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How to effectively use quotes with your writing

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When you’re writing non fiction, your voice is often the most dominant one in the piece. That’s not always a bad thing, but it’s not always enough.

Adding quotes can make your non fiction writing a bit more credible. It can give that writing a bit more depth. How? By presenting an opinion that bolsters your argument, by offering a contrary opinion or point of view, by adding something that can make your readers stop and think.

There are a number of ways you can effectively use quotes in your writing. Let’s look at three of them.

Inline quotes

These are the most commonly-used types of quotes. You see them all the time in books, magazines, and newspaper articles.

Inline quotes can be either part of a paragraph or in a paragraph by themselves. Inline quotes generally bolster the argument you’re making in that paragraph, or add the thoughts and ideas of experts to expand on what you’re writing about.

In most cases, you surround inline quotes with double quotation marks. And, of course, you attribute the quote to whoever made it. You can do that in any number of ways, including by adding:

  • According to (person’s name) before the quote
  • said (person’s name) after the quote
  • Something along the lines of (person’s name) agrees/disagrees. S/he said … before the quote

If you’re writing online and want to an inline quote to stand out, don’t surround it with quotation marks. Instead, italicize it. That definitely sets the quote apart from the rest of the text. Just remember to attribute the quote.

Blockquotes

If you’re writing online (or even if you’re not), a blockquote (also called a block quotation) can be a great way to highlight what someone said or to highlight something you’re quoting from a book or article or movie or whatever.

A blockquote is:

… a quotation in a written document, that is set off from the main text as a paragraph, or block of text.

(See what I did there?)

A blockquote is usually indented, so it stands out from the rest of the text. Depending on how it’s styled, the blockquote can also be italicized, have a different font, and have a different coloured background from the rest of the document.

Use a blockquote to highlight a single sentence, a short paragraph, or two short paragraphs. Nothing longer. What you format as a blockquote should offer a bit more insight into what you’re writing. It should illuminate a key argument or idea, and should be important or profound enough to highlight. Remember not to overuse blockquotes. Overusing them diminishes their impact and can be visually jarring to your readers.

How you format a blockquote will depend on the medium you’re writing for. You can create a word processor style for your blockquotes. When blogging, the editor for your blogging will often have a Blockquote button on its toolbar. The theme you’re using will determine how the blockquote is formatted. If you want to get your hands dirty and work in HTML, here are some instructions on how to use the HTML <blockquote> tag.

Pull quotes

A pull quote, according to Wikipedia, is:

a key phrase, quotation, or excerpt that has been pulled from an article and used as a graphic element, serving to entice readers into the article or to highlight a key topic.

A pull quote should be short — a sentence, maybe two at the most. It should be positioned near where the text you’re quoting exists in your piece. If you put it before or after, readers will be confused.

You can embed pull quotes in the text, or they can be off to the side. Adding pull quotes doesn’t have to be difficult. There are, for example, a number of WordPress plugins that create nice looking pull quotes. Or, you can use HTML and CSS to create one.

On the other hand, why use text at all? Why not create an image that includes the quote? That’s easy enough to do in an image editor. Or you can use an online tool like Pablo. Pablo’s designed to create images for social media posts, but there’s no reason why you can’t use it to create graphical pull quotes for your writing as well.

Regardless of what type of quote you use, remember to accurately reflect what someone actually said. Misquoting someone, taking a quote out of its original context, or improperly using part of a quote isn’t good practice. It will reflect badly on you.

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