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Words That Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear Hardcover – January 2, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-1401302597 ISBN-10: 1401302599 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion; 1 edition (January 2, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401302599
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401302597
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (135 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #56,962 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

After repeating his mantra—"it's not what you say, it's what people hear"—so often in this book, you'd think that Republican pollster Luntz would have taken his own advice to heart. Yet in spite of an opening anecdote that superficially attempts a balanced tone, the book as a whole truly reads more like a manual for right-wing positioning. Even in the sections where he is less partisan, Luntz's advice is not particularly insightful. For instance, his first chapter, on "Ten Rules of Effective Language," starts by instructing readers to use small words and short sentences in their communications. The least effective section in the book is the chapter on "Personal Language for Personal Scenarios," where Luntz advocates manipulative strategies for getting out of traffic tickets, boarding airplanes at the last minute and apologizing to one's wife with the "miracle elixir" of flowers. The most readable and redeeming feature is the two case studies, where Luntz demonstrates his skill as a communicator by identifying real-world communications successes and failures. Unfortunately, by the time nonpartisan readers reach these chapters, they will have already lost patience. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Words That Work deserves an attentive read. Mr. Luntz offers a fair amount of good advice to anyone who must communicate publicly--most important, "be the message." By this he means that if you want to talk the talk and be believed, you must walk the walk--which is to say, you must mean what you say and act on it. Integrity sells.

"As the book develops, Mr. Luntz's "words that work" turn out to be portals for his clients to think hard about what they and their opponents stand for and how to align their positions more closely with what their audiences actually care about. This isn't hocus-pocus. It's just the result of hard work, careful thought and empathy--the staples of all intelligent public discourse."

-- Wall Street Journal

"Dr. Luntz, you are a freaking genius. The book is called Words That Work and you're always right." -- Chris Matthews

"Few political consultants can boast as many strings to their bow at such a young age as Frank Luntz. When he was barely in his thirties, the Republican wordsmith played a critical role in devising the Contract With America, which helped Newt Gingrich's Republican party win control of both houses of Congress for the first time in more than a generation....

"It is a fair bet that Luntz will play an influential role in the 2008 election, possibly in service of his old friend the former mayor of New York.

"Words That Work is Luntz's attempt to distil what he insists is his intrinsically honourable profession between two covers. To a large extent it works. Even where Luntz is protesting a bit too loudly - that negative attacks on political opponents rarely work, for example, and that, by implication, Luntz has never been involved in such skulduggery - he is always readable.

"Part lexicographic memoir, part self-help book, Words That Work shines when the accent is on the former. It is hard to think of any other political consultant in America who has coined as many effective slogans as Luntz. Some, such as his branding of the estate, or inheritance, tax as the "death tax", have remoulded conventional wisdom with devastating effect on their principally Democratic defenders.

"Others have crept into common usage less dramatically but just as effectively. Take "exploring for energy" instead of "drilling for oil", "tax relief" in place of "tax cuts", or "not giving" emergency hospital care to "illegal aliens" instead of "denying" it to "undocumented workers". Words, or rather the slicing and dicing of them to fashion our subliminal responses, do work, particularly when tried and tested in Luntz's two-hour "dial sessions", where volunteers convey their responses by turning a dial up or down in reaction to what they are seeing and hearing.

"Luntz has produced a fine book that teaches us a great deal about politics in today's America and about the minutely analysed mindset of the electorate. That Luntz's words are effective there can be little doubt." -- Financial Times

"Frank Luntz understands the power of words to move public opinion and communicate big ideas." -- Senator John Kerry

"If you can't afford to hire Frank Luntz, you have to read Words that Work." -- Steve Wynn

"One of the nation's leading pollsters and political language specialists." -- Washington Post.com

"The pollster has a long track record of identifying the phrases that make or break political and corporate campaigns . . ." -- The (London) Sunday Telegraph

"a MUST read!" -- Tony Robbins

More About the Author

DR. FRANK I. LUNTZ is one of the most respected communications professionals in America today. He has written, supervised, and conducted more than 1,500 surveys and focus groups for corporate and public affairs clients all over the world. The go-to guy for Fortune 500 CEOs, he is the first resource media outlets turn to when they want to understand the American public. The author of the bestseller Words That Work, Luntz lives outside Washington, D.C.

Customer Reviews

I recommend this book to anyone working with words.
Henry Blane Cox
The author spends a full chapter discussing the recall of California Governor Grey Davis, but that account bears no resemblance to what I observed.
Douglas B. Moran
Now, it is well known that Luntz is a Republican pollster and tends to work that side of the aisle politically.
Dr. Jonathan Dolhenty

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

213 of 224 people found the following review helpful By Craig L. Howe on January 19, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The world's best message is ineffective if the person on the receiving end does not understand or relate to it.

It is a harsh standard. It is a message communicators ignore at their own peril. You can be brilliant, creative, even right, but your message will fall flat unless it touches the hearer's prism of experience, beliefs, preconceptions and prejudices.

In Words that Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear, Frank Luntz offers insights into finding and using the right words to achieve your goals. The key to communication is to place yourself in the listener's situation and understand his or her deepest thoughts and beliefs. What the listener perceives constitutes the listener's reality.

Based on his experience as a political and corporate pollster he recommends 11 rules for effective communication:

1. Use small words.

2. Use short sentences.

3. Credibility is as important as philosophy.

4. Consistency matters.

5. Novelty: offer something new.

6. Sound and texture matter.

7. Speak aspirationally.

8. Visualize.

9. Ask a question.

10. Provide context and explain relevance.

11. Visual imagery matters.

Luntz does not stop there. In addition to an insightful discussion complete with illustrations from his professional experience of the 11 rules, he adds critical elaboration:

1. Never assume knowledge or awareness.

2. Get the order right.

3. Gender can obstruct understanding.

4. It's about the children.

5. How you define determines how you are received.
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271 of 306 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Jonathan Dolhenty on January 21, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Well, there is certainly something to be said about a book which has generated so many negative comments and "reviews," particularly by those who admit they have not even read "Words That Work." In this review I am not going to discuss the specific contents of the book since that is available elsewhere. I want to focus on some of the criticisms instead.

Frank Luntz, the author of this recent contribution to linguistic empowerment, and who just happens to be one of the more successful contemporary masters of the art of using words to persuade, has evidently touched a sensitive nerve in the brains of those who think that there is something "wrong" or "evil" about the grand old skill of rhetoric. Rhetoric, you say? OK, I realize that most of those educated within our institutions of "higher" learning during the past four decades or so may be suffering from an intellectual disorder called "classical deficiency syndrome" (or CDS), so please allow me to elaborate.

Rhetoric is art turned to the practical purpose of persuading or impressing. It is, in a way, the art of making speeches that count. Learning rhetoric was prized in the ancient Greek democracies as a means to success in public life. Aristotle, that grand master of realistic philosophical thought, inventor of systematic logic, and father of modern empirical science, even wrote a book called "Rhetoric" which contains a fairly systematic discussion of the forms of rhetorical argument. The study of rhetoric was valued by many philosophical schools of the past, and especially by the Stoic philosophers who made it a branch of logic. It was a proper study for philosophers and an absolute necessary for anyone contemplating a career in public life.
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58 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Donald Francis on January 31, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a how it is done book on persuasion, largely political and some business. Luntz is clearly very clever and effective at his craft, which he reveals openly. It is grotesquely fascinating and at times horrific to see how well the spin doctors can craft their art of deflection and persuasion, depending upon the need.

Luntz has taken a lot of slams in other reviews on Amazon. Mostly, it seems about his politics and his craft of deception, which is sort of beside the point given this is a how-to-do book. Luntz's examples of word choices are at times just better words (that's honest) but also do cross the line into non-truths, if not lies. Therefore, this book is great information for folks looking to learn how to better craft messages and also for those learning to recognize lies or propaganda. Luntz exposes just how gullible we really are to concepts and words that resonate in our minds. Herein may lie the best use of the book - a reminder of how vulnerbale we are to smooth talking and distortions, especially if we don't really want to make much effort to see through the veil.

As a sometimes media and communications professional it was a very helpful book. As Luntz points out, the effectiveness of words changes as they age, either out of culture or through over use. Over time, his examples of powerful words will ebb. Also, for the professionals out there this book is good reminder that maybe it is easy to start slipping down the slope if we don't keep a vigilant eye on ourselves.

Luntz makes a few references to Tony Schwart, the "father of modern advertising." If you are interested in the subjects of communication and have not read Tony's two books -- do.

I hope this is helpful.
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