Master These 15 Ways Jim Mattis Uses Quotes in Writing and Conversation

Dear Everybody,

I’ve changed the name of The Everybody Letter to The Leadership Letter. Different package, same content: leadership, communication, and the creative process.

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Ten years ago, General Jim Mattis showed me binders filled with hundreds of pages of his handwritten notes – excerpts, aphorisms, poems – thoughts he’d come across and transcribed throughout his career. He called the binders his “Books of Wisdom.”

I saw him use the books every day as a source of ideas and inspiration, first when we was Commanding General of U.S. Central Command, and then again when he was Secretary of Defense.

Working with Secretary Mattis I came to appreciate there’s an art to using a Book Wisdom — and like any art form, there are techniques to get it to speak to others.

The best communicators quote people naturally and effortlessly. They vary techniques without the audience even realizing it, and in doing so they add an immeasurable quality to their message. From the most basic to the most advanced, here are 15 different ways Secretary Mattis breathed new life into old quotes:

1 — Focus on the thought, not the thinker

[NO ATTRIBUTION; NO QUOTATION MARKS]

2 — To avoid the verb ‘said,’ use the possessive

[POSSESSIVE ATTRIBUTION; QUOTATION MARKS]

3 — Keep it simple: bury the ‘as said’ construction in the middle of sentence

[NO QUOTATION MARKS — STRICTLY FOR STYLE]

4 — Explain why the thinker is relevant

[ATTRIBUTION; BIO; THOUGHT WITH QUOTATION MARKS IN ONE SENTENCE]

5 — Separate the thinker and the thought into separate sentences

[ATTRIBUTION IN ONE SENTENCE; THOUGHT WITH QUOTATIONS MARKS IN THE NEXT]

6 — Borrow a phrase, not the whole thought

[THOUGHT WITH QUOTATION MARKS; POST-QUOTE ATTRIBUTION]

7 — Paraphrase so the audience doesn’t even know it’s a quote

[REFERENCE WITHOUT SPECIFIC ATTRIBUTION]

8 — To explain a lesser-known turn-of-phrase, express the big idea, then attribute and paraphrase

[THOUGHT; ATTRIBUTION; PARAPHRASE WITHOUT QUOTATION MARKS]

9 — Evoke a feeling with a well-known turn-of-phrase

[NO QUOTATION MARKS]

10 — Don’t use a verb, just state the thinker

[ELEGANT ATTRIBUTION; MULTIPLE QUOTATION MARKS]

11 — Start a speech with an unattributed quote

[NO INITIAL/VERBAL ATTRIBUTION; LATER VERBAL OR WRITTEN ATTRIBUTION; THIS IS HOW MATTIS STARTED A MEMORIAL DAY SPEECH]

12 — Add suspense at the end of a speech (and leave it unresolved)

[NO ATTRIBUTION EXCEPT IN WRITING/TRANSCRIPT]

13 - Varsity level: double attribution

[NO QUOTATION MARKS]

14 — Varsity level: how to take a quote and give it life

[ATTRIBUTION; BIO; THOUGHT WITH QUOTATION MARKS; IMMEDIATE EXPLANATION OF RELEVANCE]

15 — Varsity level: delay attribution

[WITH QUOTATIONS]
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Sincerely, 

Justin