J-333 / News Editing

Frank E. Fee Jr.

Lecture Recap - Day 7

Quotes and Attribution

Here are some tips for editing quotes and handling attribution:
  • Get to the point: Keep the attribution out of the way.

    Incorrect: Sen. Barry Goldwater, the Republican nominee for president, said, "Let's nuke 'em back into the stone age." 
    Correct: "Let's nuke 'em back into the stone age," said Sen. Barry Goldwater, the Republican nominee for president.

  • Attribute at the first natural break.
  • Usually, this is at the end of the first quoted sentence, but attribution can come in midsentence if there's a logical place.

    Incorrect: "The 100-year flood level is," state Engineer Dolores Bootz said, "a figment of planners' imaginations."
    Better: "The 100-year flood level," state Engineer Dolores Bootz said, "is a figment of planners' imaginations."
    Better yet: "The 100-year flood level is a figment of planners' imaginations," state Engineer Dolores Bootz said.

  • Show when you change speakers.
  • Help the reader. Who's talking here?
    Congress got an earful about campaign finance reform on its first day of hearings.
     "I think the way they have been financing election campaigns is the crime of the century," John Dash, a Conservative, told Congress.
    "Money is hard to come by, especially for politicians, and some allowances have to be made somewhere," Marcia Greenwood told the panel.
    (The reader only finds at the end of the third paragraph that the quote was not a continuation of John Dash's comment.

  • Avoid fragment or orphan quotes.
  • They don't help - usually - although there are exceptions.

  • Use only the best quotes; paraphrase the rest.

  • Respect the quotation marks.
  • Don't put words in the speaker's mouth, and don't take them out indiscriminately. Our rule, which isn't followed everywhere, is that a quote is a fact. You can't change a fact and you can't change a quote. If you feel the quote is troubled, your options are:
  • Delete altogether.
  • Paraphrase.
  • Delete words or phrases within the quote to create a partial quote, or, if you are using the quote as a full sentence, replacing the deleted material with ellipses to show readers something was deleted. You also can supply parenthetical explanatory material, but only with great care.
  • Example: "The proof of the ... (pudding) is in the eating," Julia Child told the audience.
  • Avoid stutter: Don't let your setup or transition lead to redundancy.
  •  Jerry Robinson, director of the Orange County Health Department, said Monday that wedding guests who received communion from the priest are "well advised" to get shots of immune globulin to ward off hepatitis. 
     "We advise any wedding guests who received communion from the priest to get immune globulin shots to prevent hepatitis," Robinson said.

     Some tips on using quotes effectively

    1. Don't quote somebody who doesn't say anything. If you've already identified Leslie as the MVP and member of the All-Tournament Team, don't let someone say later, "Leslie had an excellent tournament."  Obviously. Let the facts speak for themselves.

    2. Avoid stutter, especially if the quote is empty.

    "Forberg, who is a member of the Parma Town Board, also enjoys the area because it has many conveniences, such as sewers and sidewalks, and is close to the village.
    "'You can walk down to the village if you want,' she said."
    3. Be sure they're accurate!

    4. Jot down your best quotes, then decide where to use them.

    5. Placement is important. Quotes must be part of the thought you want to express.

    6. Set the stage for using them. That probably means don't start your story with a quote (quote lede) unless it's dynamite and gives the reader the context at once. Failure in this area will have the readers guessing from the start - and they don't like that:

    "'Dan was a real person who wasn't afraid to tell you what he thought. He left a lasting impression on those he met,' Brian Biesi, vice president of Theta Chi fraternity, said of his fraternity brother and friend who passed away last week.
    "Dan Rothman had a promising future. ..."

    7. Avoid partial quotes and quote fragments when what is quoted is less clear or informative than what must go in parentheses. 

    "We were not on (our game Tuesday)," the coach said.

    Watch where the titles go

  • A short title can go in front of the name. Often, it would look strange if the title did not go in front of the name (e.g., President Bill Clinton). 

  • A longer title in front of the source's name risks confusion and some odd reading. Some examples:
  •   Director of Religious Education at the University of Ohio Interfaith Chapel Lawrence Tuttobene ... 
      Director of Students Association Office in Baker Center Robert Rouzer ...
  • Note that when the title precedes the name, no comma is used unless the name of the source is being used as a sort of additional information in the sentence.
  • Incorrect: Director of Students Association Office in Baker Center, Robert Rouzer said ...
    Correct (but awkward): Director of Students Association Office in Baker Center Robert Rouzer said ...
      Correct: OU Security and Traffic Director Walter O. Mauldin said ... 
    Better: The director of the Students Association Office in Baker Center, Robert Rouzer, said  ... 
     Better yet:
      OU's security chief, Walter O. Mauldin, said.
      OU security chief Walter O. Mauldin said ...
      Walter O. Mauldin, OU security and traffic director, said ... 

    AP To Know

    Here is a study guide for the closed-book quiz scheduled on Day 9:
    • Addresses (e.g., what you abbreviate; what you don't. How to use numbers)
    • Ages
    • Datelines (i.e., when you use the state after a city name; when you don't)
    • Directions and Regions
    • Numbers (incl. temperatures)
    • Party Affiliations
    • Political Parties
    • Punctuation (especially in series)
    • States (state abbreviations; which ones you don't abbreviate)
    • Medal of Honor


    There will be a graded editing exercise next class. It will be the same sort of thing you have been doing, except this is for grade. Be sure to bring your stylebook.

    OH YES ...
    Please don't forget to sign up for a chat. The timesheet is on my door. If no spots are convenient for you, let me know and we will find a time that suits your schedule. I want to hear what's on your mind.

    Comments? Questions? Call 593-9851 (o) or 594-5251 (h), or send me an e-mail message for virtual office hours. Or, stop in for a real visit. You're always welcome.

    -- Frank Fee