Most of your thought leadership articles will draw on your own ideas, thoughts and advice.
But sometimes it makes sense to add some direct quotes. There are two times you might want to do this: (1) when you have actual quotes you obtained during an interview specifically for your piece; (2) when you want to include quoted passages from someone else’s work (e.g., from a TED Talk transcript). If you’re in this situation now, there are a few important do’s and don’ts you need to know before you write.
Even if you rarely use quotes, this is a great checklist to keep handy.
Above all, remember that YOU are the expert — it’s your voice we want to hear and showcase. As Roy Peter Clark wrote for Poynter, “Begin with the idea that you are the writer, that you can write it better than the source can say it. When that is not the case, use the quote.”
Do Quote the Right People for the Right Reasons
Avoid quoting clients, customers, vendors, partners, etc.; quotes are meant to emphasize or expand on your points, not promote your business interests. Find experts who can help you expand on your ideas. (There are sometimes exceptions to this. Talk to your editor or email your concierge — that’s what we’re here for!)
Make sure your quotes are relevant and add to your piece. If the quote doesn’t add anything new, chances are you don’t need it. Trust yourself — you’re an expert too.
Don’t Put Words in Someone’s Mouth
Never add material someone did not say inside quotations. Period.
Don’t add or subtract critical material from quotes. (If you need to edit the quote significantly, it’s better to avoid using it.) If you want to clean up a quote but aren’t sure how, talk to us.
And never share quotes that were obtained without the person’s knowledge that he or she might be quoted in your work.
Do Use Proper Attribution
First things first: Always clarify to your editors where quotes came from. If they came from another media source, link to it. If they came from an interview, make that clear.
If you’re doing an interview, do your due diligence. Verify your source’s title, name, company, etc. To be safe, check it twice! And don’t use quotes you didn’t obtain firsthand — i.e., if your quotes are from an interview, you must obtain them yourself, either in person, by phone or by email. It’s not acceptable for someone else to interview people for you, because there’s no way to verify the material’s accuracy — or that the source gave you explicit permission to be quoted.
Proper attribution for direct quotes is to write, “[Name] said,” not “said [Name],” except when you are using the person’s title — as you often will in business writing.
If you have multiple quotes, identify the new speaker as soon as possible, either before or in the middle of the quote — but choose your stopping point wisely.
Here are two examples:
- “Content marketing is hard,” Lindsey Donner said.
- “Content marketing is hard,” said Lindsey Donner, executive editor. “But for most people, it’s doable with the right strategy and resources in place.”
If you do quote a well-known figure like Albert Einstein, make sure the quote is accurate and link to your source so we can fact-check it.
Finally, if your quote came from someone else’s article, video, podcast, report, survey, etc., you must make that clear and link to your source. If you are quoting a passage from someone else’s article, use double quotes for that too. (See what I did above for the Roy Peter Clark quote.) And if you are paraphrasing or referring to something and don’t actually quote it directly, you must still link to the source.
Here are two examples:
- Obi Felton, a director at Alphabet Inc.’s X, told Bloomberg that problems like climate change represent “trillions and trillions of dollars in market opportunity.”
- According to Bloomberg, X is now working on a unique initiative for storing renewable energy that’s code named Malta.
Don’t Use Special Formatting
Avoid special formatting like block quotes.
Avoid the temptation to begin or end your article with a quote. Challenge yourself to write your own beginning (or ending)!
Do Use Quotes Sparingly and Fairly
If you must quote, make it count! In general, we want you to avoid quoting overly long passages — from books, articles, reports or interviews — because our publishing opportunities are about YOU and your expertise.
There are also the matters of fair use and plagiarism to consider. If you’re not sure if you’re using too much material from someone else’s work, ask.
***One final, but important, point: If you quote someone or mention a product/service/company in exchange for free or discounted gifts or services, or fail to disclose a conflict of interest, you may be in violation of our community guidelines. We are happy to clarify any concerns on this point.
What other quote questions do you have? We’d love to help you solve them. Just email your member concierge with your concerns so we can address them (and update this post, too!). Happy writing!