Q. Is it ever allowable to ascribe a comment to an individual by placing the comment in quotation marks if the quoted comment is not exactly what the individual said, but rather a recollection of the writer? Or would the writer have needed to record (by writing or electronic recording) the exact comment if it were intended to be later conveyed in writing within quotation marks?
A. If you personally witnessed the speech and are sure of your memory, you may quote, identifying yourself as the source. Quotation marks imply that the person spoke those exact words, so if you weren’t present and you don’t have a recording or transcript, don’t quote. An exception: if you’re writing memoir or creative nonfiction, such rules go up in smoke. In that case readers will appreciate a note that explains your methods.