Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Watch Your Language

The father of phrases like death tax (a.k.a. estate tax) and climate change (a.k.a. global warming), Republican strategist Frank Luntz employs focus groups to examine words’ emotional content.

His goal is to find words that will change people's visceral reactions to hot-button issues.

In a 2012 speech to the Washington State Chamber of Commerce, Luntz advised business executives to revise some of their pet phrases. He recommended they replace :
  • Free enterprise with economic freedom
  • Middle class with hardworking taxpayers; and 
  • Business climate with healthy economy.
Luntz also recommended executives strike understand, accountable and important from their vocabularies, because listeners no longer have faith in these words.

You need not agree with Luntz's politicsI, for example, would replace his death tax with fairness reset and his climate change with planetary meltdownto agree with his theory.

The emotional content of words makes them powerfully persuasive.

Novelist Joseph Conrad once wrote, "He who wants to persuade should put his trust not in the right argument, but in the right word. The power of sound has always been greater than the power of sense."
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