In the last section, I discussed references to research studies and the dishonest practice of reference padding. Another type of reference is a quote. Since much of the online fitness industry consists of cross-promotion, quotes in fitness articles are often a kind of name-dropping. By associating themselves with a popular fitness figure, these writers hope to gain more credibility.
Articles that have something to say should be clear in purpose and not attempt to pre-influence you to a certain stand or opinion. When an article starts with a quotation, usually, the author is attempting to implant an idea into your head BEFORE they begin the article. Even if you don’t agree with the quotation, it influences your reaction to the information to follow. Starting an article with a quote would be a no-no for good writing in general.
Even worse is when an article starts with a quote from the author himself. I don’t have to tell you it is gauche. Quoting yourself, in general, is to be avoided unless absolutely necessary for purposes of information. But to begin an article with a self quote is a double whammy on the gauche scale. Not only is the author trying to pre-influence you but he is trying to impress himself upon you rather than to impress an idea upon you. I see this practice more and more and it strikes me as the height of hubris.
Remember that a quote is an exact copy of something that is said and is set off with quotation marks or some other way. Most are then followed by the source of the quote. Paraphrasing is completely different and on internet blogs, it can be absolutely necessary. I think of it as backstory. If something you are writing about follows from something you previously wrote about then it is a courtesy to the reader to let them know. To make them privy to your train of thought. This to me is good writing in that it is focused on and about the reader’s needs.
Quotes included in articles for the purposes of editorial critique are usually longer passages and can be thought of as “excerpts” rather than quotes. They are similar, however, and even for critique purposes quotes can be overused. You should not have to mine your opponent’s entire article to make your point. And there is, of course, the issue of fair use.
The difference between paraphrasing previous work and a direct self-quote is clear. When a writer employs self-quotes often it becomes clear that their purpose is to promote themselves rather than ideas.
Depending on the length of an article, relying heavily on quotations is a writing faux pau and is usually a signal that the author is on shaky ground. One or two quotations in a work of moderate length can illuminate and reinforce a good article. Too many and they become a crutch that distracts the reader from sometimes faulty reasoning. Usually, when quotes are used in this fashion, it’s right after a particularly strong and absolute statement that the author is unable to adequately back up. The idea is a strong statement —> authority figure. Pay particular attention to where quotes are placed. Are they after an idea has been adequately defended? Or do they take the place of that defense? In the former case, a good quote is like the icing on a cake or maybe a cigarette after a meal. In the latter, it is often a form of bullshit.
Have you ever heard that in strength training, only use low reps, never more than 3 or 4? And, for muscle building, we use 7 to 12? You will immediately recognize the gap! What do we do? We revise our claim: In strength training, you use no more than four but sometimes up to six reps. We make a dividing line, but the line continually changes.
This is actually a type of “Slippery Slope” fallacy, one you will see again and again.
This is not the common slippery slope fallacy which takes the form “If you do this then this will inevitably happen.” But, it is almost as common in strength training, bodybuilding, and fitness in general. It is especially prevalent in discussions of injury potential. For example:
The practices we use in strength training (rep ranges, volume, etc.) overlap what we do in bodybuilding. In fact, these things exist on a sort of continuum and any attempt to draw a line somewhere between where strength training parameters stop and bodybuilding stops is a fallacy in itself.
Here, then, the “continuum” is like the slope. This fallacy is what has been called a semantic slippery slope. You never really find a place where there is a distinct dividing line between the two, and any attempt to do so becomes arbitrary. Do we stop at 6 reps? Why not 7? And if 7, why not 8?
So you can see how it becomes a slope? If you decide on one line you simply slide right into the next step in the chain. You decide on one line…you just slide right into the next step in the chain.
This leads people to believe that, since you cannot decide on one precise dividing line between the two practices, they are therefor the same.
However, just because you cannot decide on a precise dividing line between strength training and bodybuilding, in terms of practices, does not make them the same, thus the fallacy. The fallacy is extended, though, by those who claim that there indeed is a distinct dividing line between the two. This is the idea that people who strength train never do more than 4, 5, or 6 reps. Then, we have the slippery slope I began with: Maybe 7 reps and then, maybe even 8 reps.
Hopefully, you can see why I call it the fallacy of ‘Where is the line?’
Now that it has been pointed out to you, you will see this at work everywhere, especially in philosophical discussions. And the discussion of the differences and similarities between strength training and bodybuilding often becomes philosophical.
We do not need to find a line (that appears non-arbitrary) between the two practices to understand not only the large and small differences in practice but the large difference in intent. A difference in primary goal is about as different as you can get and still be doing resistance training. This does not make them polar opposites! You cannot claim that the two are utterly opposite anymore than you can claim that are basically the same practice with a different name.