Quote Bombs

In summary writing, paraphrases are generally preferable to direct quotations. However, sometimes unique words or phrases should be included, to give an accurate representation of the text.

When to Use Quotes

There are three main reasons why you should use quotes in print journalism:

  1. Accuracy
    • If you include the exact words which authors themselves used you will reduce the risk of misreporting what they meant, particularly around complex, key ideas.
  2. Clarity
    • When we give a text’s exact words our readers can see both the ideas and the way they were presented.
  3. Reality
    • Authors often use unique and lively language. Quotes allow you to capture an author’s style and tone.

Contextualizing Quotes

This video discusses how to avoid throwing “quote bombs” into your writing, by giving enough context before and after a quote for it to make sense to another reader.

Click here to download the transcript for this video

Quoting Out of Context

Finally, remember to quote responsibly.

The practice of quoting out of context is an informal fallacy and a type of false attribution. This happens when a passage is removed from its surrounding matter in such a way as to distort its intended meaning.

Arguments based on this fallacy typically take two forms:

  1. As a straw man argument, frequently found in politics, it involves quoting an opponent out of context in order to misrepresent his or her position (typically to make it seem more simplistic or extreme) in order to make it easier to refute.
  2. As an appeal to authority, it involves quoting an authority on the subject out of context, in order to misrepresent that authority as supporting some position.

In either case, while quoting a person out of context can be done intentionally to advance an agenda or win an argument, it may also occur accidentally if someone misinterprets the meaning and omits something essential to clarifying it, thinking it non-essential.