Ease in Writing
Writing Tips from Full Circle Communications
March 2009
In This Issue
May I Quote You?
Direct and Indirect Quotes
Attention, Authors!
Past Issues
Scan previous issues on such topics as design tips for writers and speechwriting.
About Full Circle

Writing, editing, and project management for print and online publications

Training and consulting on writing and other communication topics

Have a question about how to tackle an upcoming project?

Visit our website, call 703.212.0349, or send an e-mail.
Forward to a Friend

Ease in Writing?

"Ease in writing" comes from a poem by Alexander Pope, the British poet:

True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance.

Foot step chartNote he (and I) didn't say "easy writing." But just like dance lessons can help get you around the floor with your partner more gracefully, the goal for this newsletter is to share a tip or two each month so you can improve how your organization communicates in writing.
Taking Notes"May I Quote You?"
How can you use those great quotes you dutifully wrote down or recorded (more about that later) during an interview?


Like a good spice, they enhance in small amount but overwhelm when added too liberally.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Have a good reason to use a direct quote. (If you are not sure the difference between a direct and indirect quote, look here.) Two good reasons--
  1. Your source's comment is particularly colorful, insightful, poignant, or otherwise memorable, and the reader needs to see it in his or her own words;
  2. Your source is a recognized expert, the CEO, a celebrity, or other VIP, and you need a few direct quotes to enhance the credibility of your piece and to show readers the style in which the VIP speaks.
Decide how you will revise (if at all) quotes. What, you say, change a quote? Blasphemous. I do not mean altering the meaning and certainly not making something up. But what about fixing a grammatical error? Or if two relevant points are interspersed with a side conversation about the weather? If your publication does not have a clear guideline, use your professional discretion. William Zinsser, in On Writing Well, counsels brevity and fair play in making adjustments. I consider that sound advice.

A related problem: the emailed quote. If the only way you can conduct an interview is via email, the result is often long paragraphs as responses. Do your source a favor and make any direct quotes sound like they came from the mouth of a human being. You can email the revised version back for approval.

This, in turn, brings us to another sticky situation--when your source asks to vet your finished piece. Some publications have strict rules about this, which, of course, you will follow. Otherwise, consider sending the excerpt with the source's quotes, but not the whole article. An exception might be a technical topic outside your usual expertise that could benefit from the source's review.

Finally, note-taking or recording the interview? The situation dictates your choice. If you have only one chance to talk to your source, and you must capture his or her exact words, use a recorder. Ask permission, and practice using the machine without freaking out. If you can return to the source and you want more of a casual conversation, stick with notes.

Recently, a fellow writer, Judy Artunian, interviewed me on this topic for an upcoming issue of the publication Writing That Works. It was interesting to be on the other side, as the quoted and not the quoter.
DirectandIndirectDirect and Indirect Quotes
In case you have forgotten,

A direct quote is the words from a source, contained within quotation marks: "Our goal is to get a path on these streets by the morning rush hour," said Joan Morris, a spokeswoman for Virginia's Department of Transportation.(Thanks to the 3/2 Post for that.)

An indirect quote paraphrases what the source says. The above might read something like this: Joan Morris, a spokeswoman for Virginia's Department of Transportation, said the department hoped to clear paths through neighborhood streets by early tomorrow morning.
Attention, Authors!
Have you written a book or article? Do you have a communications-related blog or newsletter? I would love to share the information with others. Let me know what you have created. I'll write about it (and link to it) in another issue of this newsletter.