The Gentle Art of Quoting Effectively
Robert Pearce, the editor of History Review, responds to common questions.
Are quotes – or should it be ‘quotations’? – valuable in history? How do I use them?
The dictionary insists that ‘quotation’ is the noun and ‘quote’ the verb. On the other hand, dictionaries merely catalogue usages current at the time they were compiled, and since so many people use ‘quote’ as a noun, what was originally a silly error is being accepted as correct these days. My own advice is that everyone should use ‘quote’ as a noun – but only when we see the Oxford Dictionary of Quotes for sale.
Quotations are indeed extremely valuable, and every student of history should learn how to deploy them effectively. They are evidence from the past, and without evidence history becomes almost indistinguishable from fiction, or fantasy. They also give a stamp of authority to essays, as well as adding interest. Browse through several articles in this magazine – noting where quotations are used and asking what effect they have – and you will see what I mean. You really can’t write a decent essay without quoting.