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Quoting e-mails

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by KJIM, Apr 10, 2010.

  1. KJIM

    KJIM Well-Known Member

    I think we've touched on this, but I don't remember for sure.

    Is there a general school of thought on quoting e-mails that have grammatical or punctuation errors, or just something that's deemed unnecessary in a story? (On the latter, the example I have in front of me is exclaimation points.)

    I'm fine fixing the stuff like "it's/its" because I look at it as if the e-mail is a quote; I'd never know if the person used the wrong "there" or whatever. And I'm taking out the exclaimation points, since I don't feel the quote calls for it.

    That's my take, but I wondered what others thought. If you quote someone -- and specified "said in an e-mail" -- who used a semicolon instead of a colon or used "Who's" instead of "whose," would you correct it? "Sic" it? Just paraphrase?

    Edited to add follow-up: When you work off an email and also an interview, is it awkward to alternate "Bubba said" and "Bubba wrote"? It looks a tad off.
  2. amoney

    amoney New Member

    If it was bad, I would just indirect quote it to save yourself any headaches or problems. But, you need to say Johnny Smith said in a email.
  3. fishhack2009

    fishhack2009 Active Member

    One of my first editors changed my copy any time I used a word other than "said" for attribution. His comment was, "Hemingway made millions using 'said.' If it was good enough for him, it's good enough for you, too." I've pretty much stuck to that.
  4. Double J

    Double J Active Member

    I've never been impressed by editors (or anyone else, for that matter) whose best excuse for doing something is that somebody else also did it that way.
  5. Baron Scicluna

    Baron Scicluna Well-Known Member

    You should have responded, "Cool, you're going to pay me millions!"
  6. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    Well, Double J, that's fine, but in this case, it's exactly right--"said" is always the right word, and even the changing face of the media world hasn't made "exclaimed" or "explained" or anything else any better. In fact, "said" is PERFECT for the new media world -- the shortest, most easily understood word for attribution available.
  7. Moderator1

    Moderator1 Moderator Staff Member

    I told my students the other day. Said. Only said. Always said. Never stated or another of the other words SF mentioned.
    Because I SAID so!

    My publishing company wanted to change every said to "says" in the book I did. Drove me nuts. NO. He SAID it once. He doesn't "say" it all the time, which to me is what "says" implies.

    Santa says HO HO HO.
    Santa said I was a good boy and would get a Maxim model for Christmas.
  8. Double J

    Double J Active Member

    Sorry, I should have clarified. I'm not saying "said" isn't always the right word. I just want a better explanation than "it was good enough for Hemingway," a guy who, in the end, thought buckshot was one of the four major food groups.

    Heck, even your explanation - "it's the shortest, most easily understood word for attribution available" - is more than sufficient.
  9. Den1983

    Den1983 Active Member

    I have no issues with using something other than "said" as long as it's not OD. If you use exclaim or whatever, it can give the reader more detail as to how something was said. I'm all for that if used appropriately.
  10. The mag I write for tries to quote e-mails without any alteration whatsoever, even if the contents go against our style guide. If something is so screwed up that it would look terrible (or misconstrue what they're saying or something), we paraphrase and won't direct quote. If it's only a little screwed up and we feel we have to fix it, we'll put the fixes in brackets, but even that that's usually only for something that's flat-out wrong, like misspellings or accidental repetition or whatever.
  11. Starman

    Starman Well-Known Member

    One guy I worked with absolutely refused to ever use the word "said."

    He must have sat there with a thesaurus. I swear to fucking god he used every last entry on this list:

  12. I don't differentiate between interviews and e-mails, but only if the e-mail was a personal conversation between the person and I. I generally do phone or in-person interviews and then use e-mail for followup questions, so that actually comes up quite a bit for me.

    If it was an e-mail to multiple people or definitely if it was some kind of official release, I differentiate. I also think "wrote" is fine on second reference as long as there's clear continuity between the quotes and it's not confusing to readers.
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