Class Notes

Tuesday, February 16, 2016


Why use quotes?

  • Add color
  • authenticity
  • credibility (to you as a writer)
  • rhythm & life
  • firsthand insight
  • dynamic
  • natural flavor & movement


Handwritten: happen on the go, accurate/inaccurate, helps to shorthand

Recorded: accuracy is high “They are really hard to find.”

**hard to transcribe; better if you can have a device that works all the time

easier to paraphrase, but if you want to have a direct quote you have to know what the person said

ex). how do you decide what to say if someone spoke for an hour?

if you know it’s being recorded/livestreamed; put a note with the time & watch it again to get the quote

Remembered: “Certain things have a lot of value and certain words fall on the right soil at the right time.” “What did the person say that was memorable?”

  • cannot replicate recorded, but can remember which quotes stood out

*Do not place a quote in your story before you confirm with your notes (might not be right – check first)

Journalist selects the most illustrative quote, then uses quote in story, while a stenographer records every word verbatim.


  • If you don’t know who said it, do not use the quote.
    • Readers should never wonder who says what
    • It is good to know how people feel/what they think, but it doesn’t help your story if you cannot attribute it
  • Break the quote at the first logical pause
    • “Sure, we can go to war right now, but should we?” John Jensen, the UNI history professor, asked rhetorically. “I bet you we would have a hard time explaining this to our kids some day.”
    • Can also put it ahead of the quote, but should be used rarely in stories (more in PR) *Want quotes of source to flow seamlessly

What to Quote

  • Only what you deem to be character revealing
  • Do not waste the reader’s time with basic info that can easily be paraphrased
  • Will be easier to find good quotes the more experience you get

Attribution Tense

  • ,” he said.
  • ,” said he.
  • ,” he says
  • ,” says he.

*Tendency to shift to present simple for the purpose of creating immediacy.

Sanctity of the quotation marks:

  • Not what you thought, believed, overheard, remembered – ONLY WHAT WAS TRULY SAID

*should take quotes very seriously


  • Yes, if it is merited (if someone has a longwinded thought process & you struggled)
  • Use “…” to indicate that you cut stuff out
  • Do not fix grammar or flow
  • Use [xx] ONLY to clarify/if it’s necessary

“Just try to figure out what the person is trying to say.” If you ever interview immigrants, they probably know 3 or 4 languages. Don’t think they’re less intelligent just because they have a heavy accent.

*Always be organized with quotes – where is the story going?

The most important thing is to “be a good listener.” Don’t need to have fancy questions.

“Write how regular people would write.” 

Verify Quotes

  • Helps to have it recorded
  • Say to the person, “okay, here’s what your quote says, is this correct?”
  • “A good quote doesn’t need clarification. It is what it is.”

Partial Quotes

  • Limited use (don’t overuse them)
  • Useful when the issue is very complicated


  • You can paraphrase a quote and still attribute it

Attributions: “According to”

  •  Doesn’t get you out of trouble, sometimes
  • Is useful, but don’t overuse
  • Only time to say, “According to –” is if the source itself is more important than what was said



  • Write a story about yourself
  • Won’t be “I”
  • You’re interviewing yourself
  • In the real world a journalist would never write a story about himself/herself in the third person, but we’re just doing it
  • Write in third person
  • Make sure you have a story line for Thursday (will write in class on Thursday)
  • Can write about whatever you want
  • Include “quotes”
  • Think about what your purpose is, career goals, etc.


– Journey

– Transition from high school to college

– What makes me who I am

– Future/dreams

– Relationship with family

– What my life means

“My goal for you is..that you will never tell your child, ‘I’m a boring person.'”



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