Does a pull quote appear before or after it appears in the text?
May 12, 2017 8:10 AM   Subscribe

Pull quotes in magazines and fancy layouts are often arranged artfully in the middle of a page and between columns and so on, but pull quotes online in a single article flow are trickier for me to figure out. Does one appear after that quote has already appeared in the text, or before?

For example, you have a single column article in a page that you scroll down. Should it be:

Joe wants to know what's up with pull quotes. How do people use them? It's tricky.
How do people use them?
This is something that Joe is facing today.


How do people use them?
Joe wants to know what's up with pull quotes. How do people use them? It's tricky.
This is something that Joe is facing today.

Might be a weird example, but you get it. I'm leaning towards it appearing before, but a lot of times for me it sort of 'ruins' the quote as it appears in the text -- since I've read it already.

What do you think, team? Is there an official word on this?
posted by knownassociate to Writing & Language (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I have nothing other than lots of magazine reading to back this up, but I think I've always seen them before (or to the side), which makes sense since it's trying to get your attention to the rest of the article.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:16 AM on May 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

I write for a magazine and occasionally include pull quotes. They are usually thought of in my non-fancy trade magazine world as a graphic element that can be moved around a little bit relative to the text so that the PAGE looks right. So while I personally feel that it makes sense to have them a little after, if anywhere, the answer for the magazine I write for is "somewhat nearby" but not with a particular bent towards afterwards of before.
posted by jessamyn at 8:20 AM on May 12, 2017 [9 favorites]

I used to do newspaper design. I think it makes the most sense to have the pull quotes appear before, that way they are a teaser. In my mind, if they appear after, they are redundant.
posted by maurreen at 8:27 AM on May 12, 2017 [5 favorites]

Yep, pull quotes are 'floats' - they have no hard rule, they should just stay vaguely close. It's up to the final page designer to say where they look best.
posted by SaltySalticid at 8:29 AM on May 12, 2017

Jessamyn's experience is my experience, too. They're graphical elements as much as they're text elements. They're meant to break up big text areas and draw the reader in. Particularly in print publications, they are supposed to catch your eye and draw you back to an important part of the story. It's one of the ways in with which print works to compensate for the way we know readers scan pages with their eyes before deciding what to read.

I have seen some online publications use pull quotes in a couple of weird ways that really do not work.

One, they sometimes blow up a sentence or paragraph and have it behave like a pull quote, but instead of duplicating a line from elsewhere, it is the only place that line appears. So you have to read the pull quote as part of the text.

Two, they find a place that is too much running text (too many gray inches) and they simply pull out and duplicate the nearest line and make it a pull quote. A good pull quote isn't just any text. It's supposed to be a particularly good piece of text, something charming, engaging, revealing, snappy, pithy, sharp, etc. Something that works on its own to further push the reader to engage with the story, like a hed, subhed, cutline, etc., would.
posted by Mo Nickels at 8:30 AM on May 12, 2017 [4 favorites]

It seems, both from empirical experience and from the previous responses in this thread, that before is common, but I absolutely CANNOT stand it. You are correct that it ruins/spoils the actual quote in the text. It infuriates me. The worst is if you're reading using a program that doesn't take the original style sheet (e.g. Pocket), and so it just appears as a one-paragraph line of normal text intermixed with the actual text.
posted by kevinbelt at 8:49 AM on May 12, 2017 [5 favorites]

I used to do newspaper editorial design. Pull quotes are meant for someone who is not already reading the story. They are extra visual headlines to attract your attention to the article in case the pictures and captions didn't do it. I think pull quotes are unnecessary in most online reading contexts—you're already reading the story, you don't need to be convinced.
posted by bigbigdog at 9:23 AM on May 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

Pull quotes can be lots of things, as described above. It really depends what else on the page, the publication's style guide and what the story/article is trying to convey. Hell, in print sometimes they were included just to take up space, to make the rest of the text scroll to the allotted space.

For what you're describing, I'd probably do several that A. tell the story sequentially, just as the article is doing and B. also entice the user to read the longer article.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:35 AM on May 12, 2017

I too used to layout pages, for a local newspaper chain. There was no rule about where the pullquotes were placed, other than wherever it looked best from a graphic-art perspective. Above or below or inside the story, before or after it appears in that story: none of that was considered, just where it added to the attractiveness of the page.
posted by easily confused at 7:04 PM on May 12, 2017

Thanks for the advice, folks! Seems that online-wise (which is my problem -- not print -- sorry if that wasn't clear!) it does seem that appearing beforehand (if we need to have one at all) is best... albeit spoiler-ish. And boy, I hear you, kevinbelt, on the Pocket reader issue.

Thanks again!
posted by knownassociate at 8:32 AM on May 15, 2017

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