Thursday, November 5, 2009

Words That Work - by Dr. Frank Luntz

Now I'm not a very political person. When I picked up this book from my library, it wasn't because I knew who Frank Luntz is. Well, I quickly learned that he helped develop the language for the Republican Contract with America that led to an election of the first Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives in forty years. Dr. Luntz also worked for Republican mayor Rudy Giuliani and seems to be identified by most as a Republican pollster. From the stories in this book, however, he seems to have consulted an extensive but quite diverse set of political and corporate clients on winning word choices. Luntz's fundamental advice is the subtitle of this book: "It's not what you say, it's what people hear."

This book does deliver on its promise to deliver useful guidelines for crafting "words that work." It also contains examples to illustrate his points which are interesting, often insightful, and even entertaining. In some ways, the topic of this book and its examples seem manipulative -- the same message delivered with a different set of words can have much different results. In reality, though, the use of language to impart the desired meaning is a powerful tool that we all should learn to better utilize. It is encouraging to me that, as this book shows, the simpler and more direct approach usually wins out over attempts to utilize an impressive vocabulary or unnecessary eloquence. I enjoyed this book and learned some things. I am skeptical, however, that I would be able to easily spot and recognize such significant perception differences between, say, "estate tax" and "death tax". This book was, hopefully, a good first start though.

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