How Much Can I Quote Without Permission?

Citing experts adds depth to your writing, but be careful how much you quote from copyrighted material.

Most publishers allow 300 to 500 words for a book or longer article, but 300 words from a 500-word children’s book would be too much. Or if your 500-word article takes 300 words from one source, that would be unbalanced.

Some publishers require that you secure written permission to use any quotes from published material.

Alternatives to Quoting

If you need to cut the number of quoted words, try paraphrasing.

The original quote may be:

“Don’t yell at your children when you’re angry. Instead, wait until you’ve cooled off and thought through the situation. That way you can plan your response from a logical level and think about the most effective way to broach the subject.” — Dr. David Whoever, Raising Righteous Kids

But I could write:

In Raising Righteous Kids, Dr. David Whoever reminds parents not to yell at their kids in anger. “Instead,” he says, “wait until you’ve cooled off and thought through the situation.” He says this will allow you to set emotion aside as you plan how to talk to them.

Jeanette Gardner Littleton, a CWG mentor, has been an editor for 30 years. She has edited more than 10,000 articles for a variety of publications, and several dozen books for publishers including Bethany House, Moody, Tyndale, and Guideposts.


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