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Using Quotations

How does one actually use quotations? You could of course use them in normal conversation, but that’s most unusual, except when it is a funny or witty quotation relating to the current situation.

A very popular way to use quotations is in speeches or presentations. So that is where I will focus.

Using Quotations in speeches


Using quotations in your speeches can be a very power method to enrich and qualify what you are trying to bring across. It adds interest and authority to the point you are trying to make.

There are however a few points to keep in mind

Quotations are not facts!

Just because someone famous said something, does not mean it is true! So use quotations to support your work, and not defend it. For example: If you are trying to tell people that they should talk less, it would be incorrect to use the following quote by Lily Tomlin as a fact: “I Personally think we develop language because of our deep need to complain”. This is a witty humorous quote, and not a fact. But you could use it the same humorous sense of course.

Too much quotations

Use one or two quotations during your speech delivery. After all, your quotations should support your speech, and not the other way around.

Giving Credit

Always mention the author of the quotation. Never leave it out in the hope that people might think you are clever. There might me someone in the audience who actually knows the quotation. Only use a quotation if you are sure about the source, and know how to pronounce the author. You could do more damage than good by misquoting a famous saying. If you are unsure who the author was, or how to pronounce it, rather say something like “Someone once said…”


Samuel Johnson

Misquotations are either when you mis-credit the author of a quote, or changing the context of the quotation to wrongfully support your view.

For example, you might discredit your whole speech if you say something like “Like Mandela once said: ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country. “ Mandela never said that. It was JF Kennedy.

Is the quote appropriate for the audience?

You might make a mistake when addressing an elderly audience with the following: “You know what I like more than woman? Pornography, Because I can get pornography” by Patton Oswalt. Maybe that one would be more appropriate to a younger audience.

Do I Like it?

It would be wise to use quotations with which you can associate. It would be stupid for a priest to use this quote by Jon Stewart: “Jesus had twelve disciples who followed him wherever he went. How annoying is that? Do you think he ever turned around to them and said, “What!?”

Do not try and show off your knowledge!

Everybody can search for quotes. Use it to reinforce your message.

Get it right!

If you use a long quote, rather use notes and get it right, than damaging your speech by quoting incorrectly.

That's all I know

There’s a lot more on using quotations. The only thing is, I don't know what. But there is...

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