Considering Other People's Thoughts




I like good strong words that mean something.

 Louisa May Alcott, Little Women


Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning. 

Maya Angelou 


Be careful of the words you say,
Keep them short and sweet.
You never know, from day to day,
Which ones you'll have to eat.



If language is as inextricably tied up with consciousness as it seems to be, then the continuing diminishment of our inclination to use it to express in letters the times in which we live could mean that an element of human consciousness itself is on the verge of disappearing.


How can I know what I think until I see what I say?

W.H. Auden


It seems to me that those songs that have been any good, I have nothing much to do with the writing of them. The words have just crawled down my sleeve and come out on the page.

Joan Baez


Words set things in motion.  I've seen them doing it.  Words set up atmospheres, electrical fields, charges.

Toni Cade Bambara, in Janet Sternburg, ed., The Writer on Her Work, volume 1 (1980)


Every discouraging sermon is a wicked sermon... There could hardly be a more un-Christian way of living than to go about in such a way as to depress and to discourage other people.

William Barclay
For me, words are a form of action, capable of influencing change. Their articulation represents a complete, lived experience.

Ingrid Bengis 

One half the troubles in this life can be traced to saying yes too quickly and not saying no soon enough.
Josh Billings

Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace. 
Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill. 
However many holy words you read, however many you speak, what good will they do you if you do not act on upon them? 

However many holy words you read,
However many you speak,
What good will they do you
If you do not act on upon them?



But words are things, and a small drop of ink,
Falling like dew, upon a thought, produces
That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think.

George Gordon Byron


It's always a bit of a struggle to get the words right, whether we're a Hemingway or a few fathoms below his level.

Rene J. Cappon


Words are the most powerful thing in the universe... Words are containers. They contain faith, or fear, and they produce after their kind.

Charles Capps


"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, "It means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master -that's all."

Lewis Carrol, Alice in Wonderland


A bad word whispered will echo a hundred miles.

Chinese Proverb


Broadly speaking, the short words are the best, and the old words best of all. 
In the course of my life, I have often had to eat my words, and I must confess that I have always found it a wholesome diet. 
Eating words has never given me indigestion. 
The short words are best, and the old words are the best of all. 
We are masters of the unsaid words, but slaves of those we let slip out. 
I have never developed indigestion from eating my words. 
By swallowing evil words unsaid, no one has ever harmed his stomach.

Sir Winston Churchill


Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.

Colossians 4:6


We must use words as they are used or stand aside from life.

Ivy Compton-Burnett, Mother and Son (1955)


In a sense, words are encyclopedias of ignorance because they freeze perceptions at one moment in history and then insist we continue to use these frozen perceptions when we should be doing better.

Edward de Bono

By men's words we know them.

Marie De France (12th century), in Jeanette Beer, tr., Medieval Fables of Marie de France (1981)


Language is the perfect instrument of the empire.

Antonio de Nebrija, Gramatica, 1492


Let thy speech be short, comprehending much in a few words.

Ecclesiasticus 32:8


If the United Nations is a country unto itself, then the commodity it exports most is words.

Esther B. Fein, in New York Times (1985)

Words may show a man's wit but actions his meaning.  
Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning. 
If you think little of a person, you ought to say as little as you think.
As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence.

Benjamin Franklin 


All our words are but crumbs that fall down from the feast of the mind.

Kahlil Gibran, Sand and Foam


By words we learn thoughts, and by thoughts we learn life.

Jean Baptiste Girard


Words are potent weapons for all causes, good or bad.

Manly Hall


You are like a candle. Imagine you are sending light out all around you. All your words, thoughts and actions are going in many directions. If you say something kind, your kind words go in many directions, and you yourself go with them. We are transforming and continuing in a different form at every moment.

Thich Nhat Hanh


Words, so innocent and powerless..when standing in a dictionary, how potent for good or evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.

Nathaniel Hawthrone


Good words are worth much, and cost little.

George Herbert

There is a time for many words, and there is a time for sleep.

Homer, The Illiad


Words do not label things already there.  Words are like the knife of the carver: They free the idea, the thing, from the general formlessness of the outside.  As a man speaks, not only is his language in a state of birth, but also the very thing about which he is talking.

Inuit quote, Parabola Magazine


The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do. 

Thomas Jefferson


Don't, Sir, accustom yourself to use big words for little matters.

Dr Samuel Johnson


As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. 

John F. Kennedy

We will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.  
We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people. 

We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.

Martin Luther King, Jr.


Words can destroy.  What we call each other ultimately becomes what we think of each other, and it matters.

Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, speech (1982)


A holy mind cannot repeat a vile thing, let alone be the creator of a vile suggestion.

John G. Lake


Duty is the sublimest word in our language. Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more. You should never wish to do less.

Robert E. Lee


Don't use words too big for the subject. Don't say "infinitely" when you mean "very"; otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite. 

C. S. Lewis 


The fact that we are here and that I speak these words is an attempt to break that silence and bridge some of those differences between us, for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence. And there are so many silences to be broken.

Audre Lorde


Kind words are a creative force, a power that concurs in the building up of all that is good, and energy that showers blessings upon the world.

Lawrence G. Lovasik


All books are either dreams or swords,
You can cut, or you can drug, with words.

Amy Lowell, title poem, Sword Blades and Poppy Seeds (1914)


The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.

Luke 6:45

Words are sometimes sensitive instruments of precision with which delicate operations may be performed and swift, elusive truths may be touched; often they are clumsy tools with which we grope in the dark toward truths more inaccessible but no less significant.

Helen Merrell Lynd, On Shame and the Search for Identity (1958)


If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.

Nelson Mandela


I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words Bother me.

Alan Alexander Milne, Winnie the Pooh


It has not been for nothing that the word has remained man's principal toy and tool: without the meanings and values it sustains, all man's other tools would be worthless.

Lewis Mumford

A trite word is an overused word which has lost its identity like an old coat in a second-hand shop.  The familiar grows dull and we no longer see, hear, or taste it.

Anais Nin, The Diary of Anais Nin, volume 5 (1947-1955)


There are worse words than cuss words, there are words that hurt.

Tillie Olsen, "Hey Sailor, What Ship?" Tell Me a Riddle (1956)


Speak properly, and in as few words as you can, but always plainly; for the end of speech is not ostentation, but to be understood.

William Penn


Words have their genealogy, their history, their economy, their literature, their art and music, as too they have their weddings and divorces, their successes and defeats, their fevers, their undiagnosable ailments, their sudden deaths.  They also have their moral and social distinctions.

Virgillia Peterson, A Matter of Life and Death (1961)


If words are to enter men's minds and bear fruit, they must be the right words shaped cunningly to pass men's defenses and explode silently and effectually within their minds.

J. B. Phillips 

Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Proverbs 12: 18


The most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help. 

Ronald Reagan 


Every misused word revenges itself forever upon a writer's reputation.

Agnes Repplier, Points of Friction (1920)


One's philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes... and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility. 

Eleanor Roosevelt 

Words without thoughts never to heaven go. 
Talking isn't doing. It is a kind of good deed to say well; and yet words are not deeds.  
When words are scarce they are seldom spent in vain. 

William Shakespeare 


Colors fade, temples crumble, empires fall, but wise words endure. 

Edward Thorndike


If you would be pungent, be brief; for it is with words as with sunbeams--the more they are condensed, the deeper they burn.

Robert Southey


One must be chary of words because they turn into cages.

Viola Spolin, in Los Angeles Times (1974)


Man does not live by words alone, despite the fact that sometimes he has to eat them.

Adlai Stevenson


The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.

Harriet Beecher Stowe


Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.

Mother Teresa


Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often.  
What a wee little part of a person's life are his acts and his words! His real life is led in his head, and is known to none but himself. 
Words are only painted fire; a look is the fire itself. 

Mark Twain


The language we use to communicate with one another is like a knife. In the hands of a careful and skilled surgeon, a knife can work to do great good. But in the hands of a careless or ignorant person, a knife can cause great harm. Exactly as it is with our words.

Unknown source


If someone were to pay you 10 cents for every kind word you ever spoke and collect from you 5 cents for every unkind word, would you be rich or poor?

Unknown Source


A great many people think that polysyllables are a sign of intelligence.

Barbara Walters


A broken bone can heal, but the wound a word opens can fester forever.

Jessamyn West, The Life I Really Lived (1979)


Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people.

William Butler Yeats


Questions for Reflection

1. What quote(s) resonated with you the most and why?

2. What is your favorite quote and why?

3. Which quote(s) might be perceived as being political? personal? showing aspects of common sense?

4. What should you find out about the person or source of the quotes you like?