Style Matters #40: Don’t overstate a point when introducing a speaker

blog-keyboard-worked

Following on from yesterday’s mega-posting on getting attribution right, there is one bad habit creeping into reported speech that we should expunge from published news stories.

It is particularly noticeable in wire copy (stories from news agencies) originating in the US, where writers go to the trouble of setting up the speaker, correctly, in the first paragraph, citing one of the speaker’s ideas in indirect speech. Then, in the very next paragraph, they will repeat the same words, or sentiment, as a direct quote.

Examples:

(incorrect)
Hanna Barbera chief Dick Dastardly said the cartoon business had been a dynamic marketplace that had claimed a few scalps over the past two decades.
“It’s a dynamic marketplace that has claimed a few scalps over the past two decades,” Mr Dastardly said.

(corrected)
Hanna Barbera chief Dick Dastardly said the cartoon business had been “a dynamic marketplace that has claimed a few scalps over the past two decades”.

(incorrect)
Former LA Lakers player Lemar Jones said he would not support calls for an investigation into the post-match partying.
“I would not back an investigation of what went on after the match,” Jones said. “It was just a few guys letting off steam.”

(corrected)
Former LA Lakers player Lemar Jones said he would not support calls for an investigation into the post-match partying.
“It was just a few guys letting off steam,” Jones said.

Writers should also watch out for switching speakers without introducing the second speaker before quoting them. This confuses readers:

(incorrect)
Pixar boss Buzz Lightyear said his company was buoyant.
“Business is booming and the company is on track for a record profit,” analyst Seymour Gains said.

(corrected)
Pixar boss Buzz Lightyear said his company was confident of a buoyant outlook and industry analyst Seymour Prophets confirmed the prediction.
“Business is booming and the company is on track for a record profit,” Mr Prophets said.

 ———-

If you like what you’ve read here, you can see reporting4work’s similar posts at Style Matters or connect via Facebook by liking the reporting4work Facebook Page 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s