How to Properly Quote Out of Context

Quote origins are some of the most under-sourced works in the world.  Whether they’re improperly sourced, or interpreted wrong, I find time and time again that we rarely ever recognize the true meaning.  That has, and continues to, result in some of the most beautiful phrases we’ve ever known.  It also results in numerous misreadings and countless misinterpretations. 

Honestly, I don’t care. 

Quotes, like art, are for deciphering, feeling, and leveling the playing field of communication.  Both break down the walls of miscommunication by evoking thoughts and feelings, which aren’t the same, but are often equally as strong.  

Quotes spark emotions regardless of the reader, although oftentimes it’s the same emotion applied to individual scenarios.

That is why taking them out of context is so important: It makes these phrases universal. 

How cruel, too, eventually to learn a better way of doing something, and then be denied the use of it

 -Alice Walker

Sparks are flying.  You’re processing this and applying it to your life; I can feel it because, why wouldn’t you?  It’s sure to evoke visions of technology, restraint, obstacles, business, etc. 

But what if you were to find out that this line was in reference to Alice Walker’s newfound courage to eat seaweed?  Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem as appealing.  Although it was a realization of ways to find sustenance from crops and seafood, it doesn’t have the same poignancy as it did if you imagined it on its own.

That’s why taking it out of context is so important, so freeing, so uninhibited.  Readers can make assumptions, interpret freely, and feel candidly.   There’s no one telling you what to think except for your true intuition—And that’s the true beauty of quote art.

I’d love to hear why you think quote art is beautiful, and how you feel about quotes taken out of context.  Does it evoke emotions that you wouldn’t have addressed, or simply distract you?


Walker, Alice. Living by the Word: Selected Writings, 1973-1987. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1988. Print.