Source citations are easier these days thanks to links. But what if your source is behind a “walled garden” (fee-based website)? Or what if your original piece is in print only?

The best resource for source citations is Chicago Manual of Style, not AP style.

Here are examples you can follow. There are many, so skim carefully all the way down the list before choosing your exact situation.

Below is one quick example from that list, and below that I offer my own unofficial advice.

1. Lori Steger, “Watch Out For These 4 Patient Payment Hurdles,” http://abeo.com/watch-for-these-4-patient-payment-hurdles/, posted February 15, 2015.

That feels like too much, doesn’t it?!

But this is correct according to the Chicago Manual of Style, and I accept it. In the workbook for WriteCulture’s AP style class, we include a separate page on source citations because people ask about them from time to time. Our list is a collection of customs within the PR world, not a style guide per se.

If you want the exhaustive, authoritative list, neither the AP Stylebook nor our workbooks will have it.

Vetting matters more in this era of fake news

I suspect that more people will become more particular about proper source citations now that we’ve all been awakened to the problem of “fake news.” Being able to confirm and trust sources is no longer the work of professional journalists; readers are now trying to vet information as well.

Personal aside:

Having been an AP journalist back in the day, I can tell you from experience that we didn’t pick up just anyone’s survey numbers, for example, and immediately drop them into a news story.  We called the author of the study and interviewed him/her and then we gathered peripheral data for perspective. And then we’d call “real people” to get anecdotes that illustrated the data.

One time I found out, for example, that government statistics predicting the effects of the then-still-unratified Nafta treaty were wrong — at least the portion I was digging into. I found out while interviewing real people for anecdotes. Everyone — and literally, I mean every single person — contradicted the data. That became a story that ran as a centerpiece with photo on the fronts of business pages nationwide.

I bring this up because it shows the value of the deeper vetting that is normal for journalists. OK, now back to source citations!

IMHO, the Chicago version may be overkill for many of our circumstances … and perhaps would annoy readers.

Personally, if it were me, I might do one of these, especially if I could link rather than just cite:

  1. Xxxx xxxxxx xxxxxxx xxx xxxxx xxxx xxx xxxxxx xxxxxxx xxx xxxxx xxxx xxx  xxxxxx (Abeo.com blog post, 2/18/15).
  2. Xxxx xxxxxx xxxxxxx xxx xxxxx xxxx xxx xxx  xxxxx xxxx xxxxxxxxx, according to abeo.com, a medical billing and software company with expertise in such matters.
  3. Xxxx xxxxxx xxxxxxx xxx xx xx xxxx xxxxxxxxx, according to a 2/18/15 blog post by abeo.com marketing director Lori Steger.
  4. Xxxx xxxxxx xxxxxxx xxx xxxxxx xxx xxxxx xxxx xxxxxxxxx, according to a 2/18/15 blog post titled “Watch Out for These 4 Payment Hurdles” by abeo.com marketing director Lori Steger.

AP style doesn’t answer this question because journalists don’t use formal citations like you’d see in a research paper. And since AP style began as a guide for journalists, it assumes that citations will be treated as attribution, like for an interview.

The general aim would be to show where you got the info and include enough detail to show why you thought that person’s commentary was worth including — why as in, “Why we feel this person is qualified to help shed light on this for you, dear reader.” Some editors will insist that a reporter call or send an email to the writer of a quoted article or the person quoted in the article to set up a call to confirm details and ask more questions. Ideally, a reporter also interviews the person instead of just quoting the article.

In a blog post of my own, I normally say why I’m quoting a person, as in why I think the point is a good one. I don’t like to be super-formal. I’d rather write like it’s all one big group conversation and share credit or even praise posts when I find them helpful.

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Lauren Edwards is a former reporter for the Associated Press. She has been creating, customizing and delivering workshops for science and technology teams since 2000.

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