I find we are growing serious, and then we are in great danger of being dull.
—William Congreve (1670–1729) English Playwright, Poet
The most important things to say are those which often I did not think necessary for me to say — because they were too obvious.
—Andre Gide (1869–1951) French Novelist
For mankind, speech with a capital S is especially meaningful and committing, more than the content communicated. The outcry of the newborn and the sound of the bells are fraught with mystery more than the baby’s woeful face or the venerable tower.
—Paul Goodman (1911–72) American Novelist, Essayist
You guys are both saying the same thing. The only reason you’re arguing is because you’re using different words.
—S. I. Hayakawa (1906–92) Canadian-born American Academic, Elected Rep, Politician
All speech, written or spoken, is a dead language, until it finds a willing and prepared hearer.
—Robert Louis Stevenson (1850–94) Scottish Novelist
Can we talk?
—Joan Rivers (1933–2014) American Comedienne, Writer
Among well-bred people a mutual deference is affected, contempt for others is disguised; authority concealed; attention given to each in his turn; and an easy stream of conversation maintained without vehemence, without interruption, without eagerness for victory, and without any airs of superiority.
—David Hume (1711–76) Scottish Philosopher, Historian
Better pointed bullets than pointed speeches.
—Otto von Bismarck (1815–98) German Chancellor, Prime Minister
There is nothing so dangerous for anyone who has something to hide as conversation! A human being, Hastings, cannot resist the opportunity to reveal himself and express his personality which conversation gives him. Every time he will give himself away.
—Agatha Christie (1890–1976) British Novelist, Short-Story Writer, Playwright
There is no index so sure as the voice.
One’s feelings waste themselves in words; they ought all to be distilled into action … which bring results.
—Florence Nightingale (1820–1910) English Nurse
Not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.
—George Augustus Henry Sala (1828–95) British Journalist
The habit of common and continuous speech is a symptom of mental deficiency. It proceeds from not knowing what is going on in other people’s minds.
—Walter Bagehot (1826–77) English Economist, Journalist
Speech is the gift of all, but the thought of few.
—Cato the Elder (Marcus Porcius Cato) (234–149 BCE) Roman Statesman
The finest eloquence is that which gets things done; the worst is that which delays them.
—David Lloyd George (1863–1945) British Liberal Statesman
Speak clearly, if you speak at all; carve every word before you let it fall.
—Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809–94) American Physician, Essayist
I have often regretted my speech, never my silence.
—Publilius Syrus (fl.85–43 BCE) Syrian-born Roman Latin Writer
The tone of good conversation is brilliant and natural. — It is neither tedious nor frivolous. — It is instructive without pedantry; gay, without tumultuousness; polished, without affectation; gallant, without insipidity; waggish, without equivocation.
—Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–78) Swiss-born French Philosopher
Man does not speak because he thinks; he thinks because he speaks. Or rather, speaking is no different than thinking: to speak is to think.
—Octavio Paz (1914–98) Mexican Poet, Diplomat
I never desire to converse with a man who has written more than he has read.
—Samuel Johnson (1709–84) British Essayist
The pith of conversation does not consist in exhibiting your own superior knowledge on matters of small importance, but in enlarging, improving, and correcting the information you possess, by the authority of others.
—Walter Scott (1771–1832) Scottish Novelist, Poet, Playwright, Lawyer
The world does not speak. Only we do. The world can, once we have programmed ourselves with a language, cause us to hold beliefs. But it cannot propose a language for us to speak. Only other human beings can do that.
—Richard Rorty (1931–2007) American Philosopher
If other people are going to talk, conversation becomes impossible.
—James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834–1903) American Painter, Etcher
Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you’ve got to say, and say it hot.
—D. H. Lawrence (1885–1930) English Novelist, Playwright, Poet, Essayist, Literary Critic
He kept up with the current literature, and distilled from it a polite essence, with which he knew how to perfume his conversation.
—William Dean Howells (1837–1920) American Novelist, Critic.
Conversation. What is it? A Mystery! It’s the art of never seeming bored, of touching everything with interest, of pleasing with trifles, of being fascinating with nothing at all. How do we define this lively darting about with words, of hitting them back and forth, this sort of brief smile of ideas which should be conversation?
—Guy de Maupassant (1850-93) French Novelist, Short-story Writer
Speech is power: speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel. It is to bring another out of his bad sense into your good sense.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–82) American Philosopher
It is the still, small voice that the soul heeds, not the deafening blasts of doom.
—William Dean Howells (1837–1920) American Novelist, Critic.
Know how to listen, and you will profit even from those who talk badly.
—Plutarch (c.46–c.120 CE) Greek Biographer, Philosopher
Listening to someone talk isn’t at all like listening to their words played over on a machine. What you hear when you have a face before you is never what you hear when you have before you a winding tape.
—Oriana Fallaci (1929–2006) Italian Journalist, Historian
A single conversation across the table with a wise man is worth a month’s study of books.
Don’t accept rides from strange men – and remember that all men are as strange as hell.
—Robin Morgan (b.1941) American Activist, Writer, Poet, Editor
Well, well, perhaps I am a bit of a talker. A popular fellow such as I am — my friends get round me — we chaff, we sparkle, we tell witty stories — and somehow my tongue gets wagging. I have the gift of conversation. I’ve been told I ought to have a salon, whatever that may be.
—Kenneth Grahame (1859–1932) Scottish Children’s Writer
It has been said that our anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, but only empties today of its strength.
—Charles Spurgeon (1834–92) English Baptist Preacher
In conversation, humor is more than wit, and easiness more than knowledge. Few desire to learn, or think they need it. — All desire to be pleased, or at least to be easy.
—William Temple (1881–1944) British Clergyman, Theologian
Speech is an arrangement of notes that will never be played again.
—F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896–1940) American Novelist
A witty saying proves nothing.
—Voltaire (1694–1778) French Philosopher, Author
They never taste who always drink; they always talk who never think.
—Matthew Prior (1664–1721) English Poet, Diplomat
A good conversationalist is not one who remembers what was said, but says what someone wants to remember.
—John Mason Brown (1900–69) American Columnist, Journalist, Author
Speech is human nature itself, with none of the artificiality of written language.
—Alfred North Whitehead (1861–1947) English Mathematician, Philosopher
Silence is one great art of conversation.
—William Hazlitt (1778–1830) English Essayist
In private conversation between intimate friends the wisest men very often talk like the weakest; for, indeed, the talking with a friend is nothing else but thinking aloud.
—Joseph Addison (1672–1719) English Essayist, Poet, Playwright, Politician
Good talk is like good scenery — continuous, yet constantly varying, and full of the charm of novelty and surprise.
—Randolph Bourne (1886–1918) American Writer, Scholar
We forget that we are all dead men conversing with dead men.
—Jorge Luis Borges (1899–1986) Argentine Writer, Essayist, Poet
Lettuce is like conversation: it must be fresh and crisp, and so sparkling that you scarcely notice the bitter in it.
—Charles Dudley Warner (1829–1900) American Essayist, Novelist
Let us speak, though we show all our faults and weaknesses, –for it is a sign of strength to be weak, to know it, and out with it — not in a set way and ostentatiously, though, but incidentally and without premeditation.
—Herman Melville (1819–91) American Novelist, Short Story Writer, Essayist, Poet
Ideal conversation must be an exchange of thought, and not, as many of those who worry most about their shortcomings believe, an eloquent exhibition of wit or oratory.
—Emily Post (1873–1960) American Writer, Socialite
A gossip is one who talks to you about others; a bore is one who talks to you about himself; and a brilliant conversationalist is one who talks to you about yourself.
—Lisa Kirk (1925–1990) American Stage, Film, Television Performer
Many great writers have been extraordinarily awkward in daily exchange, but the greatest give the impression that their style was nursed by the closest attention to colloquial speech.
—Thornton Wilder (1897–1975) American Novelist, Playwright