Quotes on sound bites

What writers & others say

Quotes on sound bites

“Sound bites can be funny, frightening, hard-hitting or emotional. Above all, they must be short, sharp and relevant.” — Bill Penn, author, in Market Yourself Through the Media. Image by Seth Doyle

“Most quotes in press releases sound like the teacher in Charlie Brown cartoons: ‘Wah wah wah wah.’”
— A frustrated PR pro

“The language of journalism is not like speech, but it is closer to speech than most other forms of writing. It also explains the journalistic obsession with quoting, the attempts to represent speech in prose. Too often, especially in government stories, this means experts speaking in code, or in meaningless sound bites.”
— Roy Peter Clark, vice president and senior scholar at The Poynter Institute

“Putting those little wiggly marks around words does not a quote make. It may look like a quote. It may act like a quote. But it’s really just another sentence wearing a quote disguise.”
— Steve Crescenzo, CEO, Crescenzo Communications

“The wisdom of the wise and the experience of the ages are perpetuated by quotations.”
— Benjamin Disraeli, a dandy, novelist, brilliant debater and prime minister of England

“A good quote gets noticed. A great quote gets repeated.”
— Lisa Goldsberry, writer, Axia PR

Quotes on sound bites


“A line of dialogue is not clear enough if you need to explain how it’s said.”
— Elmore Leonard, author of Get Shorty and 39 other novels

“A great ear for dialogue has nothing to do with being a human tape recorder. If you truly wrote down how people speak, it would be like a bad Andy Warhol movie.”
— Richard Price, author of the late, great HBO series “The Wire”

“Business communicators publish the worst quotes in the industry — and we write them ourselves!”
— Mark Ragan, CEO of Ragan Communications

“Many people seem less quotable the higher they ascend in organizational life. Maybe frontline workers seem to say more interesting things in print because they don’t have anybody ghostwriting their comments.
“Worse still, when we ghost quotes for leaders, we aren’t satisfied with just one. He or she must say three or four things that don’t sound like a person talking, or that leave readers scratching their heads.”
— Chris Smith, Entergy Corp. editorial guru

“Other people’s words are the bridge you use to cross from where you were to wherever you’re going.”
— Zadie Smith, British novelist

Quotes on sound bites


“[Corporate quotes] make the people we’re quoting sound like pompous asses who have nothing to contribute to your story except to bring it to a halt and make people stop reading. Every corporate quote seems to say to the reader: ‘I’m in this story because my name has to be mentioned, but I don’t really have anything to add on this subject.’”
— Jim Ylisela, Jr., president of Duff Media Partners Inc.

“We spend so much time blaming the suits for talking like automatons (and they do), but we’re not doing them any favors. When it’s left to us, our quotes aren’t much better, and because they don’t actually come out of anyone’s mouth during a conversation, they’re often much worse.”
— Jim Ylisela, Jr., president of Duff Media Partners Inc.

“Bad quotes will destroy your story. You can’t hide them. They have those big honking quotation marks around them, announcing to every reader that someone is speaking.”
— Jim Ylisela, Jr., president of Duff Media Partners Inc.

“Readers pay more attention to quotes, because they want to hear from people directly, and when the result is babble and innocuous platitudes, they leave disappointed.”
— Jim Ylisela, Jr., president of Duff Media Partners Inc.
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