Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Please quote responsibly

I hate to throw the first proverbial stone as surely I'm guilty myself, but I've got to take a stand. The Web has made it commonplace for ideas and words to multiply like cyber-bunnies. Yes, that is wonderful but also has its downsides. With those countless ideas and words passing through our e-world - like a global version of the sentence relay game - it can become quite difficult to accurately trace origins (difficult albeit sometimes a fun challenge with lots of serendipitous learning along the way).

I've noticed that quotations have soared in popularity the past few years, for many reasons but mostly because online quote collections are a virtual convenience store of wisdom - run in, grab a few quotes you need, and you're on your way! Having been on Twitter a couple months now, I've seen so many quotes tweeted without an attribution or even quotation marks, as if the tweeter had just thought up that aphoristic gem.

Please don't commit a 140ism ("miscommunication in 140 characters or fewer," thanks @brianglanz) by rephrasing a quote, leaving off an attribution, or using it in a misleading way. If it doesn't fit, either don't use it or else link to the proper remainder of it, and if you don't know its origin, then indicate the author is unknown.

This goes for all quoting, not just Twitter and email and websites but every time you use a quotation. It shows gratitude to the author, it shows you have integrity, and it helps the author by making readers want to find out more so they can read more, and that kind of curiosity is a good thing - quoter's curiosity, as I call it, is a disease whose only cure is more reading.

There are many reasons to attribute and to quote with respect, the main being it's just the right thing to do even if it's not always convenient. Please keep this in mind next time you use a quote for anything, even if it's just a baby shower invitation, because with the speedy spread of all things these days you never know the journey that quote will take.

"I am fully conscious of the fact, that aphorisms are like wandering Gypsies. They must always be published without guarantee of the authenticity." ~Erkki Melartin

"What is right is often forgotten by what is convenient." ~Bodie Thoene