Watching Neil Armstrong walk on the moon is one of my earliest memories, although what I remember most is that our family was gathered around my sister’s hospital bed in our family room, where she was in nearly a full body cast.
Later I attended a middle school named after the famous astronaut, complete with a small planetarium that was seldom used. I remember attending a program by NASA at that school.
Yet it wasn’t until three years ago that I learned there is a debate over one of the most famous quotes: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” According to Armstrong, he said “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Several articles about Armstrong’s death last week mention the debate about the quote, and it’s discussed at length on Snopes.com.
Before you quote someone in your presentation, take these precautions:
- Check the words. From the Bible to popular movies, some of the best-known lines are misquoted. (Check out this article from The Atlantic on why misquotations catch on and this list from Business Insider of “15 Famous Movie Quotes Everyone Gets Wrong.”) When possible, go to the original source to confirm the wording.
- Verify the source. Misattribution also is common. After the death of Osama bin Landen, quotes misattributed to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mark Twain circulated widely on social media. If you think a particular person said something you want to quote, check when and where it was said.
- Provide the context. During this political year there are plenty of examples of quotes taken out of context. When your audience recognizes that you have done that to make a point, you undermine your argument and destroy your credibility.
As you write a speech, pay as much attention to correctly quoting others as you do to writing your own words.
What mistakes with quotations have you seen in presentations?