Harnessing the power of the quote

Sometimes, a short, well-placed quote can capture the whole story.

Al Jazeera

Three powerful words immediately capture the urgency of the situation in Sri Lanka.

While endless analysis has been written about the economic and humanitarian crisis, hearing the perspective of fishermen affected by it makes the story connect to the readers. 

Of course, well-researched details are essential in storytelling, but knowing when to use quotes may help a story come alive and amplify the message.

But before using quotes as part of your storytelling arsenal, let these questions and best practices guide you.

  1. What makes a quote compelling?
  2. When does it serve the story?


  • when it gives information 

  • when it evokes emotions

Giving Information

Which narrative more effectively communicates information on the effect of rising global inflation rates?

Article 1:

“Central banks in major economies expected as recently as a few months ago that they could tighten monetary policy very gradually. Inflation seemed to be driven by an unusual mix of supply shocks associated with the pandemic and later Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and it was expected to decline rapidly once these pressures eased.” (Taken from this August 2022 article from the International Monetary Fund)

Article 2:

“Some people used to buy 5kg or 10kg of fruit — now they can buy 1kg or 2kg at most,” [says Cairo fruit seller, Hanna Ayyad] (Statement taken from an Egyptian vendor about how the Ukrainian war and inflation have shrunk his daily income)

Both instances convey the same information: inflation rates are rising around the world. 

But the second narrative delivers information in a way that feels immediately understandable to the reader. 

Using quotes is a memorable way to “show” readers the big-picture details of the story.

Evoking Emotions

The goal of storytelling is to connect with people. Quoting people as they talk about their experiences humanizes the story in a way that readers relate to emotionally. As Maya Angelou observed, people tend to remember most how something made them feel.

Here’s another example.

Article 1:

“Months of unprecedented rain have caused devastating floods in Pakistan, affecting over 30 million people in the region.”

Article 2:

Mai Haleema, 70, who has been displaced by the floods shared her experience with Javed Iqbal, Sameer Mandhro, and Kathleen Magramo of CNN:

“We keep our eyes on our children after sunset. They could fall down in the water believing if they were living in their old house. We have to save food for our kids. God is our savior… I am not feeling well…my kids are also sick. I have to fetch water.”

Mai Haleema watches over a boy as he sleeps on September 5, 2022. Photo Credit, CNN. 

While the sheer scale of this disaster is jarring, focusing on the story of one individual can dramatically depict the human reality being experienced.

Putting it All Together

Using quotes can help make a story unique and powerful because they speak to both the head and the heart. 

One of our favorite examples of using quotes to serve the story best is this article is Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Malala Yousafzai, a champion for girls’ education:

“I told myself, Malala, you have already faced death. This is your second life. Don’t be afraid — if you are afraid, you can’t move forward.”

“They thought that the bullets would silence us, but they failed. And out of that silence came thousands of voices. The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions. But nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.”

Her words also achieve that “golden” ability to convey information and emotion. She seamlessly contextualizes the struggles faced in Taliban-controlled Pakistan while also tapping into the emotional heart. 

Do you want to learn more about impactful storytelling? Our team can help. Book a brainstorming call with us.

Tags: visual storytelling tips, visualstorytelling

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