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Aphorisms: Speaking words of wisdom

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Aphorisms are generally accepted pieces of wisdom, packed into little sayings.

Examples: “Ruling a large kingdom is like cooking a small fish; the less handled the better,” “Trust in God but tie your camel” or “You can run with the big dogs or sit on the porch and bark.”

Commit a few to memory, and you’ll find they come in handy, whether you’re helping to write a presentation or an invitation, or attempting to say something witty and memorable to a group.

The five laws of aphorisms are:

1. They must be brief. If “brevity is the soul of wit,” as William Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, then brevity also applies to aphorisms, especially if you’re using them in a time of triumph or crisis. Example: “Short prayer penetrates heaven.”

2. They must be definitive. Example: “Character is what you know you are, not what others think you have.”

3. They have to be personal. Two great minds, G.K. Chesterton and Holbrook Johnson, once performed a duel of aphorisms consisting of Johnson’s book Platitudes in the Making and Chesterton’s penciled-in replies.

A couple of them: “He who reasons is lost,” followed by, “He who never reasons is not worth finding.” And “Don’t think—do,” followed by, “Do think! Do!”

4. They need a twist. Aphorisms need to be provocative.

Example: “As long as the heart preserves desire, the mind preserves illusion.”

5. They’re philosophical. “Aphorisms are literature’s hand luggage,” says aphorism collector James Geary. “Light and compact, they fit easily into the overhead compartment of your brain and contain everything you need to get through a rough day at the office or a dark night of the soul.”

Tip: Visit www.aphorismsgalore.com to find aphorisms by category.

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