Join getAbstract to access the summary!

Words That Work

Join getAbstract to access the summary!

Words That Work

It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear


15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

How you say something is as important as what you expert's practical guide to communication.

Editorial Rating



  • Applicable
  • Well Structured
  • For Beginners


This book's readability says a lot about the power of author Frank Luntz's advice on communicating. The text flows, usually matching actions with concepts. For instance, Luntz repeats how important it is to repeat your message. He uses simple language to illustrate the importance of simple language, and so on. What's more, the book is entertaining. Luntz has been involved in major media campaigns with key American products and politicians, and his story about demonstrating an important principle to the Senate is hypnotic. The caveat is that such stories sometimes seem boastful and end up being off-putting when they are clearly meant to be engaging. That grain of salt aside, getAbstract recommends this extremely useful book to those who want to improve their communication skills. The book is directed toward Americans, though it debunks myths about them for the entertainment and edification of everyone else. Some of the book's principles are familiar, but so deeply fundamental that they are worth repeating – which is actually Luntz's fourth rule of effective language use. Say it right, and then say it again.


"The Ten Rules of Effective Language"

To communicate successfully, learn one core principle: "It's not what you say, it's what people hear." People don't listen objectively. They filter what they hear and see through their personal lenses. Tailor your words accordingly. Let the following ten rules guide your communication to increase how well people understand your message and how many of them will agree with you:

  1. "Use small words" – Use the simplest language possible. Keep your audience in mind. Most people did not graduate from college. They are very busy. Long, obscure words slow people down. They either have to look them up or accept the fact that they don't understand – and resent you for it.
  2. "Use short sentences" – Be brief. Don't say more than needed. Reduce your message to the shortest possible statement that will do the job. Use taglines and slogans. Use active, not passive, verbs.
  3. "Credibility is as important as philosophy" – People have to trust you in order to believe what you say. Do not say one thing and do another. Don’t give people reason to doubt you, or make claims for yourself...

About the Author

Frank Luntz has supervised more than 1,000 focus groups or surveys, and has advised business and political leaders on shaping their messages.

Comment on this summary

  • Avatar
  • Avatar
    N. J. 2 years ago
    Say it so it can be heard not just said
  • Avatar
    J. G. 5 years ago
    Great short audio! Love the point about making your statement as simple and short as possible. In a society where we are all about showing off our education/knowledge... we feel the need to use complicated words/language. ( perhaps feeding our ego , showing off, fear of being judged etc ).
  • Avatar
    D. I. 10 years ago
    "Successful, effective messages...stick in our brains and never leave.."