If you are a blogger, a commenter, a tweeter, a public speaker or any type of communicator, you will benefit immensely from picking up a copy of Joe Romm’s fantastic new book, Language Intelligence: Lessons on Persuasion from Jesus, Shakespeare, Lincoln, and Lady Gaga.
DeSmog readers are likely familiar with Joe’s incredible work over at Climate Progress, where he and his team -- including my new friend Stephen Lacey, another fantastic writer -- expertly cover the politics and science of climate change and energy issues. A big part of the secret to the success of Climate Progress is Joe’s communications expertise.
“Everybody who cares about why science doesn’t get through to the public should read it.”
Romm covers everything about effective communication, from the critical importance of metaphors (especially extended metaphors) to language simplicity, repetition, using figures of speech, creating anticipation through foreshadowing, and other persuasive rhetorical techniques. As Romm explains so well, the key to effective writing is to engage the reader’s emotions, and work to inspire and activate your audience through honest and powerful communication.
Romm also reveals that he speaks his blogs using dictation software, rather than typing. He uses MacSpeech Dictate, a piece of software that I’ve owned for years but only used extensively during a bout with carpal tunnel when typing was too painful. I think I’ll dust it off and try it again, although I find that I type much more lucidly than I speak when developing thoughts. But I do actively ‘speak’ the words as I type them, which is the real point.
As blog writers, we need to remember that we’re having a conversation with our readers, we’re not writing academic papers or textbooks.
As the 18th Century novelist, Laurence Stone, said: "Writing is but a different name for conversation."
This is also demonstrated in the story often conveyed to aspiring journalists about Boston Globe writing coach Don Murray walking into the newsroom and instantly declaring that he could identify the three best writers in the room. "How did you know?" asked the Globe’s editor. "Because their lips move when they write," Murray responded.
I am thrilled that Joe finally slogged through to the finish line after decades of ruminating over the concepts and language tips found within the pages of Language Intelligence. From now on, this book will be required reading for all of DeSmog’s writing fellows, and it should be on your desk as well.
I sure wish I had a copy of this book when I first started writing professionally about threats to our environment and democracy 15 years ago. As Van Jones says of Language Intelligence, I concur that “this book changed my life.”
So go forth, ye aspiring (and accomplished) communicators, and check out Language Intelligence faster than you can say Jack Robinson.
Don’t feel as if you have to buy it today. Unless, of course, you’re wondering if it might change your life too?