Do you struggle with the ‘he said’, ‘she said’ of handling quotes in your business writing? Maybe you’d like to incorporate a little more variety? Here are some unobtrusive mechanisms to help you.

1. Weave the quote in

Weave spoken quotes into the middle of your text; don’t just place them at the beginning or end of paragraphs. You can make it clear who spoke by allusion.

Clever Company CEO, Jane Brilliant, is just back from a visit to China. “It was valuable to meet our colleagues in Shanghai, and we made plans for stage two of our joint development.” Jane will be returning to Shanghai in October.

2. Use alternative verbs

Occasionally use verbs other than ‘said’.

The CEO commented that “Clever Company is close to signing a multi-million dollar agreement”, and the Chair applauded her work as “innovative and visionary”.

3. Focus on how

Use the novelist in you to focus on how something was said.

After travelling back with Air Excitement, Jane sounded strained. “The pilot cabin door was wide open for much of the trip, and there was no lifejacket under my seat.”

4. Omit ‘he said’

If you are writing a media release, for example, in which only one person is quoted, you may omit the ‘signifier’ (e.g. he said) after two or three instances. It will be clear enough by then.

A proofreading tip

If the quoted speech flows into two or more paragraphs, while you should open quotes at the beginning of each paragraph, you only need to close quotes at the end of the final one. That’s something to look out for when you proofread, as the text may have been shifted about during the drafting and editing process.