Writing Nonfiction – Using Quotes

Quotes and nonfiction writingIf you’re a fiction writer, you know there are a number of elements that a writer needs to incorporate to create an engaging and believable story, such as characterization, plot, structure, clarity, and so on.

Well, Writing nonfiction also has a set of elements that must be incorporated into the piece to create similar results, such as clarity, structure, and an engaging story. But with nonfiction the writer also needs to provide authentic information.

Merrian-Webster.com defines ‘authentic’ as: “worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on fact.”

If you think about it, this makes complete sense. Anyone can write an article or a book and purport that it’s fact.

But, what gives your content the authentic, credible element that it needs to be convincing, to be taken seriously?

The answer is simple: Using quotes.

While your nonfiction article may be accurate, you researched the information thoroughly and created your own content, there’s no real authenticity or credibility without relevant quotes from reliable sources to back your piece up.

Along with adding credibility, using quotes increases your professionalism and expert status. Those who read your content will assume you know what you’re talking about because you provided evidence from reliable/expert sources.

The quotes can also be the cornerstone of your story, allowing you to build upon them.

First off, quotes offer variety by changing the voice of the story. These tidbits by other authors/experts have their own voice and writing style. This will help keep the reader engaged and helps keep the content fresh.

It helps break up the monotony of a possibly long drawn out monotone piece, which in turn will help keep the reader reading.

It’s also a good idea to sprinkle your article with quotes, maybe one every few paragraphs. Along with increasing the story’s credibility, it also adds white space to the piece.

Why is adding white space to your article, report, or book important?

It aids in easy reading.

This is a known writing technique that is used in various forms of writing, including copywriting. You don’t want the reader to become hypnotized and blank-out from too much continuous text.

If your content goes on and on with very few breaks (white space) the reader will lose interest. Using quotes will force you to create new paragraphs, which will usually be short. This adds additional white space and gives the reader a breather; it also creates a less cluttered piece, which is also something the reader will appreciate.

When using quotes in your article or book, be sure to offer information pertaining to the author of the quote.

You must give credit where credit is due.

As an example, suppose you are quoting from this article. You might do so by saying: In her article “Writing Nonfiction – Using Quotes,” Karen Cioffi explains . . .

Or, you might say: According to Karen Cioffi, in her article “Writing Nonfiction – Using Quotes,” she believes . . .

Or, you might input the quote first and then say: “This is a known writing technique,” according to Karen Cioffi, in her article “Writing Nonfiction – Using Quotes.”

You can see there are a number of ways you can attribute the quote to the author.

Sometimes, especially when writing health or scientific information, you may need to include quotes from research teams. Here is part of the information used in a health article I wrote regarding a particular quote used:

Researcher Talal M. Nsouli, MD and his colleagues at Watergate Allergy & Asthma Center in Washington reported their findings at an American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology (ACAAI) meeting.

Also keep in mind that you may need to list the sources for the quotes. This is usually done through footnotes or endnotes. According to the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS), “The notes, whether footnotes or endnotes, are usually numbered and correspond to superscripted note reference numbers in the text.”

Important question: How much can you quote within quotation marks?

If your quote is six or more lines, you need to block off the quotation – each line of the quote needs to be indented. You would not use quotation marks.

There is also the matter of using part of a quote or shortening a quote. In this case you will need to use ellipses and possibly brackets.

Most importantly though, always be sure you’re allowed to use the quote. For more on this, check out: Quoting Material

When in doubt, you might want to paraphrase. For more information on this, check out: Paraphrasing

For in depth information on using quotes and verifying current information, you can check out the CMS and/or the APA Publication Manual.

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