Social Media Claim

Motivational "before you act, listen" quote is not Ernest Hemingway

A Facebook post from August 19, 2019 features a quote attributed to American author Ernest Hemingway.

The Statement

AAP FactCheck examined a Facebook post from August 19, 2019 by Nagle Catholic College in Geraldton, Western Australia which features a quote attributed to Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway.

The quote in the post with a hashtag "motivationalmonday", reads: “Before you act, listen. Before you react, think. Before you spend, earn. Before you criticize, wait. Before you pray, forgive. Before you quit, try.”

Nagle Catholic College describes itself as a “Catholic, co-educational secondary school established in 1994 to serve the needs of families in the Mid-West region WA”.

The post has attracted 13 reactions and two shares and Nagle Catholic College’s Facebook page has more than 1900 followers.

Two experts on Hemingway have said there is no evidence the writer uttered the attributed quote.

The Analysis

Author and journalist Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) is one of America’s literary greats, winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. Hemingway’s best-known novels include The Sun Also Rises (1926), A Farewell to Arms (1929), Death in The Afternoon (1932) For Whom The Bell Tolls (1940) and The Old Man and The Sea (1952).

The post attributing the quote to Hemingway carries no reference to when or where the Nobel Prize winner is supposed to have said or wrote it. James Hutchisson, a professor of American literature at The Citadel, a military college in South Carolina said it was “very unlikely” the quote was from Hemingway. “Never seen it before,” he told the US fact check service, CheckYourFact, in May 2019.

Hemingway biographer Mary V Dearborn went further, saying she was “almost 100 per cent sure” the quote was not by Hemingway.

“Doesn’t sound at all like him, either stylistically or substantively,” she said. “He’d never advise praying, for one thing. In fact, I think he’d sooner die than endorse something this conservative and, well, passive. He was far more proactive, even rash. Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead.”

The purported Hemingway quote also bears similarities to a Facebook post from July 31, 2018 featuring an image of English writer William Shakespeare.

The post contained a quote attributed to Shakespeare and included the lines “ ... Just live for yourself & before you speak, listen. Before you write, think. Before you spend, earn. Before you pray. Forgive. Before you hurt, feel. Before you hate, love. Before you quit, try. Before you die, live”.

AAP FactCheck found the quote attributed to the Bard to be false. The second part of the quote was attributed to American poet William Arthur Ward from a poem titled, “Before You”. The poem reads, “....before you speak, listen. Before you write, think. Before you spend, earn. Before you invest, investigate. Before you criticize, wait. Before you pray, forgive. Before you quit, try. Before you retire, save. Before you die, give.”

The Verdict

Based on this evidence, AAP FactCheck found the quote attributed to Ernest Hemingway to be false. Two experts on Hemingway say there is no evidence the quote is by the US author.

  • False - The Facebook post is false.

First published August 20, 2019 15:46 AEST