Monday, February 26, 2007

Words that Work - Dr. Frank Luntz

Why are so many U.S. Senators so ineffective? One reason might be their inefficient and often indecipherable use of language:

Dr. Frank Luntz (Words That Work, Hyperion, 2007, pp. 37-8)said: "Senators go on television, ostensibly, to communicate with their constituents, but then squander the opportunity by droning on about "reconciliation" and "markup" and "cloture." They have the distinct ability to take a simple issue and mutilate it beyond all recognition.
In December of 2005, Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson stepped onto the Senate floor to talk about the complicated, unfair system of federal taxation--and instead uttered the sentence that did not end."

'Simply put [how ironic], we would sunset the current tax code on the Fourth of July, 2008, and command the Congress to take the next three years analyzing consumption taxes, progressive taxes, flat taxes, revenues of all sorts, and the effect each has on the economy and economic policy, and then come back to the American people prior to that date with a new simplified, fairer, flatter tax system, or failing to do so, the Congress of the United States would then be forced to vote on this floor to extend the existing system we have and all the injustice that goes with it'."
Count it: one hundred and three words to say what should have been said in eighteen: 'Congress needs to study and simplify the tax code, and they have three years to get it done.'"

Dr. Luntz points out that John F. Kennedy is the only member of Congress in modern times to have gone from Capitol Hill straight to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. He contennds that his ability to speak plainly and succinctly is a major reason for that fact. He says that legislators are handicapped when they run for executive office precisely because they tend to speak a language the American public simply doesn't find compelling.
Using language precisely but without superfluous wording may be a disappearing art.

No comments: