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Words That Work

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Words That Work
It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear. By Dr. Frank Luntz. (Hyperion: New York, 2007. Pg. 352.) ISBN 10: 1-4013-0259-9. ISBN 13: 978-1-4013-0259-7.

Reviewed by Sheldon Ztvordokov - February 15, 2007

The world of a writer is infused with words. Words are your tools and your constant companions. Most important, how you string together your words can make the difference between being a successful writer and working for your brother-in-law putting twist-ties in tiny boxes. Frank Luntz is a hot-shot pollster who has used his knowledge to help the Republican party connect with America and he knows, from personal experience, the importance of making proper word choices when it comes to waging a successful political or marketing campaign. In his book, Words That Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear Luntz explains his theories about word choices and how you can use words to motivate, sell, and alter the attitude of the listener.

Throughout this book, Luntz provides real-life examples drawn from the political and business worlds on how the use of just the right word grabbed the targeted audience, and succeeded in making them hear the message that the sender wanted them to hear. As well he has included case studies of political and advertising messages that failed to connect with their intended audience, and he explores why these particular messages failed. Be forewarned, most of the failed messages highlighted in this text are drawn from Democratic sources, while the successful messages are mostly drawn from Republican sources. While Luntz may have a very clear pro-Republican bias, and this may upset some readers, the information that he proffers will prove invaluable to all writers - no matter what your personal political stance may be.

Within the scope of this text, Luntz explores such diverse topics as how effective use of language can help a business prevent a strike, how it can help you get out of a traffic ticket or onto a plane after they stopped boarding and shut the jetway door and how altering a word, such as estate tax to death tax can have far reaching and unexpected political consequences. Luntz delves into how advertisers manipulated words in order to attract and turn a consumer into a life long, loyal costumer. Luntz also includes Ten Rules of Effective Language that will help keep you on track, especially when writing inspirational or marketing material. You'll also find a host of handy charts in this book, such as: I highly recommend Words That Work to writers of every ilk. Whether you are working on a dissertation, the next great American novel, or simply writing business emails - this book will make you think differently about the words you use, and how you can best pick just the right word in order to slant your message toward your intended audience. Granted, if you have spent any time thinking about what you are writing, you'll find that much of the information in this book is rather intuitive in nature, such as use active words over passive words whenever possible. However, the examples that he uses and his explanations about why some words work better than others will not only enhance your understanding and appreciation of the need to use 'words that work' but will also jump start your creative juices and have you looking for opportunities to recraft words and phrases into more powerful, message-centric forms.

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The Rowman & Littlefield Guide to Writing with Sources, by James P. Davis.
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