How to use Quotables
Quotables are an easy way to share powerful interview excerpts on social media. Because they are images and use large text, they stand out in a social feed where a user might scroll pass dozens of posts quickly. Used well, a Quotable can help capture someone’s attention and hopefully pull them into our stories.
Quotables serve a very specific and narrow purpose — to share original reporting. And like anything that we publish, they must be carefully composed and edited. Over the last few years, we’ve noticed misuse of the tool and Quotables that are incomplete or, worse, inaccurate. As such, we’ve developed guidelines to help you create impactful images for social media:
- The Quotable tool exists to create branded social cards. This makes them perfect for use on official Twitter accounts, like NPR’s. While Quotables may be used on personal accounts, we recommend doing so only for content you’ve directly worked on (i.e., a story you reported, produced or edited).
- Only use Quotables for quotes and material that you are reporting. Quotables should not be used for song lyrics, excerpts from third-party stories, quoting yourself, etc. Things said in testimony, lawsuits, etc., are quotable material if they are in stories we publish. In these cases, it must be made clear. (e.g., “Former FBI Director James Comey, at Wednesday’s Senate Intelligence Committee hearing …” )
- Keep them short. Think of them like billboards on the highway; the quote should be quickly readable at a glance in someone’s social feed. Keep it under 100 characters.
- They should be able to stand alone. Always consider that the image might get separated from the original post. You can add more background in the tweet or Facebook post, but the image itself should contain all the information a reader needs to understand what’s going on.
- Add context. Related to the point above, the attribution line should address three things: who is speaking, his/her title and a short summary of what he/she is responding to (e.g., “ — Colin Powell, former secretary of state, on North Korea’s nuclear program”)
- Link to more information. Whenever possible, include a link in your post to something that confirms or verifies the quote (i.e., a story, transcript, video).
- Triple-check your quotes. Are you sure that’s exactly what was said?
- Avoid truncating quotes. If you need to use more than one set of ellipses, find a better quote. Make sure the edits don’t change anyone’s meaning and never ‘…’ the president or vice president.
- Edit very, very carefully. Follow AP Style and always get a second set of expert eyes before publishing.
About the Quotable tool
The Quotable tool was developed in 2014 by the NPR Visuals Team. It’s part of Lunchbox, a suite of open-source tools to create images for social media sharing.
Note: Serri Graslie, of NPR’s training team, contributed to this post.