To quote or not to quote

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAScour the internet and you’ll find quotes for any occasion and any emotion – inspirational, motivational, heart-touching, funny, cringe-making and nauseous.

They’re all there for the taking. You may even see your Facebook friends quoting Shakespeare, Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein or Mark Twain in a desperate bid to signify their intelligence – we know you Googled so why bother? Interestingly, Google a quote and former American presidents, authors, poets and life coaches will often reach the top of the search engines, does this nation have something to prove, I wonder? And, in an odd way, perhaps that sums up our need to quote.

Some people have quotations on their screen savers, at the bottom of their emails, proudly displayed on their office wall or even as part of a sales presentation. How profound, us readers, I assume, are supposed to think. But depending on the framework and the quote itself, you could well be thinking ‘what a twit!’ Or words to that effect.

When should you use a quote, literary, inspirational or otherwise and when should you stick to plain old English? When do you look like a pompous idiot and when do you look like an intellectual?

Well, it is purely subjective and depends on your audience. Car dealers at an industry conference, for example, are generally not going to be impressed with a motivational quote from a psychologist no matter how eminent he or she might be but if you quoted the poet William Wordsworth “In modern business it is not the crook who should be feared most, it is the honest man who doesn’t know what he is doing”, they would no doubt, be sat there nodding, probably because they work with that person and for an unlucky few, he or she will be the boss.

The point is, the quote works if it fits seamlessly with the context and has been carefully selected with the audience in mind.

Don’t quote for the sake of it and don’t quote in an attempt to boost your intellectual credibility; it is more likely to backfire. As for motivational quotes, my advice is: avoid at all costs, they tend to elicit the odd groan at best and the ‘what a twit’ response at worst.

As anti-quotist as this may appear, I am actually a great fan of quotes. In fact, my dining room plays host to Bernard Levin’s homage to the abundance of Shakespeare in modern language – more sinned against than sinning; purer than the driven snow; star crossed loves; short-shrift; cold comfort; forgone conclusion; fool’s paradise….

It’s (all) Greek to me!

Finally, you can’t write a blog about quoting without quoting:-

“The sort of twee person who thinks swearing is in any way a sign of a lack of education or a lack of verbal interest is just a f****** lunatic.” Stephen Fry

“Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.” Oscar Wilde

“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.” Albert Einstein

“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.” William Shakespeare, As You Like It

“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” Friedrich Nietzsche

“I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.” J.K Rowling Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

“I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.” Jerome K. Jerome

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.” Henry Ford

“In the beginning the Universe was created.
This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.”
Douglas Adams The Restaurant at the end of the Universe

“Ever notice how ‘What the hell’ is always the right answer?” Marilyn Monroe

With thanks to quote source book recommendation website www.goodreads.com

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