Jim Barker on Whether or Not to Quote

Margie Wakeman Wells The Quotation Mark 1 Comment

Jim Barker, September of 2014, was asked this question:

“Do you quote when you can’t see the quoted material and you don’t know if they really read it verbatim?”

Jim’s response: “Absolutely. And why is that? Because, when a reporter quotes a speaker who is reading from a document, the reporter is not quoting the words in the ‘document’; the reporter is quoting the ‘speaker’s’ words.

“I further submit that reporters have no responsibility whatsoever to verify the accuracy of quotations offered by a speaker in a legal proceeding, whether those quotations are from a document or are reflective of someone’s spoken words. If the quotation is inaccurate, it is the speaker who is doing the misquoting, and the reporter’s quotation marks are merely indicating that ‘This is what the speaker said.’ In other words, for purposes of the record, a misquote is still a quotation. The responsibility for challenging and/or correcting misquotes lies with the attorneys who are creating the record, not the reporter who is memorializing the words of the parties.”

The one-year anniversary of Jim’s death is next week. How fortunate we are to have his wisdom live on. I miss you, English-loving buddy.

Happy punctuating!


Comments 1

  1. Hi, Margie — I’ve been a court reporter for a while. I was just reading this. I was taught in my school that if you don’t have the document in front of you to see if it’s verbatim, we weren’t supposed to use quotation marks. but now I read this, that kind of makes sense too. but my question is actually more to something you’re pretty sure it’s not verbatim such as someone telling you a conversation they had with someone else. i.e., so I said, Do you want to go? he said, Maybe. I’m not sure. and then I said, Let’s go to the party. I’ve been having a brain freeze lately about that, whether to use quotes for something you’re pretty sure isn’t verbatim. any help is appreciated.

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