Recent e-news studies conducted by Editorial Solutions, Inc. found a shortfall of articles containing direct quotes. Quotes used usually are not based on contact between editor and source. Instead, the information posted is close to word-for-word rewrite. As a result, information is often hard to read – aka lots of long sentences – and/or low/value puffery. Here are nine pitfalls you want to avoid in the quotes you elect to post on-line or in print:
- Numberless pitfall. The interviewer settles for adjectives (“big”…“substantial”…“modest”) as opposed to hard numbers. Sometimes this occurs because the interviewer doesn’t know the right questions to ask. At my former company, we defeated this problem by providing all staff members with a list of two dozen questions that required quantitative answers.
- Redundant pitfall. In the published article, first the point is paraphrased, after which a quote merely echoes rather than expands upon the point.
- Transition pitfall. After responding to the specific question posed by the interviewer, the interviewee tacks on a totally unrelated observation that somehow gets published.
- Jargon pitfall. The interviewee responds in popular terms (such as fashion retailer always talking about “functional” garments) but offers no specific examples.
- Unclear pitfall. The writer does not understand what the interviewee is saying, but includes the direct quote anyway, assuming the editor or managing editor will catch any snafus.
- Windbag pitfall. Interviewee offers 500-word, valueless responses to most questions, and an intimidated interviewer makes no attempt to channel response along more useful lines.
- “For example” pitfall. Interviewee generalizes about specific trends or techniques, and writer does not attempt to ask the “for example” question in pursuit of better information.
- Hype pitfall. Usually occurs during interviews with advertisers who are trying to get as many self-serving statements as possible into the article.
- Platitude pitfall. Typical quotes get posted all too often (like “people are our most important asset” and “quality products and service are emphasized at all times.”)
There are many variations on the above, and your recommendations for additions to the list are invited. To avoid posting any low-value quote, of course, you must go the enterprising route by calling the original source (if dealing with a PR release) for better input. Today, however, many editors tell me they don’t always have time to do that. Alas!!!