Words That Work: It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear

By Dr. Frank Luntz

Frank Luntz is a communication strategist for corporate and political clients. Although he’s done a lot of work for Republicans (including the Contract with America) this is not a book about political ideology. It’s about persuasive communication in political campaigns, product marketing, and labor disputes.

Words that work do not happen by chance. Luntz uses market research techniques (polls, focus groups, dial sessions) to test how audiences respond.

Examples of words that work are:

  • Public safety (instead of fighting crime)
  • Exploring for energy (instead of drilling for oil)
  • Gaming (instead of gambling)

Numerous insights are shared. For example: Americans are neither well educated nor do they know the substance behind the issues. Therefore image matters more than policy, and complex messages usually fail.

Ten rules for effective communication are explained in the first chapter: simplicity, brevity, credibility, consistency, novelty, sound, aspiration, visualization, questioning, and context.

Luntz, Frank I. Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear. New York: Hyperion, 2007. Buy from Amazon.com