Limit indirect quotes and increase direct quotes to improve writing

What is an indirect quote?  Here are some examples.

  • Sia said that she was really tired.
  • Riley asked me for a pencil.
  • April told the dog to get off the couch.
  • Donald Trump urged Alabama voters to choose Luther Strange.3rd grader writing an essay.

What is a direct quote?

  • Sia said, “I’m tired.”
  • “Hey, how about forking over a pencil, Dude?” asked Riley.
  • “Jump down this second, you naughty pooch!” April yelled at her dog.
  • “Big day in Alabama. Vote for Luther Strange, he will be great!” tweeted Donald Trump.

Why are direct quotes usually better?

  • The middle man is removed. The reader can decide for himself what the speaker or writer actually said and meant.
  • The personality of the speaker often shows through the use of formal or informal vocabulary and sentence structure.
  • The vocabulary is sometimes more precise or colorful.
  • The reader experiences the immediacy of an event.

Are indirect quotes ever okay?  Yes, of course.  Sometimes indirect quotes are even preferred, such as

  • If a speaker / reporter needs to be brief. Sometimes a paragraph of direct quotes can be reduced to a handful of words.
  • If the writer thinks she might be accused of a misquote, an indirect quote can eliminate this problem.
  • If the writer wants to hide the actual words used because the speaker used foul language, grammatical errors or anything which might show the speaker in a bad light, paraphrasing can eliminate these problems.
  • If the identity of the speaker needs to be hidden, but could be learned from the way he speaks, then paraphrasing provides cover.
  • If the writer doesn’t remember the exact words or wants to summarize them, then indirect quotes work well.

Bottom line:  Use direct quotes when you can.  If you  write with direct quotes, your writing is likely to sparkle.

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