He wrapped himself in quotations – as a beggar would enfold himself in the purple of Emperors.
― Rudyard Kipling
A common question I get asked by new writers is how to manage and treat quotations in their work.
Quotations can add a lot to a book. In novels, quotes can add a layer of depth and insight to the story. An opening quote can be a great framing tool for where the story might take the reader.
In non-fiction, quotes from other sources for the purposes of adding support and credibility for key points can be essential.
Here’s a quick and easy guide to using quotes in your work:
- Ensure they Serve a Purpose
To start with, make sure you’re not just adding quotes for the sake of it. Ensure every quote you use serves a clear and efficient purpose. They should support what you are doing in your book and the message you are trying to get across. Don’t use quotes to sound smart, that’s the best way to achieve the opposite!
- Attribute them Correctly
Now that you have decided to use a quote, it’s important to make sure you attribute it appropriately and give credit to the source. In brief this means referencing the name of the source/author, the title of the work and – if the quote is significant – referencing the page number. Don’t try to pass the work off as your own. Give credit where it’s due.
- Employ Restraint
Lastly, don’t go crazy! This is your book, your work, and your words need to shine. Be selective and use restraint when employing quotes in your work. Make sure they enhance your message and don’t distract from it.
Keep the focus on your own writing first and when you find a perfectly apt quote that will amplify your message and shines a little extra light on your words, use it wisely.
Other articles you might like…
Setting up a bookclub? Read our guide to how to start one.
Writing a novel? Check out our library of writing resources.
Honing your craft? Check out our favourite writing books.
Practicing your skills? Try out our general writing exercises.
Submitting your novel? Check out our Dos and Don’ts.
Don’t just take our advice. Check out Orwell’s Rules for Writers.
Just starting out? Read our advice for new writers.
Join our mailing list: