Strengthening Your Speech by Quoting Others

When someone says or writes something powerful or memorable, you might think, “Why couldn’t I say it like that?”  Well, you can!  Jot down the quotation and the author. When you want to include that thought, say it exactly as the person expressed the idea so powerfully—and give that person credit for the statement.

          Strengthen your speech by quoting others. As Michel de Montaigne said, “I quote others only the better to express myself.”

            I have found great quotations from all kinds of sources:  from books and speeches to tour guides and my daughter-in-law. Gina has a knack for saying things in unique and memorable ways. One of her great lines is “Never mess with a happy baby.”  Tour guides repeat the same speech several times a day and have learned to hone their spiels. One New Zealand tour guide said as we got off the bus for our first break, “Remember, the difference between a passenger and a hitchhiker is about two minutes.” 

          Beth Vogt posts a daily blog, "In Others' Words," that can supply you with interesting quotations and thoughts to accompany them.

          Always relate the statement to the point you are making. The point should not be the quotation, but rather the quotation should support the point. When I stress the importance of reading books, I quote Descartes, who wrote, “The reading of all good books is like conversations with the finest men and women of past centuries.” 

          Your credibility is critical in speaking. Thomas Jefferson said, “Nothing is more confusing than people who give good advice but set bad examples.”  In seeking to help people understand the importance of humor and the lighter side of life, Alan Alda in his autobiographical Never Have Your Dog Stuffed wrote, “The difference between comedy and tragedy is that in a comedy, people usually get what they want; in a tragedy, they get what they deserve.”

          Use a quotation to begin or end a presentation. Use a special statement to help the audience visualize better. Use a line as a change of pace from your own content.

          You may think as you read this, “Well, Steve, this is pretty much just common sense.”  However, as Stephen Covey wrote, “Just because something is common sense does not make it common practice.”


Steve Boyd
Steve Boyd
Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. Steve won the Toastmasters International Speech Contest in 1970 and was chosen Outstanding Professor of the Year at NKU in 1984, among other awards and honors. Since retiring, he volunteers with nonprofits, spends time with family, travels, preaches occasionally, and enjoys reading and writing. Contact Steve at (859) 866-5693 or at

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