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Words That Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear
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Words That Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  1,648 ratings  ·  202 reviews
The nation's premier communications expert shares his wisdom on how the words we choose can change the course of business, of politics, and of life in this country In Words That Work, Luntz offers a behind-the-scenes look at how the tactical use of words and phrases affects what we buy, who we vote for, and even what we believe in. With chapters like "The Ten Rules of ...more
Hardcover, 350 pages
Published January 2nd 2007 by Hachette Books (first published December 20th 2006)
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Elizabeth Burton Mainly from his work with the Republican Party as they launched their campaign to win over Middle America. As a beginning textbook for those who want…moreMainly from his work with the Republican Party as they launched their campaign to win over Middle America. As a beginning textbook for those who want to be able to weed out corporate media propaganda, it's excellent.(less)

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Apr 07, 2011 rated it really liked it

Let's be clear, Frank Luntz is a tool, and he's personally responsible for Republican's misrepresenting their platforms by using the power of word choice. But if you can look at what he's been able to do, you have to admit, he's amazing. Totally unethical, amoral, and a certified bag of dicks, but wow, he's literally convinced dying people to vote against their own medicare, poor people to vote against their own incentive programs, and criminals to increase prison sentences.

Oct 22, 2011 rated it liked it
This is my second book by Luntz, and I have the same problem with this book as I did with, WHAT AMERICANS REALLY WANT...REALLY. Every issue has many different sides, and various ways of interpreting the controversy. Luntz could very well support the views of Slave Holders, or promote the concepts of Freedom From Slavery. There does not seem to be A Moral Center to his work, and I don't think that it really matters to him. He is the man who changed "Inheritance Tax" to "Death Tax". He claims that ...more
Feb 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
Okay, I have to put a big caveat on the rating. I really did like it because I learned *a ton*.

I don't agree with the guy or admire him, and I think he really twisted the notion of what George Orwell was trying to get at in his famous essay—a lot of what this book does is in fact flirting the very edges of Orwellian language as we know it in the negative sense.

But in reality, what he is saying is to take advantage of the fact that words are imprecise, that the word "blue" conjures up different
Amal Shoeib
The author beaks down the infrastructural elements of a good speech as the following:

1) Simplicity: Use Small Words

“Avoid words that might force someone to reach for the dictionary… because most Americans won’t. They’ll just placidly let your real meaning sail over their heads or, even worse, misunderstand you. You can argue all you want about the dumbing down of America, but unless you speak the language of your intended audience, you won’t be heard by the people you want to reach.”

2) Brevity:
Oct 12, 2012 rated it liked it
Have you ever tried to convince someone of something and had exactly the opposite effect? The thesis of Dr. Frank Luntz, consultant to presidents, political parties, causes, and corporations, in Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear is that we tend to sabotage our communication with complexity, length, lack of dependability, inconsistency, and repetitiveness. See, I’ve already broken his command to keep it simple and brief. That probably undermines my credibility. The key ...more
Natasha Yong
Jun 07, 2009 rated it it was ok
Every occasionally, I think about "words".
How often we belittle its influence, its reach and its power. How mere 'words' can induce so much emotions. How it's used to encourage, to build and to grow; or how it's used to criticise, to demean or devastate.

Dr. Frank Luntz, America's premier communications expert shares his wisdom on how the words we choose can change the course of business, of politics, and of life. Frank uses his knowledge of words to help more than two dozen Fortune 500 companies
Vince Wu
May 28, 2011 rated it it was ok
For a book whose core message is effective language, I found "Words that Work" much too verbose and meandering for my liking. Some of the early chapters could be summed up quite easily in a few pages, especially as the ideas are borderline stating the obvious. I suggest reading chapter 1 "The Ten Rules of Effective Language" then skimming the rest unless you find an example particularly interesting.

It's quite clear though that Frank Luntz is an expert at the art of crafting and framing messages.
Garrett Burnett
May 20, 2008 rated it did not like it
Frank Luntz, excuse me, Dr. Frank Luntz came across as a pompous, arrogant idiot. I guess it was supposed to be a book on rhetoric. He includes some really weak bits about business, the history of the English language, and grammar that were cringe inducing. He is a pollster who works mainly with politicians. When he sticks with his strengths (opinion polls and dealings with politicians), the book is tolerable. As the one star I awarded indicates, for the most part it was not tolerable.

After a
Oct 25, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: i-own
Decades ago I was sitting in my Sophomore High School English class and we had an unexpected visitor. A previous "English Sterling Scholar" for the school stopped by to visit with our teacher and he was asked to give us an impromptu presentation. He'd gone on to major in English and was currently doing an internship on a speech writing team for one of our state politicians in Washington D.C. I remember him saying that he had a lot of people telling him that his English degree would be useless ...more
May 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
If you read this book, you also have to read "Don't Think of an Elephant" by George Lakoff immediately after you finish this book. The books are complimentary to each other, even though they were written by people from opposite political spectrums. Together, they make up what each book seems to lack.

This book was written by Luntz, who is an extreme right-winger and brags about how he helped Newt Gingrich grab power and how he bamboozled America into believing the "Contract for America" was a
Gerardo Alonso
Jun 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
Mmh, book for manipulative purposes in politics.

If you want to figure out how to communicate better, you'd be better off reading The Pyramid Principle, by Barbara Minto.
Jean-Daniel Veer
Mar 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: vocation, résumés
Comprehensive, but way too long for the message it's trying to convey.
Aug 13, 2008 rated it did not like it
This is a deeply cynical book by an author who never tires of telling you he was the main genius behind the "Contract with America" that helped the Republicans win control of Congress in 1994.
He starts by quoting George Orwell bemoaning the misuse of language. He then proceeds to misuse language, and purports to teach the rest of us to do the same, for the rest of the book.
According to Doctor Luntz, who has no doubt tested every word in polls and focus groups, changing the name of an activity
Evelyn Puerto
Jan 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Frank Luntz’s Words that Work is an engrossing read of words that do work, whether in politics, business or just everyday life. He doesn’t just give his opinions. Rather, they are backed up with extensive focus group and other research.

Luntz summarizes his book in just one sentence: It’s not what you say, but what you hear. Using case studies and examples, he demonstrates just how easy it is to think you are saying one thing but your audience hears another, and sets up 10 rules for effective
Apr 08, 2012 rated it liked it
Luntz is widely regarded as the patron saint of republican catch phrases, and here he supposedly offers to share his wisdom about the workings of effective language. For the person that has spent much time thinking about language (or has spent time just writing) I suspect that there isn't much here that is really going to blow your mind. Be direct; be repetitive; use simple language. Not bad advice, but not exactly a doctoral seminar either, from someone that very conspiculously displays the ...more
Kenny Tang
Easy to understand and a worthwhile read for anyone that communicates. It's not the most profound thing ever but it's amazing how many people fail to use these ideas in their communication. His 10 rules are the most worthwhile takeaway from this read. The book drags, lacks humor, and lacks gripping stories. In fact, I think the author makes exactly 1 joke in the entire book and I forgot all the stories already. The author is responsible for much of the language used in Republican political ...more
Laura McHarrie
May 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
It’s not what you say it’s what people hear that's important. A little too much bias towards American politics but some great tips. I particularly liked this small part ...

There are six re words that are incredibly powerful; because they take the best elements or ideas from the past and apply them to the present and the future ….

To renew is to take an important product or corporate commitment and reassert it.
To revitalise is to take something that is deteriorating and inject new life into it.
Oct 31, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: business, audiobook
Interesting, but not exactly what I thought it was. I was expecting a discourse on words in a broad context of communication. Instead, this is focused on words as catch phrases and as such it works very well for people that write advertisements and election campaign slogans and such. It doesn't go into how to sustain the impact of specific words and thoughts throughout a larger context, like a proposal response or longer forms of communication. Very good at what it does. I listend on audio, and ...more
Robert Manigold
Oct 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A very good read that helps people communicate more succinctly and clearly.
so who wrote this book again? was it frank luntz or aaron sorkin, creator of hit television series The West Wing... ??

kindof boring. and not worth my time!
Oct 19, 2014 rated it did not like it
Should be titled, "How to Be an Elitist Manipulator." Very nearly absolute rubbish.
Lori Grant
Mar 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A must-read book on improving your business communication skills.
Robin Rader
Dec 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
The subtitle says it all. If I could just remember that when it mattered ...

The tactical use of words could be seen as Machiavellian. But the point is that people do hear what is already in their heads and no communicator can ignore that. Example: "Health care choice" does not attract seniors because too much choice overwhelms them (I remember coming to the USA and being faced with an entire aisle of variety upon variety of cold cereal). What seniors do want is the "right to choose their health
Almost 3 stars. You know how you'll read books and it'll start off with a bang and other times books will take their sweet time? This one was stuck in the mud, spinning its wheels trying to get traction but going no where. Finally when the author did get his footing he took off towards politics and didn't let up. I wasn't expecting this one to be so political. This author loved John McCain. He recommended we use the word 'Washington' instead of 'the government'. This is so we don't conflict it ...more
Todd Gregory
Oct 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I have just finished working with Dr. Meulenbroek at the University of KY. I sincerely believe that if everyone used THE WORDS THAT WORK in all of their communications and conversations, then we would all be a lot happier in life. By using the words that work you will come across stern but understanding and caring, you can let people know your true feeling and thoughts without hurting their feelings. Using the words that work makes you sound sincere and not demanding but also helps the person ...more
Fab Mackojc
Powerful concept, but no need to read the whole book. The subtitle is the takeaway message: “It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear.” Similar words mean different things so choose them carefully. The book was a bit too political for my liking. The majority of the examples are from politics so I found myself skipping over certain chapters and skimming through most of the book. There were a few corporate examples that were interesting though.
Dillon Butvin
May 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very poignant and thought producing book. I expected this to be a work to help my writing, but it was more politically focused with a driving point of the way to reach a full market segment of people. Very useful for business and politics. The author's anecdotes make him sound a bit arrogant at times and his work majorly with the Republican party may annoy people... but get over it because he has a lot of good things to say and teach.
Tom Yarrington
Jul 29, 2019 rated it liked it
Despite my rating it is a good book. I think it could have been shorter and still effective. A good book for anyone involved in politics or marketing, but especially politics because the content is practical in that field. With marketing on the other hand, although many examples of good tag line usage is illustrated, advice on how to create good use of language for the readers product is lacking.
Feb 13, 2020 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Maurya by: TIM FERRISS - Tools of Titans
Yep, didn't love this.

I think it is the writing style more than what is said. For me, the author is a bit to self important - talks about himself too much, versus sharing what he has learned / knows.

The intro is good, covers the areas he is going to cover, and then says the same stuff again. Think it could have been a 'paper' not a book.
Michael Mary Andrews
Jan 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: blinkist
Blinkist summary review:
This is a tricky one. I'm also reading "On Writing Well" by William Zinsser and they appear to have opposing opinions on effective communication. While Zinsser advocates being yourself in writing, Luntz promotes knowing your audience and tailoring your words for them. Maybe this book leans more towards political writing which isn't what I need.
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“You can have the best message in the world, but the person on the receiving end will always understand it through the prism of his or her own emotions, preconceptions, prejudices, and preexisting beliefs. It's not enough to be correct or reasonable or even brilliant. The key to successful communication is to take the imaginative leap of stuffing yourself into your listener's shoes to know what they are thinking and feeling in the deepest recesses of their mind and heart. How that person perceives what you say is even more real, at least in a practical sense, than how you perceive yourself.” 14 likes
“Every attack that is not met with a clear and immediate response will be assumed to be true.” 5 likes
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