It’s quote week on Words Done Right LLC blog. My wife loves quotes. She keeps a book to record inspirational ones and displays them on her artwork (see her web address and email at the bottom of this page). Don’t you love Taylor Swift’s quote? Like this one, quotes are pithy statements of truths in memorable language. Not only are they inspirational and worthy of posters and plaques, but they also liven up a speech or a piece of writing. Here are a couple of ways to use them.
Let’s say you are arguing for free speech. You have listed your reasons in logical order, appealed to emotional stories of those whose free speech has been infringed, and now you insert a statement from someone of integrity who has wrestled with personal threats to free speech. You quote him: “Liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one’s thoughts and opinions has ceased to exist. That, of all rights, is the dread of tyrants.”
Speech can be denied, scrubbed from the record, or even shouted down if the listeners don’t want to hear the message, but you still want to push your point. Should the audience still doubt the importance of free speech, you briefly explain the quote but hold off the big surprise. When you reach the climax of your message, you tell the audience that it was uttered by a former slave, Frederick Douglass. Surprise! What rang true for Frederick Douglass over 150 years ago still rings true today when many people seek to limit what you can say.
Sometimes others state your idea in a more memorable way. Suppose you want to suggest that fashionable ideas don’t necessarily reflect permanent, good ways of thinking. Once again you marshal your arguments against following trends that often just disappear as quickly as they appear, but you want some way of stating your point in a memorable way. G. K. Chesterton was a British essayist, writer of stories, and master of words. His quote on the subject makes the point for you, “Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.” This doesn’t even need to prove your point; the contrast of fallacies with fashions simply provides a memorable way of giving the audience something to hold on to.
The Proverbial Wisdom
Though some in the audience may have an aversion to ideas that are older than a week, most people appreciate hearing wisdom from the past especially when it rings true or perhaps even challenges modern thought. Here’s one to remind us that anger is destructive: “A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.” Even if you don’t mention that this is from The Book of Proverbs 15:1 in the Bible, it might be interesting to point out that these words were spoken by a philosopher king 3,000 years ago. His name was Solomon.
Quotes are a great way to introduce, conclude, or reinforce your point, but I’ve barely scratched the surface of using them to influence and persuade your audience. Use quotes judiciously, but by all means use them.
NOTE: My wife’s website is www.janetredmond-weber.com. In particular see her “Inspirational Gallery” page. Her email is [email protected]. Be careful to include the dash in the web address but not in the email address.