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Please stop putting your words inside someone else's quotation marks

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by inthesuburbs, May 27, 2012.

  1. inthesuburbs

    inthesuburbs Member

    From the AP, on the inning in which Vandy stole six bases, including a triple steal, to beat Florida in the SEC tournament:

    "That was one of the craziest (innings) I've ever been a part of," Gomez said.

    http://espn.go.com/college-sports/story/_/id/7975976/vanderbilt-commodores-pull-triple-steal-win-florida-gators

    Well, what did he say?

    If he said, "That was one of the craziest ones I've ever been a part of," does the reporter really think the reader is stupid enough not to understand the meaning?

    The rule is pretty simple: Introduce the quote if necessary, follow the quote if necessary, interrupt the quote if necessary, truncate the quote if necessary, but never, never put your words inside someone else's quotation marks. Quotes are sacred.
     
  2. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    Quotes have never been sacred despite what some say. Ninety-nine percent of all quotes are cleaned up and the ones that aren't are canned quotes in press releases.
     
  3. BurnsWhenIPee

    BurnsWhenIPee Well-Known Member

    What if the quote was "That was one of the craziest motherfuckers I've ever been a part of"? Do you ditch the whole thing because quotes are "sacred"?

    I think this, like most blanket, no wiggle room rules, are a waste of time and energy. I'm not saying it is not worthy of discussion, but if this is the biggest problem facing the newspaper industry today, then there wouldn't be mass layoffs, plummeting circulation, cuts in publication days, etc.

    And I'd bet 99.9 percent of readers don't care one bit about this.
     
  4. spikechiquet

    spikechiquet Well-Known Member

    Yeah, there is a difference between "fixing" a quote and making shit up. I don't see a huge problem with cleaning quotes up.
     
  5. HanSenSE

    HanSenSE Well-Known Member

    Was editing a story Friday that contained a quote that was a grammatical nightmare, so I asked the reporter about it. But he told me he quoted him correctly,so I let it go. But in situations like BWIP cited, parathentical phrases are not only correct, but very necessary.
     
  6. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    90 percent of the time when writers add (parenthetical information) in a quote it's unnecessary or the quote is so unwieldy it is better off paraphrased.
     
  7. In the context of the story, a reader might mistake Gomez's quote for describing the game in general. The reporter did right by adding "inning" to add clarity, especially if the quote didn't originally have anything there.
     
  8. inthesuburbs

    inthesuburbs Member

    1. If the kid said, "That was one of the craziest motherfuckers I've ever been a part of," then it's not a quote, unless motherfuckers is a word you can publish. (Another handy tip: If you take a photo, and it's not in focus, or you forget to take off the lens cap, it's not your lead art.)

    2. If you feel the need to add information to what the person said, as is common, the elegant way to do this is outside the quotation marks. Introduce the quote, add information after the quote, or even interrupt the quote before resuming it.

    For example, if the coach says, "I can't believe he did that," and you don't believe the reader will know who "he" is, you probably haven't set up the quote properly.

    If you must say who "he" is, then there's no need to clumsily step on the quote, leaving the reader uncertain what was said, like this: "I can't believe (the umpire) did that." That's no service to the reader, and it's certainly no service to the coach -- readers might think he said "the asshole."

    A more graceful fix might be: " 'I can't believe he did that,' the coach said, referring to the umpire." But the best fix usually is to set up the quote more skillfully. When you're comparing sportswriters, that's one of the most glaring differences: who is skilled at setting up their best quotes.

    3. Entirely correct: "90 percent of the time when writers add (parenthetical information) in a quote it's unnecessary or the quote is so unwieldy it is better off paraphrased."

    4. Once you start noting this, you'll see that the worst writers do it a lot. The best writers don't do it at all.

    The bottom line: If you put your words inside quotation marks, in place of the words that were said, then your quote no longer is accomplishing the one and only service that makes it a quote: telling the reader what the person said. Besides, it's amateurish and clumsy.
     
  9. What if the person used a wrong fact?
     
  10. BurnsWhenIPee

    BurnsWhenIPee Well-Known Member

    This is all that needs to be known about your goal in this thread - to be a pompous prick who thinks he knows everything and is smarter than everyone else in the world.

    Mission accomplished.
     
  11. Tom Petty

    Tom Petty New Member

    gotta say, the thread should have ended right there.
     
  12. jr/shotglass

    jr/shotglass Well-Known Member

    Tom Petty said, "I don't know what [in the world] he's talking about, and think this [person] should really [be careful before speaking]."
     
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