Customer Reviews: Just Say the Word!: Writing for the Ear
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on October 19, 2006
Before I got a hold of this material, my sermons were dry and full of "term paper speak." It never occurred to me to "write for the ear," as Jacks instructs.

Simply put, this was impactful stuff. Highly recommended! Your listeners will be thrilled at the changes in your presentations.
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on February 26, 2014
The subtitle says it all. Too many preachers read essays to us instead of talking to us in conversational style. We are treated to drafts and several redraftings of sermons. I have picked up this habit and rarely preach anything that hasn’t been redrafted about seven times with all unnecessary words excised (though that means people have to realty listen as they’ll miss something that won’t be repeated, a point that won’t be laboured.)

Short sentences with no sub clauses, no sentence more than one line long so that eye can leave the text and scan the congregation with lots of eye-contact. So no run-over sentences.

A tutor once told me that I write sermons in blank verse and that I should never lose that. Well, I haven’t.

Don’t waste words, no long words, especially Greek to show off your knowledge.

Avoid the passive voice.

Some examples:

‘I was informed by him that he intended to go…’ = ‘He told me he was going…’

‘I am of the opinion that…’ = ‘I think.’

‘I don’t need to tell you…’ – then don’t tell! Strike it out.

Approximately = about

Prior to = before

I’d like to share with you something that happened to my friend Tim…. = Tim…

Do you really need words with more than two syllables? Egotistical = selfish.

Strike out ‘that’ and ‘which’.

Don’t feed the faithful with junk food – is your anecdote really necessary?

Don’t tell the congregation how you did your homework. Do they really need to be told, ‘When I looked at the passages in the lectionary for this week….’? Just dive in.
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VINE VOICEon September 16, 2005
I feel bad about giving a negative review, especially as the first reviewer of this book, but it's just that bad. As someone with over a decade of experience in public speaking, including time as an award-winning coach, I urge you to look elsewhere. There are other books that can help accomplish the same task that are cheaper and better (see below).

This book has some major problems. First, it is organized badly. The information that is practical hasn't been organized in a manner conducive to remembering it and the table of contents and index are worthless. Second, it has no real overarching theme, except that if you are writing a speech you should write it the way you would speak, not like a term paper (now you know). It doesn't really tell you how to do so. Istead of a coherent system, Jacks provides a laundry list of isolated tips with mimimal or no explanation.

The book is a collection of seemingly random thoughts on things that are nice to do when planning and writing a speech. The list of items is huge. In one section SUMMARY, the author provides a handy list of over 50 tips you would have to remember WHILE SPEAKING. Several are contradictory, some redundant, and many expressed so badly that the author's purpose can hardly be divined. The whole book is like this: confusing and impractical.

Further, this book is badly written. The author bulks it up with lots of quotes and excerpts that he found interesting (although the link to the subject matter can be unclear) and lots of white space. $22 is an obscene price to pay.

A list of good books:

Aristotle's Rhetoric - this is the classic. It can be a little tough to read, but some translations are easier than others and there are even commentaries. The text is still taught, from high schools to graduate programs. If you have time, it's great and timeless. Inexpensive.

Cialdini's Influence - the author writes about general tactics of persuasion, but they all work in speeches. The focus is more on the psychology of persuasion. It's an interesting read, and cheaper. Cialdini has a much better resume than Jack, too.

Carnegie's Quick & Easy Guide to Public Speaking - not very in-depth, written for absolute beginners. It isn't the best out there, but it covers the basics and is a quick read. If you are at the point where Jacks might be helpful to you, you should buy this instead. Very inexpensive.

Lucas' Art of Public Speaking - this is actually a commonly used textbook. It includes lots of training exercises, samples, and excerpts from good authors. It also covers different types of speeches. It's in its 8th Edition at the time of my review, but you can still find the 7th for a bargain. If you will be speaking often (a preacher, for example), this is the perfect book. It will give you all the tools you need.

Whatever your needs, good luck on your next speech or presentation!

*** Edit 4/6/08: I guess some people like "Just say the Word!" My point is this: it is terribly written, horribly organized, and contains less substantive material than other similarly priced books. You will learn better from a competently written guide. I've had the bad fortune now to come across this book in two educational settings and the only reasons I can think that someone would use this book is if they like the idea that it is specific to preaching or because they don't know any better. I've worked with preachers, studied the style, and even took a class from two prominent preachers who train preachers. My analysis of this book is not a rejection of its emphasis on preaching, but a recognition that a preacher ought to be well prepared to speak the Word. This book doesn't get better just because the writer comes from a religious perspective, sadly. The idea that you should prepare a speech differently than a written work is 1000s of years old and some folks have done a better job explaining it than Jacks. If you are a preacher, you owe it to yourself, to the Word, and to your flock to turn to the best resources available.
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