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Posted on 12.06.2012

Just Say (or Write) It: The Best Quotes Sound Normal

When some writers begin to craft a speech, a statement on behalf of an organization, or a quote from an executive for a news release, they must suddenly forget they're writing for real people. Because real people don't speak in the stilted, awkward style these writers often use.

Stilted means something that is unnaturally formal, such as writing that doesn't flow smoothly. Worse than awkward, this unnaturally formal "speech" can make the individual or organization sound arrogant or unapproachable.

A good writer has to keep in mind the importance of creating readable material that clearly communicates a message; so that means cutting out the industry jargon and acronyms, too.

Here are a few tips for better writing, particularly when you have to put words in the mouth of another:

  • Know who you're writing for and understand his or her style. If you're writing a speech or a quote for someone who typically refers to children as "boys and girls," say "boys and girls." Write in their style, not yours.
  • Contractions and popular slang are okay in attributed quotes because they're common in normal speech. "I'm very proud Smith Brothers has been selected to participate in the competition and we'll be burning the midnight oil over the next month to get ready," CEO Smith said.
  • No gobbledygook! "ABC's industry-leading WXYCO technology platform provides a state-of-the-art 360-degree solution designed to synergistically maximize PXB infrastructure systems and enhance the end user experience." Say what?
  • Use a quote as an opportunity to localize the news and share opinions as well as facts. "At Smith Company, we're particularly pleased that Nashville companies like Jones Brothers are telling us they can now respond to customers quicker and easier than ever before," CEO Smith said.
  • Read it aloud. When you've finished writing, read your work aloud. If it sounds stilted and awkward, rework it.

At Lovell Communications, I have the opportunity to work with great writers on the agency and client sides of the business. So, friends and colleagues, what tips can you share for great writing? We'd love to hear them!  

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