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To coin a paraphrase

I’ve laid out some kinda complicated rules about how to handle quotes in broadcast copy, but really, it can be simplified to this:

  1. In general, you should use exact quotes sparingly (don’t be promiscuous about them; limit yourself only to the best and pithiest quotes)
  2. When you do use exact quotes, treat them as if they were paraphrases.

For example:

Governor Fletcher said, “Kentucky has not discriminated against the gay community.”

This follows the rules I’ve laid out for quote handling. But read aloud it seems stilted and awkward. The following much smoother and more natural:

Governor Fletcher said that Kentucky has “not discriminated against the gay community.”

The difference between these two is very subtle (really, just a “that” versus a comma). But syntactically it’s all the difference in the world.

Note that in the second case, it would not necessarily be clear to the audience that they’re hearing an exact quote, which makes this approach unsuitable for cases where the audience really needs to know that.

In such instances, you’ll need to signal an exact quote, as discussed previously:

Over the weekend, in the words of a Beshear campaign spokeswoman, the “Fletcher camp hit the panic button.”

Cody Castgna’s lawyer said, “Unfortunately, I mean I hate to admit this on behalf of my client, but it’s a prostitution case. And frankly my client didn’t offer it or solicit it.”

In the second example, we didn’t use a ‘flag phrase’ like “in his words.” But it’s immediately clear it’s an exact quote because the speaker uses the first person right at the beginning of the sentence.


  1. […] We’ve already discussed a few of the ways in which direct quotes are used differently in broadcast scripts from the way they’re handled in print. We’ve talked about dangling attributions, signifying the start of a direct quote and paraphrasing. […]

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