Words That Work: The 10 Rules of Communication

What are the Frank Luntz’s Words That Work and why are they important?

They’re important because -

American business and political communication is rife with bad habits and unhelpful tendencies that can do
 serious damage to the companies and causes they seek to promote. Just as in every other field, there are rules to good, effective communication.
- Frank Luntz

Most people violate (unknowingly) violate these rules. And as a result they spread strife and lose business.

Below are the 10 principles behind the Words That Work.

Simplicity: Use Small Words

“Broadly speaking, the short words are the best, and the old
 words best of all.”
- Winston Churchill

At all costs avoid words that will make your listeners or readers reach for the dictionary. Because odds are, they won’t. And your writing has immediately become less clear.

Brevity: Use Short Sentences

I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.
- Mark Twain
Long enough to reach the ground.
- Abraham Lincoln, on how long a man’s legs should be

Don’t be unnecessarily wordy. Make your message just as long as it needs to be — then make it a little bit shorter.

Your readers’ time is more important than your’s. Remember that.

Credibility Is As Important As Philosophy -

Say what you mean and mean what you say
- Frank Luntz

People have to believe you if they are ever going to buy from you.

It doesn’t matter how beautiful your message is. If people don’t believe it, it’s worthless.

Consistency Matters

Too many politicians insist on new talking points on a daily basis, and companies are running too many different ad executions. By the time we begin to recognize and remember a particular message, it has already been changed.
- Frank Luntz

For messaging to be successful. It has to be memorable.

The best way to assist someone in remembering your message is to repeat it. Often.


Words That Work

Christian Brando (son of Marlon Brando) admitted to shooting his sister’s fiance at point blank.

His attorney, Robert Shapiro (of O.J Simpson fame) had a two-fold legal argument.

1) Christian had no intention to commit a crime, so it was accidental,

2) Since there was a general intent, and not a specific intent, it would be classified as involuntary manslaughter.

Shapiro coined the phrase ‘Accidental Manslaughter’, he said those words in every single media comment, hundreds of times over three months (remember consistency).

Now, even though the phrase exists nowhere in the law, when people look back on the case they say that Christian Brando admitted to ‘Accidental Manslaughter’. Not to “Shooting his sister’s fiance in the face”.

Sound and Texture Matter

Martin Luther King Jr. started and ended his speech with the words ‘I have a dream’.

Opening and closing a piece with the same passage is a common technique for jazz musicians.

Speak Aspirationally

Messages need to say what people want to hear.
- Frank Luntz

When crafting Words that Work you need to say what people want to hear.

Reach them on a personal level. Let them know that what you’re offering can give them the lives they want.

And make them the people they want to be.


Paint a vivid picture. From M&M’s “Melts in your mouth not in your hand” to Morton Salt’s “When it rains, it pours,” to NBC’s “Must See TV,” the slogans we remember for a lifetime almost always have a strong visual component”
- Frank Luntz

People need to be able to see and feel what you’re telling them.

Make the abstract concrete — and paint a clear picture.

Ask a Question

“Got Milk?”

Asking a simple, rhetorical question might be the most powerful form of messaging you can have.

A question can cut to the heart of an issue. And forces readers and listener’s to engage.

Provide Context and Explain Relevence

Without context, you cannot establish a message’s value, its impact, or most importantly, its relevance.
- Frank Luntz

Your messaging, no matter how ingenious. Doesn’t exist in a vacuum. You have to be mindful of how your messaging fits in to the broader context of the conversation around your product or industry

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Originally published at BrianGroat.com.