Say it like you mean it

3Nov16Quotes are the heart of your stories and captions. But too often they’re bogged down with attribution in the wrong place. So, let’s set the record straight when it comes to he said/she said.

  • Only use said. Avoid verbs that take away from the quote or interject opinions (i.e. stated, explained, replied, expressed, laughed, giggled, commented, said with a smile). Also, avoid “says” because it implies the person is still talking.
  • You’re not Yoda. While we love the Star Wars Jedi, let’s not model his use of language. Verbs go after nouns. You wouldn’t say “walked Lemons” or “talked Lemons” so don’t say, “said Lemons.” Similarly, substituting pronouns makes it clear that “she said” is preferable to “said she.”
  • Exceptions? When using a who clause or introducing a person with a long title. “It’s wonderful to have long, beautiful interviews,” said Kel Lemons, Balfour’s Key Accounts and Education Manager.
  • Know when to introduce the speaker. Place the attribution after the first sentence of a quote. Readers need to know who’s talking, but it’s not more important than starting the quote.
  • Punctuate the quote properly. Commas and periods go inside quotation marks. After the first sentence use a comma, use a period after the attribution and last sentence.
  • Example: “I am so tired of students putting commas in the wrong place,” adviser Jill Smith said. “Hopefully, this will help them learn the accurate way.”
  • First or last? Once you’ve mentioned the person’s title and full name, it’s preferable to only use the last name on second and future references. For adults, courtesy titles aren’t necessary, but first names are needed to go with the last name on first reference.


Need a cheat sheet? Here’s our handy guide for quotes and attribution.