought it was a tad questionable to just flat-out omit a word from a quote but then I got used to it. It does make sense to keep the reader from being confused and not having to over-clarify it.
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