In the act of transcribing words of an interview to writing, a journalist may accidentally or intentionally misquote the subject. A misquotation includes anything from the deletion or inversion of one word to the fabrication of entire statements. Whether such an error is the result of technical carelessness or purposeful distortion is sometimes difficult to determine. In either instance a faulty quotation is a misrepresentation of the subject's words, and is therefore potentially damaging to the subject's credibility. Misquotations are not limited to journalism and live interviews, as they may occur in such instances as an author's citation of historical excerpts and an orator's allusion to existing manuscripts. Misstatements of this nature are often difficult to detect, as some of the subjects are no longer living and able to defend themselves.
A $10 million libel lawsuit brought by a psychoanalyst against a journalist of The New Yorker hinges on 5 quotations appearing in her interview article which he claims are fabricated.
Pure literalness is expected in the use of quotations.
In the process of interviewing a subject the journalist may accidentally omit words that were spoken. Conversely, the journalist may also transcribe words thought to have been spoken, which were in actuality not spoken at all. Both instances represent the consequence and nature of human communication. Human communication is inherently faulty. As readers and audiences understand this fallibility, slight misquotations will not alter the intended meaning of each statement.