Sunday, April 15, 2012

Writing Nonfiction - Using Quotes

Writing Nonfiction - Using Quotes

By Karen Cioffi

Writing fiction has 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. 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, when writing nonfiction the writer also needs to provide authentic information. 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 creditability, using quotes increases your professionalism and expert status when writing nonfiction. 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.

Along with the above mentioned benefits of using quotes when writing nonfiction, Andrea Di Salvo, an author and freelance writer, provides a few more benefits in her article featured at, “Using Quotes to Give a Creative Twist to Your Writing.”

First off, using quotes offers variety by changing the voice of the story. According to Di Salvo, “Every writer has a voice, a certain tone to his or her writing.” While this is a good thing, switching it up a bit creates engagement 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.

Di Salvo also notes that, “a good rule of thumb is to place a relevant quote 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. Take a look above at how I introduced Andrea Di Salvo and her information.

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.”

In addition, if your quote is six or more lines, it needs to be blocked off - each line of the quote needs to be indented. 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.

Another factor to consider when including quotes in articles is that article directories, if you will be submitting to them, only allow a certain number of ‘quote lines’ within your piece. So, it’s advisable to read their guidelines before submitting.

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

Learn about writing and marketing with Karen Cioffi at Sign up for her free newsletter, A Writer’s World, and get TWO free site-related e-books for subscribing. For professional and affordable writing services check out:


  1. This is a great post. I enjoy reading Karen's newsletter. Full of lots of great information.


  2. Hmmm ... maybe I need to do an article on how to format quotes, after I finish the series on sentences.

    Good information, Karen.

  3. Hi, Susanne, Thanks so much!

    Vivian, Good idea!

  4. Karen,

    Quotes do make a nonfiction piece much more interesting. Thanks for the reminder.

  5. Thanks for including me Vivian,
    I love learning/relearning and your webpage offers some truly valuable info via your articles and ongoing writer support!
    Smiles, Lisa

  6. Lisa, you're welcome. I'm glad you find the articles valuable.