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Elevate Your Writing By Using Well-Positioned Quotes

“It is the little writer rather than the great writer who seems never to quote, and the reason is that he is never really doing anything else.” ~Havelock Ellis

A guest post by Bamboo Forest of Tick Tock Timer

Few things will improve your post like well positioned quotes. Many authors are not only more brilliant than we are, but they’re also superior writers. By taking their brilliance and inserting it in your posts, you’re boosting your arguments credibility and making your articles more interesting to read.

Non-fiction book authors virtually always pull quotes from other authors to give their arguments more power and to increase the overall enjoyment of their work. By doing the same for your blog posts you’re guaranteed to increase the quality of your writing.

For an entire week I read every post from five A-list bloggers to see how many of their posts included quotes. Out of 31 posts, only three did.

There are two implications to take away from this: One, if you’re a blogger and use more quotes you’ll definitely stand out. And two: the reason quotes are seldom used is obvious, it makes writing more time consuming. If you want to include this highly beneficial component to your writing, however, you’ll put in the time for it.

How to Find Great Quotes

You should follow at least two blogs within your niche that will give you excellent quotes to include in future posts.

Since I often do guest posts on writing and blogging, I ensure that I never miss a post from Write to Done or Copyblogger; they’re both blogs that offer a constant stream of good material for me to include in future guest posts.

I strongly recommend, however, that you don’t stop with just blogs. Read books and magazines too. It’s always impressive to find material outside the blogosphere inside your post.

Every time you’re reading a book or magazine, ensure your highlighter is handy. By highlighting quotes that stand out while reading, you’re providing yourself amazing material to include in future posts to support your arguments and increase the overall value of your writing.

There’s another bonus of reading more books and magazines beyond acquiring great quotes, and it’s even more significant than the benefits these quotes offer.

Every book and magazine you read is like a garden of ideas. And as much as I enjoy reading blogs, let’s face it, the best writers aren’t posting blog posts; they’re getting paid to write books and magazine articles. You’ll usually find the most profound and well articulated ideas not in blogs, but in books.

Here’s what Brian Clark of Copyblogger has to say on the value of not just relying on blogs for inspiration:

So many people are reading RSS feeds and joining the conversation and blogging about what other people are blogging about and guess what, it’s really hard to stand out when you do that type of thing. So here’s an idea, read more books, read more magazines, take in other media and then add your own perspective to the new ideas that you’re exposed to. And all of a sudden you have a fresh outlook that no one else is blogging about.

Using more quotes and reading more books and magazines is certain to enhance the quality of your blog.

Bamboo Forest created an online timer that helps make bloggers ridiculously productive. He also writes for Pun Intended, a blog that’s hilarious and inspiring.

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Secret tip: get yourself on the waiting list for the A-List Blogger Club, the amazing ongoing training environment for bloggers that Leo Babauta and Mary Jaksch have created.

The A-List Blogger Club has changed my life. A month ago I didn’t know a tweet from a widget. Now I’m running my own blog and the club is right there with me. Everyday I connect with someone new, and not just connect, but get to know them, laugh with them, befriend, share, support and exchange ideas. Mary and Leo have created a community that is a reflection of who they are — generous, genuine and successful!
~ Katie Tallo of Momentum Gathering

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19 thoughts on “Elevate Your Writing By Using Well-Positioned Quotes”

  • The Gneech says:

    So wait … the fact that “five A-list bloggers” barely used quotes tells you that using quotes is a GOOD idea?

    Wow. No. Quotes are a run-to for hacks. Unless a quote really is directly applicable and adds something absolutely vital to what you’re trying to say, they’re FILLER.

    This piece is seriously bad advice.

    -The Gneech

    • It tells you that there’s an opportunity to stand out and boost the quality of your writing by using more of them.

      I actually anticipated someone would say this very thing that you have, but it doesn’t hurt my argument.

      With blogging there are no rules that lead to success. And one size never fits all.

      My point isn’t that you can’t be incredibly successful without quoting. Obviously many A-listers do DAMN WELL with a dearth in quotes.

      My point *is* in fact that using quotes enhances your writing. And, isn’t that worthwhile?

      I suggest you read a recent guest post that I did:

      http://www.howtomakemyblog.com/inspiration/the-art-of-reading-to-become-an-amazing-blogger/

      Notice all the quotes I use and how it DEFINITELY enhances the quality of that post.

  • The overall value of using quotes depends entirely on one’s reason for blogging, as well as the blogging niche and target audience. In some niches, quotes are best used sparingly, as readers just want facts, news, or how-to information delivered as quickly as possible. We really need to know if our market group comes to our blog to settle in and read or to “scan and grab” information. A “good” writer knows their audience and crafts their work accordingly.

    Also, there’s a growing group of people who react with annoyance to quotes, thanks to the many Twitter users who basically “spam” their followers with an endless stream of quotes. This has greatly diluted the appeal and effectiveness of quotes to some of our readers.

    The fact that so few A-List bloggers use quotes speaks volumes about their effectiveness in a business sense. It’s always good to question the value of our actions to see if they are bringing true value not just to our readers, but to our business. For most of us, this means very few quotes will be used.

    I was taken aback by the statement that “the best writers aren’t posting blog posts.” This may seem true for you, but it is not at all true in my experience. Some of the most beautiful, touching, helpful, funny, etc., work I’ve ever seen has been found on blogs.

    • I think you’re confusing the kind of quotes I’m underscoring in this article with quotes you find on twitter.

      The two aren’t comparable.

      I’m talking about taking segments of articles in blogs, books or magazines and using them to enhance your argument. Not feel good one-liner quotes that you find on twitter that I think you’re referring to. There’s a HUGE distinction between the two.

      You’re right about the need to know your audience. But isn’t that always the case? Any advice you see in a post on blogging can’t be universally applied. So when I advise to use more quotes, it’s for blogs it will actually enhance. And I believe that applies to many different kinds of blogs, but obviously not every single one (and not every single post).

      As far as many A-listers not quoting a lot, that means that if you do use more of them you’ll stand out and differentiate yourself. If you want to compete with the A-listers, you better do something they’re NOT! This is one way to do so.

      The best writers are definitely published authors and not bloggers. While there are some exceptions to this, this is the overall reality.

      While anyone can write up a post and press ‘publish’, very few have the necessary skills to write so well they’re getting payed good money for it. The competition for getting published in books and magazines is overwhelming.

      In contrast, anyone can start a blog. So, yes, the best writers are not bloggers.

      • Good point on the difference between typical Twitter quotes and what you’re referring to in your piece. That said, I think the quotation marks themselves are the “trigger” for the annoyance or for tuning out the material inside the marks. Sort of like if the key to eternal life was printed inside a Google Adsense box, most of us would miss it.

        I agree that if we look at the big picture, the quality of the body of work in traditional markets is vastly better than the quality of material on blogs. Then again, if we throw out all the romance novels, things might look differently :)

        I swim in both pools as a writer, as do nearly all of the writers I know. So, in my experience, the “best writers” are writing in both mediums and it’s good for readers to experience writing in many forms. Which was exactly what you said, only in a way that yanked my chain :)

      • Jerry Pournelle is quite a well published author, and he is in fact also a blogger. And I’ agree if you throw out all the romance novels things would indeed be looking different.

  • Are we talking about two different types of quotes? The one-line quote at the beginning of a post and a block quote inside of a post.

    It seems like the one-line beginning quote is used on most (all?) of the posts on zenhabits, as well as a few other blogs that I read regularly. The block quotes seem pretty rare, however.

    As for them being good or bad, I think it depends on the audience and the writer. Sometimes a quote better expresses the thoughts that the author wants to get across. Sometimes it just adds clutter.

    • I’m not referring to one-liners. I’m actually underscoring material taken from other publications and being used to enhance one’s article.

      You make a good point: It can add clutter. So they have to be used skillfully. Sometimes they’re best not used at all.

  • Murlu says:

    I think it all depends on context.

    If you’re writing an inspiring post, I think a strong quote can add a lot of value as long as it fits the theme.

    For very technical posts, quotes from experts can help clarify what you’re trying to talk about. If I were to blog about SEO, a quote from Matt Cutts would instantly solidify the subject.

    I don’t think you should use quotes for every post, I’d suggest very sparingly because quotes do become annoying sometimes.

  • I’d like to point out that while many A-listers don’t quote often, some do. Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I think Tim Ferris uses them frequently. Other very successful bloggers do as well.

    So my point was never that you *have* to use more quotes to be a successful blogger. That obviously isn’t true.

    It’s that quotes can often improve one’s article in a variety of ways.

    I don’t use them in every post, but I do like using them when I can because I believe it gives what I write more credibility.

  • I use quotes, just not in every post.

    Sure people may have become jaded over the years when it comes to quotes but I feel some of my posts need them.

    Let’s say I’m discussing doubt in one’s work in a post and how to overcome this doubt. I may stop and add;

    “Our doubts are traitors, they make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.”

    -William Shakespeare

    In my opinion, that quote (just an example) from that man has impact.

    I’ve been collecting quotes that inspired me for over 20 years.

    Quotes are my needle filled with inspiration like Red Bull injected.

  • Karen says:

    The point of quotes in journalism is to give voice to the expertise of someone with experience in a given field or discipline. Calling and talking to someone with expertise in your area of interest and quoting that person gives far more value to your piece than lifting quotes from someone else’e reporting, which can change the context of the speaker’s thoughts. Bloggers can lend credibility and value to their work by talking to experts and getting fresh information in context.

    As for literary lift-outs, I’m not especially moved as a reader by seeing the same old hackneyed quotes from a hundred years ago in blog posts.

  • Marci says:

    I write a monthly newsletter, and I am often inspired by quotes that I read from others. I keep a quote journal and highlighter close by when I’m reading. I don’t use quotes in each article. However, since I’m a therapist, not a writer by profession, I do find quotes useful at times.

    I used to use stand alone quotes, yet now I incorporte them into my paragraph. Giving a brief introduction to who/why I’m quoting this person.

    I love finding different perspectives. I love vivid quotes and the way people use language to express themselves. I’m not depend on the quotes, yet they are a nice summary of the point I’m trying to make in my articles. I provide the examples, stories, how to-s.

    • “I love vivid quotes and the way people use language to express themselves.”

      Well said. It’s nice to incorporate what other authors have said in the way they have said it. It captures something unique and only adds to what you’re saying yourself.

  • Clara says:

    Hi, great tips here. Apparently, I’m not using enough quotes on my blogs, not from lack of reading/magazines/books…I do read and mark interesting quotes but, somehow hardly use them during my actual posting. Now, I’m realizing the error of my ways…

    Thanks,
    Clara.

  • While I don’t think they’re a necessity–I do think they are a great asset in writing. Be it blog posts, or otherwise.

    And yes, I think they’re generally underused in the blogosphere, which is why I think they will help one stand out.

    Some use them often and quite well. But many bloggers almost never quote. It makes writing a little more time-consuming, but in return your work is a little more scholarly and interesting.

  • Farnoosh says:

    Superb article! Especially the fact that you promote reading books, books, books! I have become an avid reader of books, mostly classics and older literature, and not only do I write a deeply personal blog on each book I read, I also feel (allow me to flatter myself just a little) that my writing is Improving because I am reading the works of the masters in the literary world…..While I love reading all the other blogs I track, there is nothing like reading Tolstoy’s Anna K, Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, or Jane Austen and Emily Bronte as a blogger and then articulating your thoughts as you wrap your brain around what you learned from such timeless writing. Yes, read often and read selectively great books. Thank you for this post!!!

  • Very good point and I’m so glad you mentioned it! I used to include quotes in every post and book review/summary I wrote for ReadingForYourSuccess but for some reason I have not done much of it in the past few months. I am definitely going to get back into it. It’s amazing how powerful a quote can be. I actually found a great iPhone App called LittleBuddha that has about 40,000 quotes I think. On all topics. Very useful for quite ideas for posts and for tweets.

    One of my favorites is “Get out on a limb. It may be scary but that’s where all the fruit is.” I think Robin Sharma said that one.

    Thanks for the great article! Time to get back to quoting.

    Scott

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