I like quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “The next best thing to saying a good thing yourself, is to quote one.”
There are lots of techniques and tips that I have picked up since becoming a full-time writer, many of which have come from experienced and talented copywriters and colleagues within the industry. One of the best pieces of advice I have read is to liberally sprinkle articles with relevant quotations.
The American author and TV personality Clifton Fadiman gave us this advice. “I think we must quote whenever we feel that the allusion is interesting or helpful or amusing.”
In writing terms, I find that a decent, relevant quotation is best used in one of two ways. Firstly, I like to use one early on in an article – either the first line or, more often, after a question to get my reader’s attention. Alternatively, I find that they are a tidy way to wrap up an article. They quite often succinctly summarise everything you have just taken 400 or so words to say.
Whilst I have found that quotations can really work in book and article writing, you do have to be careful. I once included the following paragraph in a sales brochure I write for a property investment company:
“Godfrey Bradman once famously remarked, “I wake up every morning and thank God I’m not a chartered accountant any longer, but involved with property.””
Whilst it perfectly illustrated the point I was making, my client asked me just one question: Who is Godfrey Bradman?
If I am honest, I didn’t know. I had to go to Wikipedia to discover that he was one of London’s leading property entrepreneurs in the 1980s. It’s a great quote, from a perfect source, but when I rewrote the paragraph I had to include a description of Bradman as well as the quotation. There’s no need to do so if you’re quoting Shakespeare, Woody Allen or Billy Connolly, but there might well be if you’re quoting Clifton Fadiman, for example.
I’ve also found that the quotes have to be relevant. Trying to crowbar in a great quote when it doesn’t really fit can be counter-productive. That’s where quotation dictionaries or websites can help, as they often order quotes by topic. I’ve actually yet to find a reasonably priced quotations dictionary that I’m 100% happy with (all the ones I have seen in bookshops tick some, but not all of the boxes I want) and so I tend to head online to use sites like www.quoteland.com or www.quotationsbook.com.
Oh, and get the quote right, of course. “Famous remarks are very seldom quoted correctly”, said American essayist Simeon Strunsky.
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Nick Parkhouse is a professional writer. He provides articles, copy, press releases and books and marketing material to a range of international clients. He also specialises in sports writing for a number of international sports companies as well finance, property, politics and cinema writing.