Cutting your copy? Slash the quotes

Everybody’s trying to write tighter these days. Start with paring wordy, repetitive quotes—even if it’s the CEO who is speaking.

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Former journalists abound among communicators, and even those who haven’t toiled under a grumpy Lou Grant-type editor tend to mimic the techniques of reporters.

This can cause contradictory crosscurrents in our writing. We strive to write tersely, but we sometimes litter our prose with quotes.

If you’re looking for ways to prune that 950-word employee profile—other than hacking off the bottom half—start by paraphrasing the bulkier or more jargon-y quotes.

A professional writer can state most matters more succinctly than people speaking off the cuff. This especially holds true if your source is addicted to corporate gobbledygook. Paraphrasing frees you up to underscore key points with snappy sound bites.

(Is it time for an obligatory quote? I say yes!)

Consider the following quote, taken from the raw transcript of an interview I conducted on crisis response many years ago:

“We know the channels we want to use,” the source said, “whether it’s email, or whether it’s just posting on the internet, or something very, uh, that has to go, we think, on our PR side. And we work with them to make sure, whether it’s just going to be a news release or whether it’s just going to be posted on the internet on our site and, um, whether we’re going to go on the press.”

Paraphrasing for clarity

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