By: Marilyn L. Davis
“Have you ever observed that we pay much more attention to a wise passage when it is quoted, than when we read it in the original author”? ~Philip Gilbert Hamerton, The Intellectual Life, 1873
Although the quote from Philip Gilbert Hamerton sums up many of the reasons why introducing quotations help add authenticity to our posts, the fact remains that many will not know who he was, and this creates a disconnect for readers. They may start wondering who that was, should they know the person, or get so distracted that they follow the link and forget to come back to your post.
Still, a quote to introduce your post can provide a quick summary.
Who’s Talking Now?
Another issues with quotes is about interjecting them into the content. We have all had similar situations occur. You’re having a conversation and all of a sudden, someone else comes up and starts talking. If you were engrossed in your previous conversation, it can be annoying, it disrupts the flow of the prior conversation and now there’s this other voice clamoring for attention. Just as you have to stop one conversation to introduce the newcomer, you have to do the same when inserting quotes.
Most writers strive for a logical flow to their words. We often spend considerable time revising and reading passages aloud to make sure that our readers will easily reach the end of our article. If you simply insert a quote without setting the stage for it, then you, and your readers have to switch gears with the interruption of a new voice.
Interjecting is not introducing.
Readers are progressing nicely reading your voice, getting familiar with your style of writing and then wham….here comes this new writing style and that other voice can interrupt the reader’s train of thought. It is rather abrupt to see a linked quote appear as if out of nowhere.
“[W]hen I hear or read a good line I can hardly wait to tell it to somebody else… ~Robert Byrne, The Third and Possibly the Best 637 Best Things Anybody Ever Said, 1986.
This quote is an excellent example of why just interjecting even a pertinent quote is distracting.
- Words had to be corrected.
- The hyperlink, while done correctly, changes the visual focus for the reader as it’s rather long.
- Robert Byrne may not be a household name, and therefore, readers have no point of reference and may incorrectly discount the quote.
Smoother Introductions for Quotes
So how do you insert quotes and maintain a flow in your article? How can you introduce a new voice, add a quote and improve your article? When using quotes, include enough information that your readers understand why you included this particular person or quote. Some effective lead-ins or introductions are:
- From the article or book, (name the source), Dr. John Smith Doe Brown Jones, believed that addiction” ….”
- When speaking to members of Addiction in America Including Families and Loved Ones: Counselor’s Association (name the organization), followed by the author’s name and then their quote. Dr. John Smith Doe Brown Jones stated, “ …
- I find the words of Dr. John Smith Doe Brown Jones to be insightful about the subject of addiction. In June of this year, he was quoted as saying, “ …
- John Smith Doe Brown Jones’ book has now been in print for over 30 years. Advancements in treatment negate some of his findings. However, there are still fundamental truths in chapter seven, “ …
Lead-ins will either demonstrate your approval of the quote, or that you have a negative bias either towards the person or the topic.
Certain Introductions Are Positive, Others Negative
Initial wording for your introduction is either going to show your positive reaction to the quote or your negative bias towards it. I might state as the writer of the article, Dr. John Smith Doe Brown Jones was a pioneer in the field of addiction, and although recent findings refute some of his early writing, the bulk of his groundbreaking theories still have merit for the field of addiction. Then I would use a quote of his with a qualifier.
For example, although considered an expert twenty years ago, Dr. John Smith Doe Brown Jones does not appear to have stayed current in the research findings on addiction. His recent comments, from a speech to the Addiction in America Including Families: Counselor’s Association reflects his lack of awareness.
I have stated why I find this quote objectionable. Then I would use his quote and expand on my disagreement with his quote by using a quote from more recent findings.
Words to Phrase Your Introduction to a Quote
What words will help you phrase your introduction to reflect your support or dislike of the quote? Here’s a partial list that will help you introduce your quotes.
Include the New Voice Beyond the Quote
Just as you would not simply introduce someone and then turn away, after you have used the quote to bolster, support or show another perspective in your article, discuss why this helps establish your point. Again, there are some effective lead-ins to let your readers know why you thought this quote benefited your article, and you once again write in your original words and voice.
- This statement shows….
- Therefore, …
- Clearly, the experts believe …
- This supports…
- From this, we understand…
- We can draw a conclusion from this statement …
- Although I disagree with the statement, …
Check Your Sources Several Ways Before You Include The Quote
Now, before poor Dr. John Smith Doe Brown Jones* is misquoted, make sure that you verify the source of the quote. Check your sources on several sites to see if the person said it, where and in what context. These are the seven people most often misquoted.
- Mark Twain
- Abraham Lincoln
- Albert Einstein
- George Carlin
- John Lennon
- Ben Franklin
- Mother Theresa
One common denominator is that they are all deceased. Why are they so often misquoted? A theory is that they should and would have said it if asked while alive since they said all those other inspirational, meaningful, and profound things. Makes you wonder when they had time for their respective occupations if they were just uttering profundities.
The other theory is if you are a celebrity or famous; every word is reported around the world, so they get stuck with a writer or journalist’s idea of what they should say. I will leave that current list to your imagination since they are living, and I do not want to be guilty of either misunderstanding or misquoting misspeak.
Now, if you want, please go and read more from Philip Gilbert Hamerton, The Intellectual Life, 1873.
*Dr. John Smith Doe Brown Jones is a fictitious name, as well as the organization; apologies if these end up bearing any similarity to legitimate people or organizations. No harm intended. Since my other blog, FromAddict2Advocate deals with addiction and recovery, I’m simply using references that would be applicable for this field.
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