One of the most debated questions in all of journalism is how to handle direct quotations. Journalists “claim” (what a nasty way to attribute something) that they put inside quotations marks only what a person says. That’s what I urge in a chapter on quotations and attribution in the Missouri Group’s “News Reporting and Writing” (Bedford/St. Martin’s Press). But I could prove on any given day in any given newspaper that that rule is broken as much as it is followed.
Nevertheless, it’s a whole different story in corporate communications and news releases. I have been amused in seminars to corporate communicators how shocked they are when I tell them to change direct quotations however so slightly. For example, people use “very” very often in their everyday speech. I’d knock it out in direct quotations. Shocking. These same people often have little trouble making up whole quotations. Often the direct quotes are long, wooden and pretentious. I often ask, “Does he really talk like that?” Sometimes the answer is , “Yes, you betcha.” If he does, should you let him in print?
Do you have a policy on direct quotations? What is it? Join the discussion.