Wednesday, December 08, 2004

He wasn't "told" both things

Quotes and their proper handling in terms of punctuation, attribution and paragraphing periodically raise thorny issues. One of the most common is incorrectly fusing a partial quote with a full sentence one and then using attribution that can't apply to both.

Consider this from a morning paper:

Tharp added that he had not been told "who was involved. I just know that the items that were missing have been recovered and the matter is closed."


Problem is, Tharp wasn't told "I just know that the items that were missing have been recovered and the matter is closed." He said that.

It is not really proper -- though we do it quite a bit -- to fuse a partial quote with a following full sentence. We can get away with it if the attribution is said or says, but anything else causes problems, and the quote should be split:

Tharp added that he had not been told "who was involved."
   "I just know that the items that were missing have been recovered and the matter is closed," he said.


That then also quickly points up the lameness of quoting "who was involved," which could easily be paraphrased.

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