June 19, 2019

Public Speaking Sins: Reckless Use of Quotes

Cardinal Sins , Presentation Tips , The Buckley Experience , Public Speaking Books

Reid Buckley’s "Strictly Speaking" was published by McGraw-Hill 10 years after Reid founded The Buckley School. Drawing on his decade of work with students, Reid designed it to be used as a reference for any speaking situation, so that a person could read as much or as little as needed. In 2019, we’re publishing excerpts from the first chapter in our online magazine: "10 Cardinal Sins that Amateurs Commit."

"Even brief, pointed, nifty quotations can be an addiction."

– Reid Buckley on using quotes in speeches

Cardinal Sin 6: Do not quote anything from anyone unless you have read the book.

...Or are thoroughly familiar with the authority's work and have thought long and hard about it.

Oh sure, there are juicy quotations that can be irresistible and safe to use, but serve-up opinions, aphorism, or pensées justes outside the area of one's competence sound somehow as though they have been horsed into the text for show, not truly marinated in the speaker's mind.

As a rule, any quotation longer than fifty words is a mistake. Twenty-five words is better by half.

But even brief, pointed, nifty quotations can be an addiction. The repetitive thud-thud-thud of clever ironies dulls the audience's minds, which don't need that. It's the old rhetoric of shock at work.


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