Words That Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear Paperback – Aug 5 2008
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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.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
I picked up what the author was laying down but found the detail unsatisfying.
Most recent customer reviews
Really great information and makes you think about how you communicate. Mostly American content and I am applying from Canadian view so need to view in this light while listening.Published on Dec 29 2012 by Mary Lou Renaerts
The only redeeming quality I can find in this book is that it is a useful teaching tool to watch out for techniques that empty-headed leaders use. Read morePublished on April 5 2009 by Chad English