The power of the pull-quote

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Nothing is so useless as a general maxim. 

Interviews: a tasty ingredient in an article entrée.

Though writers are sometimes associated with a reclusive lifestyle, we often depend on inspirational words from others to bring our words to life – at least when writing a feature story.

Some people emit professional transcription services or inspiration like a pheromone. These people are a dream to interview. Every second sentence is replete with meaning, relevance and brilliance. With Dictaphone clutched protectively in hand, a writer nods and “Uh-huh”s while already picturing the final article, complete with bold pull-out quotes adorning the copy like tinsel on a Christmas tree.

A well-placed pull-out quote can subtly introduce a theme or entice a reader to ponder its meaning long after the last word is read. But what do you do when you’re quoting from an uninspiring source?


A writer may have the bulk of an article complete, just waiting for a quote or two, the final puzzle pieces. You’ve done the groundwork. You want to make your interview subject sound brilliant.

Even when it seems like an awe-inspiring quote isn’t forthcoming, be patient. Listen, and keep asking questions. What you shouldn’t do is preface a question with the quote you’re hoping to hear. That would look something like this:

You: Did you start teaching music because you wanted to see the next generation flex their creative muscles? Was it because you wanted them to have an outlet of escape? Was it because you truly care for future generations and want to lead them into success in the only way you know how?

Interview subject: Ah… yep.

“Ah… yep,” isn’t inspiring, and that’s the only direct quote you can use.

Instead, ask broad questions, and let your interview subject show his personality. They may surprise you, or reveal something that you couldn’t possibly have known before the interview.

You: What got you into teaching music?


Interview subject: On my grandfather’s deathbed, he made me promise that I would be creative until the day I die and teach others to do the same. Every note I play is for him.

Now there’s a pull-quote worth hanging on the tree.

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