Using Quotes in News and Feature Stories

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Using Quotes in News and Feature Stories

Good quotes can bring a story alive. They substantiate information your presenting, add emotion, drama, and interest to your story. Boring quotes, on the other hand, repeat what was already said -adding nothing -and bog down your story.
To decide whether or not to use a direct quote ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is it stated in an interesting way or provide information that should be heard directly from the source?

  • Does it reveal the source’s opinions or feelings?

  • Does it back up the lead or a supporting point in your story?

  • Is the quote very descriptive or dramatic?

  • Does it express a strong reaction from a source?

If the answer to all of these questions is no, then it would be better to paraphrase or summarize the information presented in the quote (or not use it at all).
Avoid Quotes That:

  • are not clearly worded.

  • are factual and indisputable.

  • repeat what’s already been said.

  • don’t relate to the focus of your story.

With that said, your story is built on quotes and observation (good reporting).

Your opinion should not be apparent in the story. Your sources tell what they think, not you. ALL of the statements in your story should be attributed.

Exceptions to this are:

  • Firsthand information: facts that you observed or gathered on your own

  • Common Knowledge: facts that are well known and non-controversial

  • Information already available from a large number of sources

And just as in academic paper, if in doubt, give credit to your sources!

How to Write Quotes
Your quotes should flow naturally into your story. The method for doing this is very different than you may have learned in English class. Here are some guidelines.

  • Each new speaker must be quoted in a separate paragraph.

  • Place the attribution (the tag that identifies the speaker) after the first sentence in a multi-sentence quote.

  • Keep it simple: HE SAID or SHE SAID after complete sentences. You want the reader to focus on the quotes not the attribution.

  • The second time you refer to a source use the last name only.

  • Don’t use long explanations after a quote.

  • Put commas, periods, and question marks inside the quotation marks.

Dos and Don’ts


  • Attribute a direct quote to more than one person or a group

  • Don’t string together quotes from different people. Introduce each new speaker.

  • Introduce a new speaker at the end of a long quote. Put your attribution after the first sentence.


  • Use partial quotes

  • Introduce a new speaker after a quote (only if its very short and proves to be more effective)

  • Place your attribution (he said, she said) in the middle of a sentence, and only if it doesn’t interrupt the thought expressed in the quote.

  • Use any attribution other than “he said or “she said.”

  • Use ellipses

  • Make your question or interview process apparent to the reader: When asked about…


  • Think about the reader when including quotes
  • Consider what the quote is adding to your story

  • If using an accusatory quote, seek comment from the source being accused

Some material developed from Writing and Reporting News by Carole Rich (pages 43-54 2nd edition; 38-42 3rd edition)

Examples and more guidelines from The Radical Write by Bobby Hawthorne:
Good Journalism thrives on good quotations. The right quotes, carefully selected and presented, enliven and humanize a story and help make it clear, credible, immediate and dramatic.” – Paula LaRocque

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