PR Tips | The wrong way to shorten a quotation
Especially when it comes to writing op-eds, incorporating quotations from experts can be a great way to bolster your arguments. Unfortunately, an 800-word op-ed doesn’t leave much room for lengthy block quotations. So writers often shorten quotes by using ellipses. However, if you find yourself doing this, be extremely careful. When you chop up a quote, it’s easy to alter the meaning completely. This can be an honest mistake or, worse, a purposeful manipulation.
To see how someone’s words can be misrepresented by an artfully placed ellipsis, look no further than a recent Amazon letter released online at ReadersUnited.com. The letter makes the argument that today’s book publishers are attacking Amazon’s eBooks in the same way that the literary community opposed the introduction of paperbacks, which were much cheaper than the alternative hardcovers at the time.
The only problem is that the letter completely misrepresents George Orwell. According to the letter, “The famous author George Orwell came out publicly and said about the new paperback format, if ‘publishers had any sense, they would combine against them and suppress them.’ Yes, George Orwell was suggesting collusion.”
Here is what Orwell actually said, “The Penguin Books are splendid value for sixpence, so splendid that if the other publishers had any sense they would combine against them and suppress them.” He was in fact saying that paperback were a great idea.
So, op-ed writers take note. When trimming a quote, make sure not to alter the author’s original sentiment.