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How much is it okay to "clean up" verbal quotes? Do you have to leave in all the ums, uhs and false starts?
 

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I'm a professional journalist, and I don't use the ums, uhs, etc. Unless there's something remarkable about it.<br><br>
But I also use quotes very sparingly. If I can write it better than they said it, which is the case 95 percent of the time, I paraphrase.
 

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I agree. I would paraphrase if you can't get a quote that sounds good. Sometimes you can talk to someone for an hour and only get one or two sentences that you'd actually use!<br><br>
If you are directly quoting, I would not change anything about their exact words, but I would definitely leave out the umms, etc.
 

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I'm a reporter, and I don't quote the ums or uhs. Very rarely, I'll use ellipses or brackets to clean up quotes, but I try to avoid it. Of course, and this goes without saying, actually changing what someone said to make it sound better is unethical. If they didn't say anything directly quotable, you can fall back on the "she said that ... " construct.<br>
My rule of thumb for quotes is that I only use them to express things that I can't state as fact. It drives me crazy when reporters use quotes like, "The meeting starts at 9 p.m.," Smith said.
 
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