AP Style Quotations in the News

AP Style holds that you should never alter quotations even to correct minor grammatical errors or word usage. Casual minor tongue slips may be removed by using ellipses but even that should be done with extreme caution. If there is a question about a direct, either don’t use it or ask the speaker to clarify.

If a person in unavailable for comment, detail attempts to reach that person. For example,

  • Kate was out of the country on business.
  • Johnson did not return phone messages left at the office.

Do not use substandard spellings such as “gonna” or “wanna” in attempts to convey regional dialects or informal pronunciations, except to help a desired touch or to convey an emphasis by the speaker.

Follow basic writing style and use abbreviations where appropriate, as in “No. 1, ”St.,” “Gov.,” “Sen.,” and “$3.”

Full vs. Partial Quotes

In general, avoid fragmentary quotes. If a speaker’s words are clear and concise, favor the full quote. If cumbersome language can be paraphrased fairly, use an indirect construction, reserving quotation marks for sensitive or controversial passages that must be identified specifically as coming from the speaker.

Context

Remember that you can misquote someone by giving a startling remark with its modifying passage or qualifiers. The manner of delivery sometimes is part of the context. Reporting a smile or a deprecatory gesture may be as important as conveying the words themselves.

Offensive Language

See AP Style Obscenities, Profanities, and Vulgarities.

Punctuation

See the Quotation Marks entry in the Punctuation post.

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