Frank Luntz is the conservative wordsmith behind some of the most successful Republican politicians and movements of the modern era. His book Words That Work (subtitled It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear) is an excellent lesson on how to shape language that actually influences people, while avoiding common traps that undermine our efforts at communication.
His top ten rules are:
- Simplicity: Use Small Words
- Brevity: Use Short Sentences
- Credibility Is as Important as Philosophy
- Consistency Matters
- Novelty: Offer Something New
- Sound and Texture Matter
- Speak Aspirationally
- Ask a Question
- Provide Context and Explain Relevance
This is in no way a perfect book (as examined here), but a very interesting one, replete with stories and examples. The book’s subtitle alone is one of the most important lessons that advocates can learn. Here is a fuller review, if you’d like a more extensive exploration of the ideas without (or before) reading the whole book.