How To Put Famous Quotes In An Essay

If you're considering incorporating a quote into your essay or speech, you're about to make a wise decision. An appropriate quote is a very effective means of opening a speech or strengthening your argument in an essay.

A quote will allow your audience to "see for themselves". They don't have to take your word for it. A writer, researcher or industry leader may have already proven your point or shared the same sentiment. 

You also want your audience to connect with the premise of your essay or speech. Sharing a quote will make things more memorable for your intended audience and, hopefully, draw them in or teach them something new.

Let's take a look at the benefits that come with citing a reference, as well as how to efficiently include them in your writing. 

Benefits of Adding Quotes to a Speech or Essay

  • Reinforcement - Quotes reinforce your argument because they offer a second voice in support of your claim. 
  • Credibility - Including a quote adds credibility to your argument because it illustrates the fact that someone else has also found your topic worthy of discussion and research.
  • Research - The addition of a quote allows others to see you've spent time researching your topic. You've gone out in search of evidence, or authorities who already support the main idea of your essay or speech.
  • Emotion - You want your audience to connect with your topic, whether your goal is to inform, persuade or entertain them. A quote can be used to add authority, inspiration, or even humor.

How to Incorporate Quotes

  • Choose wisely - Provide the reflection of someone who's devoted considerable time to the field. If you ask your audience to heed someone who knows what they're talking about, your quote will carry more weight. 
  • Introduce your quote - If your quote isn’t from a well-known figure, introduce the person you're quoting. For example, cite their years in the industry or mention their contribution to the topic at hand. Then, use their quote to illustrateyour point. 
  • Go with the crowd - Make sure you know your audience well enough to select a quote that will resonate with them. If you're speaking to millennials, you might not want to choose a quote from Warren Harding (the 29th President of the United States). Instead, go for someone more relevant like Barack Obama.
  • Consider popularity - While you don’t want to be too obscure, you should also try to avoid anything that appears all over the internet. If it's a quote that's been repeated or retweeted a thousand times, it starts to lose its weight, much like a cliché.
  • Less is more - Less is definitely more. You don't want your audience to tune out during your carefully selected quote. If you can keep it to a striking line or two, it'll be more memorable than a lengthy, paragraph-long quote. 
  • Consider context - Never take a quote out of context. We tend to do this a lot in everyday conversation, so be careful you don't do this from your platform. It will only diminish the authority of the quote and, ultimately, yourself. 
  • Consider placement - Quotes are an ideal way to open a speech, or a new segment within a speech or essay, but you should generally avoid closing your essay or speech with a quote. You want the final words to come from you, whether you're reiterating the main point, closing with a hypothetical question, or just offering a final thought. 

Formatting Quotes in an Essay

When writing an essay, the format of your quote will depend upon your teacher's required method of citation. Without knowing if you'll need to reference MLA, APA, Chicago, etc., these general formatting tips will get you started:

  • Short Quotes: A short quote is typically anything less than four typed lines. In that case, simply enclose the quote within quotation marks. At the end of the quotation, cite the author's last name, or the title, and page or line number in parentheses. Pay attention to your punctuation around the quotation marks and parentheses!

    Here's an example, according to APA style:

George Washington argued "if the freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter" (Dunn, 223).

  • Long Quotes: Quotes that are five lines or more require a section of blocked text. This makes the quote stand out and easier to read. It's best to introduce the upcoming quote with at least one line of text. Then, the entire quote will be indented, according to the standards you're following, and cited in the same way as short quotes.

    Here's an example of a block quote, according to APA style: 

While leading his men through the Revolutionary War, General Washington notably said: 

Nothing short of Independence, it appears to me, can possibly do … To see men without Cloat⟨hes⟩ to cover their nakedness—without Blankets to lay on—without Shoes, by which their Marches might be traced by the Blood from their feet—and almost as often without Provisions as with; Marching through frost & Snow, and at Christmas taking up their Winter Quarters within a days March of the enemy, without a House or Hutt to cover them till they could be built & submitting to it without a murmur, is a Mark of patience & obedience which in my opinion can scarce be parallel’d. (Dunn, 52-55)

  • Adding or omitting words in quotes: If you add or change words in a quotation, you should put brackets around them to indicate that they are not part of the original quote. If you omit words from a quotation, you should indicate the deleted word(s) by using an ellipsis, with a space on either side.

Examples of Quotes for Speeches and Essays

Whatever direction your speech or essay takes, there's a host of quotations to choose from. Let's look at some striking quotes worthy of inclusion in your next speech or essay.

    • Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. - Steve Jobs
    • Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value. - Albert Einstein
    • The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education. - Martin Luther King, Jr.
    • Education isn't preparation for life; education is life itself. - John Dewey
    • A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business. - Henry Ford
    • If something is important enough, even if the odds are against you, you should still do it. - Elon Musk
    • A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd. - Max Lucado
    • Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth. - Rumi
    • Our attitude towards others determines their attitude towards us. - Earl Nightingale
    • You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will. - Stephen King
    • You can’t be a scientist if you’re uncomfortable with ignorance, because scientists live at the boundary between what is known and unknown in the cosmos. - Neil Degrasse Tyson
    • The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything. - Warren Buffet
    • You don’t have to be a genius or a visionary or even a college graduate to be successful. You just need a framework and a dream. - Michael Dell

Adding Weight to Your Words

Quoting an industry titan or an authority in your field adds credibility to whatever idea you're trying to convey in your speech or essay. It also encourages the audience to consider the fact that, if a well-respected figure feels a certain way, perhaps they should, too. Remember, being selective with quotes and using them strategically will make your speech or essay much stronger than packing in lots of quotes and drowning out your own voice.

When searching for a quotation that will drive your idea home, take a look at YourDictionary’s database of quotes. All you have to do is decide which direction you want to take and let the reinforcements come to you.

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How to Use Quotes in Essays and Speeches

By YourDictionary

If you're considering incorporating a quote into your essay or speech, you're about to make a wise decision. An appropriate quote is a very effective means of opening a speech or strengthening your argument in an essay.

“[A] quotation is a handy thing to have about, saving one the trouble of thinking for oneself, always a laborious business.” – A.A. Milne

Chances are you too know a few famous quotes, but you probably don’t use them. I know so, because I’m guilty of neglecting quotes on the GRE.

So, why should you use essay quotes on the GRE? To start with, the right use of quotes in essays augments the power of your arguments and makes your essays appear more convincing. Plus, essays with quotes tend to score better than essays without them, because of the initial impact the use of quotes create on the reader, and help strengthen your point.

But we need to exercise prudence. Only use quotes as is, if you are convinced that paraphrasing would lower the impact or change the meaning of the original author’s words or when the argument could not be better expressed or said more succinctly.

Here is how you make sure you are doing it right.

How do I incorporate quotes into my essay?

At times, an essay can appear painfully discorded if the quotations are out of place or if the essay is too stuffed with quotes.

So, what should you do to avoid this?

A great quote plays one or more roles from the following:

  • creates the initial impact on the essay grader
  • makes your essay look more promising and interesting
  • establishes credibility
  • concludes the essay with a point to contemplate

If the quote doesn’t serve any of the above then you are forcing it into the essay and this could do more harm than good.

You should start writing your essay with a quote that lays foundation to the main idea behind the essay. This can have a major impact on the evaluator. You can also comment on the quotation in this introductory paragraph if you wish. Either way, to get a perfect score on the GRE essay, use a relevant quote strategically but don’t force it into the essay.

Can I alter the structure of the quotation?

Using the exact words from the original source is called quoting. You should quote when you believe that the way the original author expresses an idea is the most effective way to communicate the point you wish to make. If you want to borrow an idea from the author but don’t put the idea in their exact words, then it’s called paraphrasing. (but remember that you still have to cite the original author even when you are paraphrasing)

For example, Ronald Reagan said, “Trust, but verify.” You can alter the quotation on your own according to the passage, by saying: ‘To paraphrase Ronald Reagan’s famous quote, “It is easier to trust when you can verify.”‘ By doing this, you are not only citing the original author, but also gaining extra points for using your own version of the quote.

How many quotes should I use?

If you deploy a lot of quotations in your essay, it appears as though several people are talking about the topic apart from yourself. This would downplay your own voice and leaves little room for your own ideas. It is your essay and it should be your voice that needs to be heard, not some notable/famous person’s. Quote as infrequently as possible. So, don’t cram every quote you know into the essay. As a rule of thumb, refrain from using more than 2 quotes in any essay. (One in the introductory paragraph and the other if necessary in the conclusion)

How do I introduce the quote in my own words?

The last thing you would want is get your score cancelled on account of plagiarism. It’s highly recommended that you cite the author of the quotation. If you don’t cite, you may give the impression that you claim to be the original author and that could result in plagiarism. You should place the quote in double quotation marks. Here is an example usage citing the author:

Thomas Jefferson once said “The will of the people is the only legitimate foundation of any government, and to protect its free expression should be our first object.”

Categorization of GRE Essay Topics

The fascinating thing about the GRE essay topics is that they’re already published on the official ETS website. This may sound crazy because giving out the questions in advance is not normal. Now, use this to your advantage. You can find all the GRE essay topics on the official ETS website.

But there’s a catch! You were expecting a few, right?

Well, there are close to 200 topics in all – far too many to practice responses in advance. Also, practicing each of these topics is not advisable as it is going to take a lot of time and effort and there is no point in mugging them up. You could as well spend this time on learning some math. However, there’s a good news. Just scanning through these two lists will give you an excellent idea of the types of issues and arguments that show up on test day.

I just made things a bit easy for you, though. Most of the topics that show up on the GRE essay section can be broadly grouped into five categories.

  • Education
  • Arts
  • Government/Politics
  • Philosophy
  • Sciences and Technology

So, next time when you practice writing an essay response, make sure you write at least one essay from each of these categories. And memorize a few quotes related to each one of these topics, as they will be handy.

List of most useful essay quotes

I’ve compiled a list of easy-to-digest quotes that should help you write the perfect essay. Bookmark this page NOW for future reference.

The following quotes from great thinkers have been selected based on their relevance to common GRE essay topics and for their ease of usage.

  1. The only good is knowledge and the only evil is ignorance – Socrates
  2. A people that value its privileges above its principles soon loses both – Dwight D. Eisenhower
  3. In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But in practice, there is – Yogi Berra
  4. A little inaccuracy can sometimes save a ton of explanation – H.H Munro
  5. Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction – E. F. Schumacher
  6. A consensus means that everyone agrees to say collectively what no one believes individually – Abba Eban
  7. Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as is cooperation with good – Mohandas Gandhi
  8. Whatever government is not a government of laws, is a despotism, let it be called what it may – Daniel Webster
  9. Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws – Plato
  10. Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing – Theodore Roosevelt
  11. It is dangerous to be right, when the government is wrong – Voltaire
  12. The will of the people is the only legitimate foundation of any government, and to protect its free expression should be our first object – Thomas Jefferson
  13. No nation is fit to sit in judgment upon any other nation – Woodrow Wilson (28th U.S President)
  14. The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work – Emile Zola
  15. The world is full of educated derelicts – Calvin Coolidge
  16. A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a change to get its pants on – Winston Churchill
  17. It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog – Mark Twain
  18. Life contains but two tragedies. One is not to get your heart’s desire, the other is to get it – Socrates
  19. If women didn’t exist, all the money in the world would have no meaning – Aristotle Onasis
  20. Men are not disturbed by things, but the view they take of things – Epictetus
  21. As a rule, men worry more about what they can’t see than about what they can – Julius Caesar

Now, these are a handful of quotes. The goal is to memorize 5 or 6 of your favorite quotes so you’ll be able to contextually fit one into the essay on the test day. While practicing, you may look at the list of quotes found above however, if you can remember a specific quote apposite to your essay topic, try to use it – one quote for every essay.

For those avid writers, who believe the number of quotes above are too low, we have the right tool for you. Ellipsoid created a random quote generator tool that draws 5 famous quotes from Goodreads every time you reload the page. The good news is these 5 quotes are always theme based so you know where to use them.

Conclusion

Writing essays isn’t all about the substance. It’s the basics that many of us forget. If you are going to put in the time to practice writing essays, might as well maximize the score you could get by deploying a quote in your essays.

So, what’s your favorite quote?

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