Whether you’re writing your business’s annual report, magazine articles, or your autobiography, chances are you’ll need to include quotations from experts or witnesses to key events.
But do you know the rules over how to correctly include quotations? And what if you don’t want to quote these individuals word for word, but provide a summary of what has been said? Although we learn these rules in school, it can be easy to forget the basics in adulthood.
We’ve rounded up everything you need to know when using indirect quotations or speech to enhance the quality of your writing across your organization.
What are indirect quotes?
While direct quotations report an interviewee’s statement verbatim, indirect quotations enable you to convey the overall meaning of what has been said, while paraphrasing the exact language.
Examples of indirect speech
- Kath told Ron she would like to pay for dinner on their date night.
- The company’s actions were in violation of employees’ rights, a union spokesperson has confirmed.
Examples of direct speech
- Kath said: “It’s my turn to pay tonight, Ron.”
- A union spokesperson said: “The company’s actions were in clear breach of their employees’ legal rights.”
Free indirect speech is another method of quotation often found in novel and narrative writing. Using this approach, a third-person narrator adopts some of the linguistic characteristics or turn of phrase of the person being described. For example, take our couple on a date: if you were using free indirect speech, you might write sentences such as: “Kath let Ron know that she didn’t mind paying her way.”
Formatting indirect quotes
If you’re nervous about the grammatical rules about quoting interviewees, you may be pleased to learn you won’t need to use single or double quotation marks with indirect quotes. From a legal perspective, however, it is vital that you employ proper citations to acknowledge any type of source material you have quoted.
You should also note that the rules surrounding indirect quotes are the same across US and UK English. With direct quotes, however, these rules differ across the two regions. In the US, periods always come inside closing quotation marks, while in UK English, this will depend on the context.
Why you should use indirect quotations
As you may have guessed from our article title, there are a number of ways in which indirect quotations can greatly improve your writing.
The use of indirect quotations can help solidify your position as an authoritative voice. Rather than simply repeating what others have said on a word-for-word basis, this approach proves you have truly understood the issue at hand.
Incorporating indirect quotations also helps you preserve the originality of your writing, as the overuse of direct quotations could give the impression you are simply cutting and pasting from your original source material.
Using mixed quotations
When it comes to successfully deploying indirect and direct quotations in your work, the most talented writers do not operate on an either/or basis. Remember, both forms of quotation are equally valid in expository writing in which factual accuracy is key.
By mixing the two types of quotation, you can also vary the pace of your writing, which can prevent your reader’s mind from drifting. If the rhythm of your writing suddenly alters, the reader briefly pauses and re-engages with the underlying meaning of your work. As you would vary your verb usage, it’s also essential to incorporate a mixture of quotation styles.
Try looking at what the person you’re quoting has actually said. Ask yourself if he or she is saying anything you couldn’t say yourself. If you could easily paraphrase their quotations without losing any value, it’s probably best to opt for indirect quotations. You can then save the use of direct quotation for any more colorful, controversial, or unexpected remarks.
For many writers, the major benefit of using indirect quotations is the gravitas it can bring to your writing. Rather than stating something yourself, you are letting your reader know the point you’re making is a point on which experts agree.
One point to bear in mind: it can be a mistake to let any quotes, whether direct or indirect, overwhelm your writing. If you are penning an opinion piece, quotes exist mainly to provide solid reinforcements and reaffirm your main argument.
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Katy Ward has been an editor and writer for more than a decade. Having written for both national newspapers and independent media outlets from her home in the north of England, she specialises in finance, tech, mental health, and the arts. As well as penning short stories in her spare time, she can be found on Twitter at @KatyWardHull