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What is a Pull Quote?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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A pull quote is a typographical technique in which an excerpt or quote from an article is reprinted within the article in larger text and using a different formatting style so that it jumps out at the reader. Common in magazines and newspapers, they are easily spotted as a chunk of text which is set apart from the rest of an article. Pull quotes are used to add visual interest to a printed piece, making it more dynamic and eye-catching. They are also used to place special emphasis on a particular line or issue in the piece.

Magazines frequently feature pull quotes, as do some newspapers. They are also employed in online media, which can tend to be bland without the use of typographical tricks to jazz it up. Typically, only one or two pull quotes are used per page, because higher numbers would be distracting.

There are all sorts of ways to format a pull quote. At a minimum, the text in a pull quote is larger than the text in body of the piece. A different font or color may be used, along with accents like colored bars, ornaments, or italics. Depending on the publication, the pull quote may be more flashy; traditionalist publications tend to keep their pull quotes fairly staid, if they use pull quotes at all.

The positioning of these typographical features varies as well. Some publications set them up so that they span multiple columns of text to make them very catchy, while others fill an empty column which is typically thinner than a standard column with a pull quote. The quote may also be framed within a regular column, or it can run across a leader page in a magazine; the leader might include the article title, a distinctive image, and a pull quote.

The content of a pull quote, also called a call out or lift-out quote, is intended to grab the reader's eye. It might briefly sum up an important point in the article, or use a shocking quote to catch the reader's attention. Once the reader sees the pull quote, the hope is that he or she will be pulled into the feature piece. These graphical treatments can be very valuable when they are used well, although they can overwhelm readers if they are too heavily utilized. It takes a good eye to find the right quote, format it, and frame it properly.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Language & Humanities researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By SkittisH — On Jun 28, 2011

@hanley79 - It really depends on what kind of image you used for the backdrop of the pull quote.

Since you say it's a simple image, your pull quote design is probably fine to leave the way it is as long as it's readable. If the image blends with the letters or interferes with the ease of reading at all, you should give it the ax.

While using images behind the text in pull quotes isn't traditionally done, you should remind your proofreaders that you aren't doing a traditional publication. Your PDF file is a digital document for the digital age -- your proofreaders should get out of the black and white printing era if they think no images whatsoever should be included in pull quotes.

Finally, remember that everybody has a different idea of what the "proper" way to do something is. Your proofreaders may be sticklers for tradition, and don't want to see pull quotes change because the traditional text only version is what is comfortably familiar to them.

Don't let them cramp your new style, provided your work is still easy to read and looks nice.

By hanley79 — On Jun 27, 2011

@SkittisH - It sounds like you have some experience using pull quotes digitally, so maybe you can help me. I just designed a page layout for a PDF publication, and everybody who proofreads it dislikes how I did the pull quote, but I think it looks great.

My pull quote is basically text over a simple image. People keep telling me that pull quotes should be text, not images, and that hybrids like this just "aren't done" even though colored bars and illustrations around the text are okay. What the heck?

What do you think I should do? Should I change it just because nobody else seems to like it? I really love it the way it is, and don't want to tear it apart, but if it's going to look all amateur and "wrong" to anybody reading my PDF, I probably should...


By seHiro — On Jun 26, 2011

Has anybody had much experience with making pull quotes using Cascading Style Sheets? I have the basic shape, but because the text is so large, the spacing between the lines ends up really wide, and it looks bad.

Is there a quick and easy way to adjust the CSS to tweak space between lines of text in a pull quote?

By SkittisH — On Jun 24, 2011

Pull quote designs may be most commonly associated with printed publications, such as newspapers and newsletters, but in my experience they are far from out of date.

I use pull quotes in my PowerPoint presentations for college all the time -- they work great for really grabbing people's attention, and they look sleek and edgy. Sometimes I use a pull quote as the "graphical" piece in the middle of a PowerPoint slide with text all around it.

Other times, I find that a pull quote design makes a very striking way to show the first sentence of a paragraph. People's eyes are automatically drawn to it, then by the time they finish it, they're already reading the paragraph, so they move right on to reading the rest. Works like a charm!

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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