How to Use Quotes In Your Writing

Connie McKinneyStarred Page By Connie McKinney, 1st Nov 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Tips

Quoting sources can strengthen your articles or weaken them. Learn how and when to use quotes to improve your writing.

Some Advantages of Using Quotes


Quoting sources properly can make your articles stand out. Quotes add a personal touch and can lend authority to your writing. Quoting someone who is an expert in his or her field strengthens your article. You are using the words of someone who knows what he or she is talking about.
But if you quote too much, you will end up annoying and not informing your readers. Quotes actually slow the reader down so they should always be used sparingly. In addition, weak quotes do little more than take up space in your article.
Keep in mind that not every article needs quotes. Many articles here on Wikinut don't use quotes, and that's OK. However, if you want to publish an interview here with a celebrity or an expert in some field, you will need to use quotes. And if you write for newspapers or magazines, you will also need to use quotes.

Don't Quote Facts and Figures


All the examples I will use are made up but based on real articles I've read in newspapers and magazines.
"Angela's Antiques is open every day from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.," said Angela Smith, who owns Angela's Antiques.
This is one of those annoying quotes because there is absolutely no reason to quote this. Don't quote basic information such as time, dimensions or dates.
Don't quote the police chief who says:"The suspect is a white man with red hair and blue eyes who stands about 6 feet tall and weighs 200 lbs." Again, this is basic information which is best paraphrased and not quoted. Just say: Police said they are looking for a 6-foot-tall, 200-lb white man with red hair and blue eyes.

Don't Quote Jargon


Jargon is language which is specific to a certain group of people but technical and not easy for the rest of us to understand. Police, teachers and scientists all use their own jargon.
Police use jargon such as suspect, perpetrator, and male. Teachers talk about assessments, benchmarks and outcome-based learning - whatever that is. Scientists use jargon such as subject, control group and climate control measures.
Don't use a quote such as this one by a teacher: "We use assessments to measure benchmarks and produce outcome-based learning for all students," said Mary Smith, an English teacher at Smithville High School.
Does anyone have any idea what she just said? Thought so.
Instead, try something like this:"We use test results to see how well the students are doing and to identify students who may need extra help," Mary Smith said.
Sources speak their own language. However, it's OK for you to tell them to use plain English. Or you can ask them to clarify what they just said.

Don't Quote Cliches


A cliche is an expression which has been overused. Don't quote cliches.
For example, how many times have you read a version of this quote from the neighbors who live next door to the murder suspect?
"He was a quiet guy who kept to himself," Brenda Brown said. "It doesn't happen here."
For one thing, the murder did happen here. And the "quiet" murder suspect is a cliche.
People often give you these quotes because they've read them so many times and think this is what you are looking for. Don't be afraid to ask them follow-up questions after they've given you the cliche quotes. Ask them: "Why do you say he was quiet guy? Can you give me an example of this?"
Asking these follow-up questions may lead to an answer which is worth quoting. And if it doesn't, paraphrase what they said. Don't quote it.

Don't Quote Too Much


Some articles are just a list of quote after quote strung together. Unless you are quoting Abraham Lincoln, don't do this. Very few people speak as well as Abraham Lincoln did. Paraphrase some of what was said. Pick and choose your quotes.
Also, don't quote every single little thing your subject said. Some articles read like this: "Say you want to find a unique gift for your Mom. So you come in my store, and look around and see what we got. One of my employees or myself can help you find something unique. We have a collection of jewelry which dates back to the Civil War. We have jewelry Scarlett O'Hara would have worn to the ball at Tara," said Angela Smith, owner of Angela's Antiques.
There's only one sentence here worth quoting. The rest can be paraphrased.
People looking for unique gifts can find antique jewelry dating back to the Civil War, said Angela Smith, owner of Angela's Antiques.
"We have jewelry Scarlett O'Hara would have worn to the ball at Tara," she said.

When Should You Use Quotes


Quotes should be used when someone says something in a unique way. See the Scarlett O'Hara quote above.
Quotes can also be used to add information and help the reader understand what's going on. Here's an example from an actual newspaper story about a soldier in Iraq who survived an explosion.
As Sgt. Smith drove his tank in Iraq, he struck an improvised explosive device - a hidden bomb. He heard a loud bang, smelled smoke and felt himself being thrown out of the tank.
"My face was on fire," he said. He rolled over in the grass to put out the flames then waited for the medics to rescue him.
If you had paraphrased all of this information, you would not have adequately conveyed the horror of his experience. The quote about his face being on fire adds extra and powerful information to the story.
By the way, the soldier recovered although he still has scars on his face.
By paying more attention to how and when you should quote, you will improve your articles and gain readers. You can quote me on that.

Here is one I wrote on books writers should read
Here is one on finding story ideas

Here is one on writing tight
Here is one on writing better leads
Here is one on writing better endings
Here is one on writing stronger articles

Attribution


The end illustration and the cover image came from Morguefile.
I took the other photos myself.

Tags

Quotations, Quotes, Writing, Writing Articles, Writing Skills, Writing Tips, Writing Tips And Tricks

Meet the author

author avatar Connie McKinney
I enjoy exercising, pets, and volunteering as well as writing about these topics and others.

Share this page

moderator Steve Kinsman moderated this page.
If you have any complaints about this content, please let us know

Comments

author avatar Jerry Walch
1st Nov 2013 (#)

This should be very useful for new writers.

Reply to this comment

author avatar Connie McKinney
1st Nov 2013 (#)

Jerry, thanks so much. I hope it helps writers.

Reply to this comment

author avatar Mike Robbers
1st Nov 2013 (#)

Useful tips and advice. Thanks!

Reply to this comment

author avatar Stella Mitchell
1st Nov 2013 (#)

Very interesting and informative Connie .
A well deserved star page .
Bless you
Stella ><

Reply to this comment

author avatar Connie McKinney
1st Nov 2013 (#)

Mike, thanks so much. Hope it was helpful.

Reply to this comment

author avatar Connie McKinney
1st Nov 2013 (#)

Stella, thank you for your comments and support.

Reply to this comment

author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
1st Nov 2013 (#)

Good evening, Connie. Thanks for the clarification on quote use. I appreciate quotes and oftentimes use one as a synopsis for/of my article, or if germane, within the article - always giving credit. ~Marilyn

Reply to this comment

author avatar cnwriter..carolina
1st Nov 2013 (#)

hello Connie thank you for another helpful informative piece....

Reply to this comment

author avatar Connie McKinney
2nd Nov 2013 (#)

Yes, Marilyn, quotes can really boost writing. You always pick out good ones which sum up your pieces perfectly.

Reply to this comment

author avatar Connie McKinney
2nd Nov 2013 (#)

Carolina, thanks so much.

Reply to this comment

author avatar Phyl Campbell
2nd Nov 2013 (#)

Nicely done. It's something that is needed, but rarely gets addressed...

Reply to this comment

author avatar Connie McKinney
2nd Nov 2013 (#)

You are correct, Phyl. People rarely talk about quotes. They can make or break our articles. Thanks so much.

Reply to this comment

author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
3rd Nov 2013 (#)

One needs to keep learning and improving and this article helps everyone. Great post, Connie, thank you - siva

Reply to this comment

author avatar Connie McKinney
3rd Nov 2013 (#)

Siva, so wise as always. Yes, we all need to keep learning. Thanks so much.

Reply to this comment

author avatar vellur
3rd Nov 2013 (#)

A useful article for writers, thanks for sharing.

Reply to this comment

author avatar Connie McKinney
3rd Nov 2013 (#)

Thanks, Vellur. Hope it's helpful.

Reply to this comment

author avatar joyalariwo
4th Nov 2013 (#)

A very interesting article Connie. Quotes are important and yes as important as they are to any write up, one needs to use 'em with care, point taken.

Reply to this comment

author avatar iidob
4th Nov 2013 (#)

Very nicely written. Thank you

Reply to this comment

author avatar Connie McKinney
4th Nov 2013 (#)

Thank you, joyalariwo.

Reply to this comment

author avatar Connie McKinney
4th Nov 2013 (#)

Thank you so much for reading and commenting, iidob.

Reply to this comment

author avatar Fern Mc Costigan
5th Nov 2013 (#)

Thank you for sharing these useful tips ery informative!

Reply to this comment

author avatar Connie McKinney
5th Nov 2013 (#)

Thanks so much, Fern.

Reply to this comment

author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
14th Nov 2013 (#)

Good afternoon, Connie - Shared ~Marilyn

Reply to this comment

author avatar Connie McKinney
14th Nov 2013 (#)

Thanks, Marilyn. I will return the favor.

Reply to this comment

Add a comment
Username
Can't login?
Password