Lesson Three

The First Ten Percent

The beginning of any book or essay or movie or TV show exists to establish a variety of things. They are: characters, setting, main plot, and so on. Once a writer begins to understand the purpose of the first 10% of just about anything, the necessary characteristics will then come into play.

Reading Things

Fortunately, it doesn’t take a lot to begin to see the first ten percent in action.

What is Sampling?

For this lesson, sampling is being borrowed from the music industry, the hip hop segment of the music industry, where artists and musicians will take sound bites from other music and other sources and mix them into their music. When done well, the effect is a well structured piece of music that resonates with the listener. When done poorly … let’s not think about that.

The reason sampling (as an analogue of quoting) is important is that sampling requires careful consideration of content before it’s applied to the final product. Not just anything fits, nor should just anything fit.

The Purpose of the Sample, or The Purpose of the Quote

Ideally, what is required or expected from a quote is:

A statement that better describes or clarifies a point you’re trying to make by someone who has more experience, education, or knowledge.

Another way to think of quotes is:

Someone else saying what you want to say, better (or in a different way).

By using quotes (or samples) from other people, you’re giving more than one voice to your writing (or argument) and allowing other people more than one avenue of understanding.

How to Sample, or How to Quote

There are two types of quotes:

  1. Direct
  2. Indirect

Direct Sample, or Direct Quote

A direct quote is word-for-word, you’re literally copying the quote straight out of the text or taking the audio sample directly from the source, and inserting it as part of your writing. Period.

These kinds of quotes are preceded and postceded by quote marks and, depending on the citation standard in use, should be followed by some kind of indicator on source (often author last name and year).

Indirect Sample, or Indirect Quote

Also known as paraphrasing, this is when you take the essence of someone else’s ideas and rewrite them in your own words. Again, these have to be identified, though the forms of identification may vary:

Indirect or Paraphrasing
According to the press secretary in his most recent press briefings, the President is no longer willing to discuss the matter.

More Direct
“The President has said all he is going to say on the matter,” the press secretary said during Wednesday’s press briefing.