"In the words of - THE KING OF FAIL"

I know there's a lot of debate over whether it's right to put in a quote in your statement. One argument would say that it shows that you are able to reference others in relation to your subject (for me in English, it's rather easy. Somebody doing business, different story altogether.) On the other hand, of the little characters you have, why use somebody else's words? 


TIP #2 - Quotes - be very careful.

When I imagine those admissions tutors - who, by the way, I do not envy in the slightest, I think they start each application term with the hope that they won't have to read too many obnoxious, arrogant and conceited statements. They're in there, in their thousands, I only read three or four and would have rather taken a meat tenderiser to my head than go on. Some are atrocious, and one of the main reasons that I (personal opinion, remember) found them intolerable, were the quotes.

"In the words of -," is probably the most horrific way to begin a statement. That said, I'm not saying never put a quote in, just not at the start. Done right, I've read practice statements with quotes which are pleasurable and completely fine. On the other hand, there are stinkers in there.

"Embedding quotes is all about tone," says my teacher, and I think she's right. There's a fine line between sounding academic, with a broad range of subject knowledge under your belt, and throwing the fact that you remembered an incredibly obscure (and at times, irrelevant) quote, into the tutor's face.

Think about how many characters you're using with this quote. If it uses up a fair amount, you have to make sure that it covers the main point of your entire statement. If it says what you want to say in fewer words, wonderful, you've got a stellar quote there, and if you use it right, I think you're making good progress. But if it's just a normal quote about what one famous person thought about stuff, even worse if it's a common quote, then I don't see the point. It's a personal statement, not a slightly-personal-with-a-little-bit-of-C.S-Lewis-babble-chucked-in statement.

(FYI, Lewis' "we read to know we are not alone" is one of the most common English quotes used, apparently. If you're planning on English like me, swerve, bob, weave, whatever, away from that quote.)

The main point is, the admissions tutor wants to know about you. There's nothing wrong with a quote, in fact, if you've based a philosophy on life on that quote and it is genuinely life-altering, then use it, if not in the statement, but in a possible interview.

I'm going to give you an example. My example. I want to do English Literature, but a paragraph of my statement is based on my creative writing, because it is what has influenced my "passion" (eesh, CAREFUL!) for English. I keep a big folder of maps of Maegard, character drawings, timelines, family trees etc. On the front of the folder is a pair of manga eyes, alongside my favourite quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

"Fiction reveals truths which reality obscures."

This quote is very important to me, it is the reason I have continued to write, no longer for the escapism, but for the power it gives me to send a message with the possibility that others will listen. 

On this basis, what did I do? I wrote my entire personal statement about the power of literature. I didn't use the quote at the beginning, because frankly I think it sounds obnoxious, as taboo to me as beginning a sentence with "because" (get it away, get it away, literary sacrilege) In fact, I used it in my final paragraph, something which is rather unseen in statements. I wrote about "the freedom of intellect given through writing, amongst modern day censorship," not a lie, and something that I think still applies to the quote.

I may write about beginning a statement (how I think it should begin anyway) and main genres in statements, but if I'm going to say anything from this entry about quotes, it's this:

Quotes, do it right, or not at all.

The End

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