“[A] quotation is a handy thing to have about, saving one the trouble of thinking for oneself, always a laborious business.”

(The Record Lie)”

A.A. Milne, If I May

I’m not sure when the shift happened, but at some point it became very popular to use quotes in writing. Suddenly, Gandhi and Confucius were gracing every essay and article. People were using them to sound smarter or grab the reader’s attention– without having to think of anything for themselves. As the epidemic grew, the less powerful quotes became in writing until we reached quotes saturation. Present day, quotes from famous or wise minds have become more detrimental in formal writing than helpful.

This especially goes for residency Personal Statements. Like any essay, a Personal Statement needs a hook or “grabber” to draw in Program Directors and give you the chance to stand out as a candidate. I know it’s tempting to quote someone you feel has a better or funnier grasp of English than you, but here are three reasons why you should not quote a public figure in your Personal Statement.

1. Plagiarism: 

Plagiarism, the bane of every English teacher in existence. Fortunately for them, and unfortunately for you, there are plagiarism checking tools that application review committees can run Personal Statements through to make sure your writing is your own.

Many plagiarism checks will flag any quote, even quotes within quotation marks, and report there is at least one case of plagiarism within your Personal Statement. If a program is less diligent about reading through Personal Statements, that one flag might be enough for them to throw out your Personal Statement altogether, even your whole application.

Don’t put yourself in that position.

2.  Space :

This may seem like a simple reason, but in a document where you need to cover a lot of personal ground in a short amount of time, you need to consider every piece of content you are including. Any Personal Statement should aim to be exactly one page with spaces between each paragraph. This gives you less than 3,000 characters to properly introduce yourself, share your medical life story and leave the program director in awe of what a great candidate you are.

Why would you waste any of that precious space on someone else’s words?

3.  Cliche/Overused Tactic

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among stars!”

– Les Brown

A cliche was an idea that was once original, but has been used so many times it causes readers to roll their eyes when they encounter such a tired idea. There are some quotes you hear or read so often they have lost any emotional power they once had, like the quote above.

With the use of a quote, that eye-rolling effect will be translated to your Personal Statement. You may have wanted to inspire the Program Director reading your Personal Statement, instead your paper has lost validity from the start– which will be hard to gain back.

Keep your paper original and valid, leave the quotes in their books and movies.

Quotes almost always do more harm than good when they are used in your Personal Statement. They might trigger a plagiarism checker, take up valuable space, and are so cliche they make your writing less credible with their very presence.

With all of that said, there is one exception to the “No quotes” rule, personal quotes. A quote from a close family member, friend or even yourself is original and special. If something your grandfather said inspired you to become a doctor, than by all means share it. Just make sure he wasn’t quoting his favorite book first!