Words that Work

Words that Work

Author – Frank Luntz

Politics and the English Language – Orwell

The 10 Rules of Effective Language

It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear.

“Broadly speaking, the short words are the best, and the old words best of all.” Winston Churchill

Communication has never been and should never be elitist or obscure. It is functional rather than an end in itself. The people are the true end; language is just a tool to reach and teach them, a means to an end.

10 rules of successful communication:

  1. Simplicity: Use small words
    Avoid words that might force someone to reach for the dictionary, because most people won’t.

The average American did not graduate from college and doesn’t understand the difference between effect and affect.

  1. Brevity: Use short sentences
  2. Credibility is as important as philosophy
    Tell people who you are or what you do. Then be that person and do what you have said you would do. And finally, remind people that you are what in fact you say you are. In a simple sentence: Say what you mean and mean what you say.
  3. Consistency matters
  4. Novelty: Offer something new
  5. Sound and texture matter
  6. Speak aspirationally
    People will forget what you say, but they will never forget how you made them feel.

“Love the skin you’re in.”

“because you’re worth it”

  1. Visualize
  2. Ask a question
    A statement, when put in the form of a rhetorical question, can have much greater impact than a plain assertion.
  3. Provide context and explain relevance
    If your tagline, slogan, or message meets most of these 10 criteria, chances are it will meet with success.

Preventing Message Mistakes

Women generally respond better to stories, anecdotes, and metaphors, while men are more fact-oriented and statistical.
Men appreciate a colder, more scienfitif, almost mathematical approach; women’s sensibilities tend to be more personal, human, and literary.

Women react much more negatively to negative messages than do men.

Parents have an insatiable appetite to please their children.

Old Words, New Meaning

Simple and clear is usually best.

To create words that work, you have to pay clsoe attention to how people use words today, and what those words have come to mean.

It’s really more important to be understood than to be heard.

Be the Message

The importance of authenticity cannot be overstated. Whether your arena is busienss or politics, you simply must be yourself.

“Good business leaders create a bision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.”

Advertising experts identify a common quality among the most popular and long-lasting coporate icons: Rather than selling for their companies, these characters personify them.

The compnay persona is the sum of the coporate leadership, the corporate ethos, and the products and services offered, interaction with the customer, and most importantly, the language that ties it all together.
A majority of large companies do not have a company persona, but those that do benefit significantly.

The best way to communicate authenticity is to trigger personalization: Do audience members see themselves in the slogan, and therefore, in the product?

It is not enough to blindly apply the 10 rules of effective communication, nor is it enough to consider the audience’s context as well. You have to go further and be the message.

Words We Remember

It is better to smile through the downpour secure in the knowledge that a rainbow is on the way than to frown and complain about the weather.

Everything stupid you say or do can and will be used against you.
In the end, politicians are often their own worst enemy.

Extremism doesn’t sell. Ever.
Every elected official knows the mainstream is the place to be.

The trick is to approach every communication opportunity from the perspective of the audience, and always be armed with one really good sound bite.

Almost every presidential debate is won or lost on a single phrase or statement that catches the public's ear and is replayed again and again.

The power of poignant language is immense, but the destructive power of an ill0thought sound bite is unending and unforgiving.

Successful, effective messages, stick in our brains and never leave.

Words that work spur us to get up off the couch, to leave the house, to do something.

Corporate Case Studies

Every attack that is not met with a clear and immediate response will be assumed to be true.

A charge made is a charge believed unless and until refuted.

Political Case Studies

Plans goes awry.
Promises are made to be broken.
Pledges go unfulfilled.
Platforms are too political.
Oaths have legal connotations.
Covenants have religious overtones.
A contract is best.

Rules of effective communication:

  1. Use small words.
  2. Brevity. Use short sentences.
  3. Credibility is as important as philosophy.
  4. Consistency matters.
  5. Novelty. Offer something new.
  6. Sound and texture matter.
  7. Speak aspirationally.
  8. Visualize.
  9. Ask a question.
  10. Provide context and explain reference.

Myths and Realities about Language and People

10 great myths about Americans:

  1. Americans are educated.
  2. Americans read.
  3. American women all respond to messages like… women.
  4. Americans divide neatly and accurately into urban, suburban, and rural populations.
  5. American consumers respond well to patriotic messages.
  6. Retro sells products and politicians.
  7. Americans vote according to a candidate’s stands on the issues.
  8. Americans are happy.
  9. Americans prefer big organizations.
  10. Americans have finally gotten over 9/11.

Americans, by and large, decide who to vote for based on the candidates’ attributes: personality, image, authenticity, vibe, etc.

What we Really Care About

“Advertising is the art of convincing people to spend money they don’t have for something they don’t need.” – Will Rogers.

Words not only can determine how we feel. They can also determine what we achieve.

Words that work are powerful because they connect ideas, emotions, hopes, and fears.

If your principles match their values, the details won’t matter.

We may no longer be a nation of family farmers and shopkeepers, but we still appreciate, and venerate those who are.

Therefore, the more convincingly you can present your company as personal, relatable, down-to-earth, and in touch, the virtues of a small business, the better you will weather large-scale growth.

From a product perspective, women, in particular, don’t respond well to gloom and doom.

It is not the fear of something bad that motivates women; it's the hope for something better. That's why every communication should include the message of limitless dream, unending possibilities, and the promise of a better future.

Another example of a company that uses solutions to sell its services is Siemens. The German company that makes everything from cell phones to ultrasound machines doesn’t simply sell medical products, it provides “medical solutions.” By selecting the solution terminology, Siemens moves the focus away from the product or process and toward the end result—accomplishment. So Siemens doesn’t sell “MRI machines.” It sells “a faster and more accurate diagnosis of serious health problems.” Which would you rather buy?
As our world becomes ever more complex, and our problems become more difficult to solve on our own, the importance of products and services that offer solutions will become more evident, and the language used to sell them will become more widely used.

Personal Language for Personal Scenarios

“Man invented language to satisfy his deep need to complain” – Lily Tomlin

Men want to speak; women want to be heard.

Women are focused on the recipient of their message.
Their primary desire is to be heard, understood, and validated.

When a guy does something wrong in a relationship go beyond words and communicate with flowers.
For most women, receiving flowers fixes just about everything.
Women see flowers as the ultimate demonstration of humility, regret, love, affection, sympathy, and apology.

Add flowers in packaging, thank you snail mail, or gifts to women.

The single most-read portion after the opening paragraph is the postscript.

The average reader looks to the P.S. to determine whether or not it is in fact a personal letter, and whether that letter has any relevance to his or her life. If it isn’t, and if it doesn’t, the average person won’t read anything else.

21 Words and Phrases for the 21 Century

  1. imagine
  2. hassle-free
  3. lifestyle
  4. accountability
  5. results and the can-do spirit
  6. innovation
  7. renew, revitalize, rejuvenate, restore, rekindle, reinvent
  8. efficient and efficiency
  9. the right to
  10. patient-centered
  11. investment
  12. casual elegance
  13. independent
  14. peace of mind
  15. certified
  16. all-American
  17. prosperity
  18. spirituality
  19. financial security
  20. balanced approach
  21. a culture of

“Imagine” is one of the most powerful words in the English language.

Personal thoughts: I think this book is really good if you are looking to go into any position of politics.