Quote-Unquote

I recently came across this post on “How to Use Quote in Your Speech.” I’m assuming you don’t need convincing about the benefits of using quotations—if you do, check out an earlier post of mine on the subject. I agree with a lot of what this writer says, but of course I have my own opinions too. Hope you find these helpful:

1. Make sure you get the phrasing correct.
Absolutely. But if you present the quotation as a piece of wisdom you’ve carried with you for years, don’t read it from your notes. I once watched in horror—on live TV, no less—when my client spoke about something Abraham Lincoln said as the guiding principle of his life. And then he looked down at his notes. Guiding principles live in your hearts, people, not on paper. I knew right then he was sunk.

3. Beware quoting out-of-context.
I once saw a Bible-Quote-of-the-Day calendar with a little gem that went something like “Worship me and all the riches of the earth will be yours.” (I’m paraphrasing.) Problem: That wasn’t God talking in the Bible story; it was Satan. So yes, check the source. And check the backstory too. That Chinese saying “May you live in interesting times” had a big resurgence after the financial crisis hit in 2007. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant as a blessing—it’s a curse.

4. Quote a well-known expert in the field.
Yes…and no. The writer says “Quote Aristotle on philosophy or Serena Williams on tennis—doing the opposite gets you in trouble.” But if you are not credible quoting Aristotle, you’ll only seem like a fraud. Much better to quote something philosophical that Serena Williams said—especially if you’re speaking to tennis fans. I’ve blogged about this before, here.

17. Quotation compilations keep quotes within arm’s reach.
The writer recommends Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. It’s the first place everyone turns when they’re looking for a quotation—and that’s exactly why you want to avoid it. I also do my best to avoid Online quotation search engines—his tip #19—for the same reason. The surest way to find something fresh to quote is to keep your own quote file, making note of interesting and inspiring things you read.

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