The technique that we are just about to learn was developed by Dominic O’Brien. To be able to slip into your ordinary conversation a quote from a writer such as Oscar Wilde or Mark Twain or a thinker such as Albert Einstein or Ralph Waldo Emerson is a sure way to impress or to give you the advantage in a debate. But quotations are so slippery! And there’s no point in half-remembering a quotation, or giving up half-way through or not remembering who said it, as that’s certain to undermine the impression you want to give of being on nodding terms with the great and good , at least through their writings. In this post we look at ways in which useful or inspiring quotations can be memorized for long-term retention.

As with jokes, the best way to fix a quote in your memory is to associate it with a vivid image. But there are two differences to bear in mind. First, with quotations you need to be able to recall the text verbatim (although with foreign quotations there will usually be some leeway over the translation). And second, you will need to remember who it was who wrote or uttered the remark in the first place.

You may find that the best way to store quotes is to build a repertoire of them using the Journey Method, following the advice given for remembering jokes. As we’re dealing with the written word, a book store or local library makes an ideal location for your journey, you could even place each quote in the relevant department within the building. If you can, devise an image that fuses the author of the quote with its content, and store this in the appropriate stage of your journey, as part of your quotation repertoire. Further aspects might be memorized to help you to reconstruct the particular phraseology of the quote.

remember quotes

Now let’s take an example, and see how you might approach it. The following quote is from Sir Winston Churchill.

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

The first step is to find a key image (You can memorize words using images as well)which summarizes the essence of the quote. Now the classic image in this quote is the glass that the optimist would describe as half full, the pessimist as half-empty. So you picture Churchill – rotund and enjoying a cigar – holding a half-full glass (of Scotch perhaps) with an optimistic expression on his face. The “Win” of Winston links with optimism and further reinforces the message. You might notice that the two opposing views are a mirror image of each other (“the difficulty in every opportunity … the opportunity in every difficulty”), and imagine Churchill reflected in the mirror-like surface of the glass.

If you are unfamiliar with the author of the quote, and thus have to remember a name that is devoid of associations for you, you might break the surname down into syllables and memorize one or more of these, using your own imagination in following any of the associational links.

If you are looking for an alternative method that can be read here

Exercise: Remembering Quotations

Take a look at the following three quotes. Try to memorize them by convenient imagery. Devise an image for the source of each quote, too. Obviously, different people are going to have different degrees of familiarity with the names. A sports enthusiast will only need to remember “Jor-” (jaw?) for Michael Jordan’s name to roll out,while someone who has no interest in sport may need a more elaborate cue, for the first name (the archangel?) as well as the second (the river in the Holy Land?).

Post your images in convenient places using the Journey Method – perhaps the first three rooms of your house or apartment. We are testing only short-term memory here, so the aim is to see if you can remember, 30 minutes from now, all three quotes plus the Churchill quote. Set an alarm clock.

“I can accept failure. Everybody fails sometimes. But I can’t accept not trying.”


“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”


“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.”


Scoring 10 points for each correctly remembered quote (you must be word-perfect to score) and five points for each correct name.

Maximum points: 60 Untrained: 20+ Improver: 30+ Master: 50+