Verify Quotes with

I’m fond of quoting famous people when I’m teaching a class, presenting, and in my writing. During one class, I quoted Pablo Picasso. It was a great quote, too; pithy, eloquent, and delivered at just the right moment to hammer home the message I was trying to impart. Then someone in the audience spoke up, “Pablo Picasso didn’t say that.” 

Then I had to stand there for the next minute, a dopey expression on my face, while this young man explained my error with, I think, a bit too much glee. Talk about a buzz kill.

You can’t trust everything you read on the Internet

As exasperating as this experience was, it became a learning experience. After getting back to the office, I researched that and other quotes I had been using and learned that some of them were incorrectly attributed or in some way inaccurate. In retrospect, I should have known better.

“You can’t trust everything you read on the Internet.“  – Thomas Jefferson

The Internet is a great resource for writers and speakers, but we all need to embrace the simple and obvious fact that much of the information stored there has not been thoroughly vetted by scholars and researchers.

“Jefferson was right; just because it’s on the Net doesn’t mean it’s true.“ – Abraham Lincoln

Much of what is posted on the Net is by some guy named Fred who reads a quote about net neutrality, likes it, and then posts it. Then someone else reposts it. And then someone else. And before long, it morphs into a great quote; pithy and eloquent, and it’s attributed to Pablo Picasso. And if you aren’t careful to check your sources, you’ll be inadvertently hyping a position on net neutrality from some guy named Fred but attributed to a famous, dead artist whose comprehension of “the Net” was limited to a simple device used to catch butterflies.

Use to verify your quotes

In my efforts to determine which of my oft-used quotes are real and which are fictional contrivances, I discovered a website and a marvelous resource:

This wonderful site “seeks the truth about quotations,” and does it well. The site’s editor does more than state a quote’s author, they explain their research, where the quote first appeared, where it subsequently appeared, and how it evolved over time.

Many of the most common quotes I have used as a speaker and a writer have been analyzed on this site. I’m relieved that at least some have been deemed accurate or mostly accurate. I am also happy to have identified the other quotes I had used, and have since corrected, that were misattributed, incorrect, or more often, are similar to but different from how they were originally articulated.

Bottom line

Quotations can be a great and entertaining way for writers and presenters to make a point. Just be sure to check with, first. It might save you a little bit of embarrassment while an audience member publicly, and perhaps a little too gleefully, calls out your error.

“ is a great resource if you want to be accurate when you quote people.” – George Washington

David Seibert is president of The Seibert Group, a consulting and training organization for businesses that respond to RFPs from other businesses and from SLED (state/local government and education) agencies.


The Seibert Group provides a range of services:

·         Online proposal training

·         Onsite proposal training

·         Proposal and business development consulting services   


David authored Proposal Best Practices and The Sales Manager’s Guide to RFPs, he publishes Dave’s Blog about proposal and business development topics, and he is a regular speaker at numerous webinars, seminars, and conventions.


You can contact Dave at [email protected]. You can also follow Dave on LinkedIn.


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