How to quote sources, characters responsibly & well

One of the hardest things to do in writing is to render the voices of our characters and sources. In print we call them quotes. On television they are soundbites. On NPR they are "actualities," what the source actually said.

There are so many journalistic, aesthetic and ethical considerations on quoting sources that they can't possibly fit in a simple list.

What defines a good quote?

What's the ideal length for a quote?

Can you begin or end with a quote?

Can you tinker with the language in a quote, for clarity or grammar?

What if the sources speaks in slang, profanities or other non-standard usages?

What's the difference between quotes and dialogue?

We explored this topic in this week's writing chat. You can replay the chat here:

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    Roy Peter Clark

    Roy Peter Clark has taught writing at Poynter to students of all ages since 1979. He has served the Institute as its first full-time faculty member, dean, vice-president, and senior scholar.


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