Beware of the ‘echo effect’ when using quotations

April 10, 2017 | Writing

There are many principles to keep in mind when using quotations in our documents, one of which is to avoid the dreaded “echo effect.” That occurs when the author sets up a quotation with a preceding paragraph that essentially says the same thing as the ensuing quote. Here is an egregious example.

The mayor said his detractors can go to hell.

“If my opponents don’t like my policies they can go to hell,” the mayor said.

Here is a less literal example of the echo effect, where I have underlined the phrases that echo …

And while there are currently instruments that fulfill that function now, says principal investigator Frank Underhill, they’re unwieldy and cost millions of dollars.

“The technology is quite expensive, extremely hard to operate — you need a Ph.D. to operate it - and it’s about as portable as a Humvee,” says Underhill, a professor chemistry at the university.

Though the exact same verbiage is not used in each case, the meaning is the same. The echo is easily taken away like so…

And while there are currently instruments that fulfill that function now, says principal investigator Frank Underhill, they cost millions of dollar and are extremely difficult to operate, requiring a Ph.D.

The technology is also “about as portable as a Humvee,” says Underhill, a professor chemistry at the university. “There’s a major need for being able to identify disease early, accurately and fast, and this strategy seemed like a way to do this.”

All paragraphs in a document should add fresh content, building on the antecedent content, rather than repeating content imparted in the previous paragraph or earlier in the story.

Mike Consol teaches public speaking, PowerPoint presentation skills and business writing workshops to companies and business professionals. Contact him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 925-449-1040.

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