One of the most common problems I see in newbie broadcast newswriting, especially among those who have prior print newswriting experience, is the dreaded ‘dangling attribution.’ That’s where the who-said part of a quote ‘dangles’ off the end. For example:
“That’s the last time we shoot first and ask questions later,” said Sheriff Williams.
This is one of those rare never, never, nevers in broadcast writing, for two simple reasons. First, it isn’t conversational. No one in the history of ever has used this construction in conversation (okay, that might be a slight exaggeration, but not by much). The second, related reason is that it makes it hard for the audience to understand who’s talking, the newsreader or the person being quoted.
The correct formulation for broadcast writing is:
Sheriff Williams said, “That’s the last time we shoot first and ask questions later.”
This way, the audience understands who’s talking when they hear the quote.
There’s an additional issue as to the best way to signal that this is an exact quote, or whether that’s even necessary, which I’ll get to in a future entry.