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Quotes are sacred

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by inthesuburbs, Dec 3, 2008.

  1. inthesuburbs

    inthesuburbs Member

    An offshoot of the "sloppy seconds" topic, but focusing on style more than taste:

    How do we get sports reporters to stop putting their words in other people's mouths?

    Quotes are sacred.

    The NYTimes stylebook lays it out well. If a quotation needs explanation, introduce it, or truncate it, or add to the end of it, or paraphrase it, but never put your words inside someone else's quote, whether in brackets or paraentheses. (I realize the NYTimes style may not be your news org's style, but here the NYTimes stylebook is serving as a guide to good writing.)

    If the quote refers to the umpire by name, and you need to say that he's the umpire, you introduce the quote, or follow the quote, or interrupt the quote, but your added info goes outside the quotation marks, because the player didn't say it.

    If it's too choppy, only a partial quote anyway, just paraphrase.

    So no "I was like [Wow!]," which gives the reader no idea what the guy actually said.

    And no "We'll get them [today]," which is a clumsy way to change someone else's speech into your paper's style. If he said, "We'll get them tomorrow," for God's sake, let him say that. The reader really is smart enough to understand that he said it yesterday, so tomorrow is, well, today.

    And no more changing every pronoun into [Smith]. The reader can tell who is meant by "him" or "her," and if the reader can't, then introduce the quote, or truncate the quote, or follow the quote with the info, or paraphrase. But never put your words in someone else's quote.

    And no more "... for guys to fall in love with my (former girlfriends)."

    That would be, "... for guys to fall in love with my" former girlfriends.

    And no more ""Only what guys have said," he said, "but that's been going on ever since my dad [Bobby] was playing baseball."

    That would be, ""Only what guys have said," he said. And referring to his father, Bobby Bonds, he said, "but that's been going on ever since my dad was playing baseball."

    This seems to be one of the difference between the larger and smaller news organizations in quality of writing and editing, no? Copy desks at better news organizations insist on not inserting words in quotes. But many journalists with less editing help do it routinely.

    Quotes are sacred.
  2. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    Right ... except most newspapers and publications routinely clean up grammar, take out the "um" and "ya know" ... etc.

    So they're not 100 percent sacred.
  3. GBNF

    GBNF Active Member

    I think that's atrocious.
  4. Angola!

    Angola! Guest

    I was about to post that.

    Instead of writing a terrible sentence like that, maybe the writer should just learn to present the quote better.
  5. Some Guy

    Some Guy Active Member

    Eh ... I don't have a problem using parentheses, when warranted.

    If someone uses a word too offensive to print, but the quote is neccesary to use, for instance.

    I try to avoid introducing a new character to a story within the confines of a quote, so as to avoid the whole (John) Brown thing.

    Sometimes, however, there isn't really a good way around it.

    I would agree with the spirit of the original post, however, in that if you're going to "put words into people's mouths" you better be damn sure you know what they meant.
  6. forever_town

    forever_town Well-Known Member

    I changed an "a" to a "the" because the woman I was quoting meant the "the" instead of the "a."

    She said her restaurant's crab bisque was "a bomb," which would have meant it should not have been on the menu. I changed it to "[the] bomb" because of the context of the interview. She was saying the crab bisque was a major hit.

    I have no problem with writing [expletive] in the middle of a quote. None.

    And about the comment about the NY Times style guide, if the NY Times style guide told me to jump off a cliff, should I do it?
  7. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    I don't believe that quotes are sacred, but parenthetical inserts in quotes are way, way (way) overused.
  8. imjustagirl

    imjustagirl Active Member

    Fixed for you, Ace.
  9. DirtyDeeds

    DirtyDeeds Guest

    Definitely. The original post is certainly valid, but I think there's a tiny bit of wiggle room to make things clear to the reader. But only as long as you're 100 percent certain that was what the speaker intended.
  10. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    Dagnabbit! You misquoted me out of context!
  11. imjustagirl

    imjustagirl Active Member

    They'll never know, because I took your words out! muahahahahahahahaha!
  12. zagoshe

    zagoshe Well-Known Member

    No this is an idiotic premise --- if a guy calls someone by some obscure nickname, I am not going to waste five words explaining who said guy is and why.

    For instance,

    if a guy says "Frenchster hit him hard" said frank

    My version will be "[Smith] hit him hard" said frank

    As opposed to "Frenchster hit him hard" said frank in reference to Smith.

    That's just stupid. Save words, make it flow. You are not changing the man's meaning.
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