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Book Review - Words That Work

Words That Work by Dr Frank Luntz

I found this to be a very interesting book, and for me it makes a ton of sense. One of the hardest things to do in sales and marketing is to get your message across to a prospect or client, in exactly the way you would like for them to receive it. Amongst other topics, this book talks about how we all frame what we hear or see, based upon our own prejudices, background and pre-existing beliefs.

Luntz spends some time defining the 10 Rules of Effective Language, again all of which is very rational and if applied can be very powerful.

1. Simplicity: Use small words!
2. Brevity: Use short sentences.
3. Credibility is as important as philosophy. (People need to believe what you are saying).
4. Consistency matters. Repeat your messages again and again.
5. Novelty: Offer something new. Old often repeated phrases lose power.
6. Sound and texture matter. An example is a string of words with the same first letter may be more memorable than a string of random words.
7. Speak Aspirationally. The idea here is to trigger an emotional response by personalizing the message so that it is something the reader can relate to.
8. Visualize. Paint a vivid picture with your words ... "Melts in your Mouth" was an example given.
9. Ask a Question. A statement phrased as a rhetorical question can be very powerful. The example given is "Got Milk?"
10. Provide Context and Explain relevance. The message needs to explain the "Why", the "therefore" and answer the question "so what" in order to be powerful.

Luntz addresses some other very interesting areas such as proving that they way in which you phrase things can often predetermine the reaction. We see this in courtroom dramas when lawyers are accused of "leading" the witness. Luntz uses the example that 42% of Americans supported the notion that they spend too much on "welfare". Yet 67% of Americans also felt they don't spend enough on "assistance to the poor". Clearly you can impact the result by the words you use ... and no doubt most surveys use this to their advantage!

There is much more of interest in this book but I'll finish by mentioning the 21 Words and Phrases for the 21st Century that Luntz feels are powerful in the US culture, and one assumes largely applicable in the English speaking world. There are some obvious words such as "Imagine", "Innovation" and "Peace of Mind" to name a few. There are some others that are a little more oblique such as, "A culture of ...", "Casual elegance" and "hassle-free" which might surprise some readers.

This book is definitely worth a read, and could have impact in many ways. Speaking of which, I must dash and reread some of our marketing literature!