What You Can Do

Everyone loves a great, inspirational quote especially if it’s from a great, inspirational person.  Unfortunately, the misquote epidemic continues to grow, and the pool of quotes reported on the internet and in modern books is heavily contaminated.  To avoid getting duped, the following are things you can do to combat the quote virus:

  • Never trust a quote from a website that is not moderated and allows anyone to add content to it.  I have found that this is the largest source of inaccurate quotes.  These sites typically feature quotes that are completely fabricated and then attributed to a famous person.
  • Never trust a quote from a website that specializes in quotes.  One would think a website dedicated strictly to quotes would be the best place to find quality quotes.  Unfortunately, this is not the case at all.  Most of them do not include a source, and a lot of them feature the same misquotes found on other quote websites.
  • Never trust a quote from a book of quotes unless the author has indicated that each quote has been authenticated, and the detailed source information is provided for all quotes.  Vast numbers of quote books are compilations of quotes from previous quote books which are compilations of quotes from previous quote books and so on and so forth.  I have actually traced inaccurate quotes which originated in quote books from the 1800s and continue to propagate in quote books of today.
  • Never trust a quote that begins with the words “once said” as in “Mark Twain once said.”  This is especially true of books published after the inception of the internet.  This phrase can be found in many modern books, and a lot of contemporary authors obtain their quotes from the web assuming they have been authenticated when they haven’t.
  • Never trust a quote found on a quotes paraphernalia website that sells items such as posters, coffee mugs, plaques, t-shirts, etc.  Most of these sites will feature a list of quotes to choose from, and the customer chooses the quote and the item on which it is to appear.  Although the quotes can usually be edited by the customer, I would imagine most people assume it is correct and leave it as is.  I have found that these websites contain the same misquotes that all the other quote websites feature.  So don’t waste your money on flawed merchandise; make sure the quote is authentic before purchasing.
  • Never trust a quote found on social media.  There are countless numbers of Facebook pages dedicated to inaccurate quotes.  Twitter is also riddled with people who tweet misquotes every day.  Even the photo-based social media sites feature misquotes.  And since a major feature of social media is to share information with others, it is yet another source of misquote propagation.
  • Do not trust a quote that does not have a detailed source.  Merely listing the author/orator’s name is not sufficient information.  The title of the work should also be cited, and it should be accompanied by the applicable details such as chapter, scene, act, line, verse, section, or date and location of speech.  This enables the reader to easily locate the quote to verify authenticity.
  • Do not trust a quote from a secondary source.  If the quote is based on hearsay or someone’s memory, it is not reliable.
  • Share the knowledge.  Much like a physiological virus, the best way to combat the quote virus is by educating people about how it’s transmitted and how to avoid it.