Huffpost Books
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Van Jones Headshot

The New "Must Read": Joe Romm's Language Intelligence

Posted: Updated:

In a war of ideas, the weapon of choice is words. Even when equipped with better and more popular ideas, progressives are losing the fight on ideas because of how we communicate those ideas -- or fail to communicate them.

When I read an early draft of Joe Romm's Language Intelligence two years ago, I told Joe it changed my life. I realized what I had learned from osmosis and practice through hundreds of speeches and direct feedback were secrets figured out centuries ago by the Elizabethans and others. Social scientists and advertisers have confirmed these secrets are the key to being memorable and persuasive.

To get our ideas out there, progressives need to communicate more powerfully. We aren't failing to come up with good solutions. We're failing in explaining them to the American people. That's why I am encouraging every progressive to read Joe Romm's new book: Language Intelligence: Lessons on Persuasion from Jesus, Shakespeare, Lincoln, and Lady Gaga.

Let me give you a quick example of Romm's Rules, in effect: when Rebuild the Dream campaigned to prevent the doubling of Stafford loan rates this summer, we followed his formulas for effective communication. By doing so, we were able to help millennials and students win a big victory on student loans.

The first rule: keep it short. "Don't Double My Rate" got straight to the point of what we were trying to accomplish. It's hard to envision a campaign slogan like "Keep federal Stafford loans at their current low rates" taking off in the same way.

The second and third rules: use figures of speech and repetition to make memes memorable. The alliterative nature of "Don't Double" helped make the campaign catchy, effective, and persuasive. As President Obama took up the "Don't Double My Rate" cause, the term was repeated in speeches and the media, and it was constantly trending on Twitter until Congress took action to pass "Don't Double."

That is just one example of the usefulness of Joe's approach. As one of the most impactful climate bloggers on Earth, Joe Romm knows the ins-and-outs persuasive communication. His Language Intelligence is the progressives' field guide in the war of ideas. If you liked Lakoff's Don't Think of An Elephant, you'll love Language Intelligence.