How to Attribute Quotes for an Article

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A properly used quotation can make a news story stand out, adding not just information but a genuine sense of the speaker's personality. In reporting on an event or a public meeting, precisely rendered dialogue can make a reader feel that she was right there. It's important to use quotes precisely and attribute them clearly so that the reader always knows who said what.

Attribution Basics

  • As a general rule, anything in your story that you did not personally witness or that is not widely known and obvious must be attributed to a source. Only a source's exact words belong in quotation marks. If you're quoting from a press release, make that clear. "Our state is 3 trillion dollars in debt," said Secretary of Huge Messes Ivan Blather in a press release last Tuesday." Stick to "said" or "says" for setting up quotes in journalism; having your subjects "exclaim," "emote" or "muse" is the mark of an amateur. Use "according to" sparingly, usually only when quoting an organization of some sort: According to the Department of Homeland Security ... or According to the Guinness World Records Society ...

First Identification and Tagging

  • The first time you introduce an individual in the story, use the person's full name and professional title or role. Jack Evans of Kingston has been director of the History Makers since 2003. Neighbor Mary Ellen Smith was on her porch at the time of the accident. For later mentions in the story, use just last names as "tags." "We've waited a long time for this day," said Evans.

Attribution for Brief Qotes

  • The first quote from a source usually comes immediately after you've introduced him or her in your story, making it obvious who is speaking. End the previous sentence with a period and begin the next one with the quote. Neighbor Mary Ellen Smith was on her porch at the time of the accident. "The purple Hummer came flying around that corner way too fast," she said.

    It's also correct to give the attribution immediately after the quote."The purple Hummer came flying around that corner way too fast," said neighbor Mary Ellen Smith, who was on her porch at the time of the accident. The comma or period that separates the quote from the attribution or following sentence goes inside the second set of double quotation marks.

Attribution for Longer Quotes

  • When a quote is longer than a single sentence, don't make your reader wait till the end to understand who said it, and use a colon before the quote instead of a period. It often works best to insert the attribution after the first natural pause, whether that's the end of the first sentence or of a phrase. "We've waited a long time for this day," says Evans, "and now that it's here, we're hoping the whole community will help us celebrate. We're all a part of the chapter of history that is happening right now."

References

  • Photo Credit Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images
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