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Words That Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear Paperback – Aug 5 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Hachette Books; Reprint edition (Aug. 5 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401309291
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401309299
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 2.5 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 204 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #123,528 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

After repeating his mantra—"it's not what you say, it's what people hear"—so often in this book, you'd think that Republican pollster Luntz would have taken his own advice to heart. Yet in spite of an opening anecdote that superficially attempts a balanced tone, the book as a whole truly reads more like a manual for right-wing positioning. Even in the sections where he is less partisan, Luntz's advice is not particularly insightful. For instance, his first chapter, on "Ten Rules of Effective Language," starts by instructing readers to use small words and short sentences in their communications. The least effective section in the book is the chapter on "Personal Language for Personal Scenarios," where Luntz advocates manipulative strategies for getting out of traffic tickets, boarding airplanes at the last minute and apologizing to one's wife with the "miracle elixir" of flowers. The most readable and redeeming feature is the two case studies, where Luntz demonstrates his skill as a communicator by identifying real-world communications successes and failures. Unfortunately, by the time nonpartisan readers reach these chapters, they will have already lost patience. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Frank Luntz is one of the most respected communication professionals in America today. He has written, supervised, and conducted more than a thousand surveys and focus groups for corporate and public affairs clients here and abroad. He has developed campaigns for Merrill Lynch, Federal Express, AT&T, Pfizer, and McDonalds. Currently the host of America's Voices on MSNBC, Dr. Luntz is the first resource media outlets turn to when they want to understand American voters. His recurring segments on MSNBC/ CNBC during the 2002 election cycle won an Emmy. He lives in Alexandria, VA.

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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I’m a copywriter, so I read this book to gain insight into the way words can influence perceptions and behaviors. Putting aside all political squeamishness (I’m not a fan of the Republican agenda or corporate interests Dr. Luntz works for), I found this book fascinating and a valuable addition to my bookshelf.

Fair warning: it’s America-centric and politically focused, so if you’re looking for a more general, universal handbook on the principles of effective writing, you’ll be disappointed. And perhaps predictable, Luntz is much more compelling and original when he talks about language in political contexts, whereas his points are less focused and veer into the banal when he talks about consumer brands and product marketing.

Overall, the book offers a good overview of principles all professional communicators should know but that never hurt to hear again.

The reader will need to be careful not to fall under the sway of Dr. Luntz’s practiced rhetoric: his opinions are disguised as truths throughout. (In a section on “authenticity,” only Democratic politicians seem to be singled out as inauthentic, for example.)

He has an insidious tendency to conflate rhetoric and truth throughout the book. His argument seems to be that if words make a powerful connection with its audience, they reflect reality, which of course sidesteps the issue of whose reality we’re talking about. For example, rephrasing “drilling for oil” as “exploring for energy” may encourage people to view oil extraction more positively, but it doesn’t actually make it less damaging to the environment.
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By John M. Ford TOP 100 REVIEWER on Feb. 16 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
The author resents accusations that his language hides and distorts meaning. "I do not believe there is something dishonorable about presenting a passionately held proposition in the most favorable light, while avoiding the self-sabotage of clumsy phrasing and dubious delivery." He then outlines his ten rules for effective language (Simplicity, Brevity, Credibility, Consistency, Novelty, Sound, Aspiration, Visualization, Asking Questions and Context / Relevance) and spends the rest of the book illustrating their use. Frank Luntz's book makes a good case that these rules are effective.

Several topics are worth reading closely. Luntz describes the "dial session" focus group methods he has devised to elicit and test snippets of effective language. He lays out the linguistic techniques he used to make the Republican "Contract with America" so appealing to voters. Chapter 9 debunks language-related myths the author's research has uncovered. These myths include that Americans are well educated, read a lot, and are generally happy. The truth corresponding to each myth has implications for choosing effective political and advertising language.

Frank Luntz's in-your-face style comes through in his stories--particularly the ones that end with him being thrown out of yet another client meeting. For readers who may be uncomfortable with this style, I'll suggest a brief test. The political and business arenas that contribute the bulk of his examples are far from most readers' experience. But Chapter 11, "Personal Language for Personal Scenarios," is different. It recommends the best language for apologizing, requesting a raise, avoiding a traffic ticket, and other everyday situations. This ten-page chapter is a quick read.
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Format: Hardcover
A great read about crafting language and how it affects opinions.(Consider the death tax vs. the estate tax or pro-choice vs. pro-life) The book also describes the average American and their perspective. Luntz also offers some advice on crafting your own message - brevity and simplicity being his preference.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I found the book to be more of a political history lesson and description of the authors accomplishments than a detailed description of common poorly worded scenarios.
I picked up what the author was laying down but found the detail unsatisfying.
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