Sunday, March 15, 2009

Book Review | Words That Work

[This review is cross-posted to and Facebook (LivingSocial:Books)]
Words That Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear (Dr. Frank Luntz, Hyperion, 2008, ISBN: 1401309291)
Luntz's book will interest anyone who loves words, especially folks who are interested in the careful use of words to get a message across to other people. Most of Words That Work deals with framing language issues of the political and corporate varieties, and some folks may be turned off by Luntz's work with big corporations, the Republican Party, or both. But the non-partisan reader will enjoy the discussion of how a word's meaning can change over time, or through the careful control of context. The examination of polling's role in shaping a message or affecting public opinion is eye opening as well. 
In the end, understanding the concept of "words that work" will help just about anyone regardless of the specific communication situation. But what, perhaps, impresses me most about this book is that, after all the "meanness and abrasiveness" that Luntz has witnessed and experienced, he remains dedicated to finding the positive. He writes: "...there is much to be gained by being upbeat and optimistic. When you trash the opposition, you simultaneously demean yourself. The best warrior is a happy warrior. Accentuate the positive ... eliminate the negative. Negative definitely works, but a solid positive message will triumph over negativity." 
Some may call that naive, maybe even accuse him of attempting to sugar-coat or dumb down important issues (I know I kind of felt that way at first). But after going through the examples in the book, and looking for others on my own, I can see the value in his approach. Hopefully, others will, too.

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