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Language Intelligence: Lessons on persuasion from Jesus, Shakespeare, Lincoln, and Lady Gaga [Kindle Edition]

Joseph J Romm
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Joseph Romm, one of Rolling Stone magazine’s top “100 Agents of Change,” has focused his talents on helping us all to increase our Language Intelligence and better understand the art of persuasion.

Romm shows you don't have to be an expert to vastly improve your ability to communicate. He has pulled together the secrets of the greatest communicators in history to show how you can apply these tools to your writing, speaking, blogging — even your Tweeting.

Nothing could be more relevant in 2012 as Americans prepare to make vital choices in the upcoming elections. And so the book looks at the language intelligence of both President Obama and Governor Romney. Language Intelligence not only will prepare you to be a much more memorable and persuasive communicator, it will also help you to understand the tricks of the trade used -- and misused -- by candidates on the stump.

With a few easily digestible and memorable concepts, Language Intelligence also offers readers an indispensible roadmap for today’s political and pop culture landscape. “For anyone who seeks to understand why Lady Gaga’s music has become a global phenomena or how to avoid ‘Etch-a-Sketch’ moments, this book is for you,” said Romm.

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Product Description

About the Author

Joseph Romm is one of the country’s most influential communicators on climate science, solutions, and politics. He is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, where he runs, which New York Times columnist Tom Friedman called, ”the indispensable blog.” Romm is author of seven books and in 1997 was acting assistant secretary of energy overseeing $1 billion in clean energy investments.

“The Web’s most influential climate-change blogger” and “Hero of the Environment 2009” — Time magazine

“In terms of his cachet in the blogosphere, Joe Romm is something like the climate change equivalent of economist (and New York Times columnist) Paul Krugman.” — U.S. News & World Report

One of “The 100 People Who Are Changing America” — Rolling Stone

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 340 KB
  • Print Length: 231 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1477452222
  • Publisher: CreateSpace; 1 edition (1 Aug. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008RZD4L2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
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  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #147,377 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Mark Pack TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This American book has a typically understated quote from an admirer on the cover: "This book changed my life". Will it change yours? That depends on whether or not you already know the basics about rhetoric.

Joseph Romm's book is a good, easy to read introduction to standard rhetorical advice, such as the value of short words, the impact which repetition makes and the power of metaphors.

If this is all new to you, it's a great book as it covers the basics clearly, making it easy for you to start thinking about how to adapt the lessons to your own use.

If you are already familiar with this sort of advice, then it's a light breezy read - but one without much in the way of insight to add to what has already been said, many times by many others. A handy reminder for such a reader, perhaps, but with little in the way of new lessons or insightful examples.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful information! 23 April 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I started following the author and twitter and facebook and it really made me open my eyes to how important it is that I keep up to date with emerging social media!
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and an easy read 26 Nov. 2012
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I am happy to learn more about this language of ours and how to use it for all situations. Wordsmiths love all books on the subject.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beware of the Reptilians. 4 Jan. 2013
By S Smyth
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book was very helpful because it informed me about the fundamental value and importance of rhetorical devices which I hitherto regarded as decorative and/or stylistic appendages, akin to cake decorations.

As to the argument that climate science, as per the debate over man's contribution to global warming, is constrained by the inability of climate scientists to rhetorically articulate their science, to the polity, I would contend that Joseph Romm too much advocates the use of rhetoric to propagate sophistry to be seized upon by governments all too eager to have ways via which to subjugate the polity. A practice that is very much in play in the less savoury and impossible to negotiate with, non-English language parts of the world, where rhetoric is endemic: Iran and North Korea, to cite two.

Rhetoric may well make for more effective communication than plain language. However, as understood by President Obama, in his drive towards 'a more perfect union' that is not the free-for-all tribal dystopia of Kenya, the land of his Father: Beyond the high-art of Shakespeare or the harmless entertainment of Lady GaGa, less reliance on rhetoric is indicative of a culture that has an intelligence with regard to the abstract in lieu of that which may be conveniently concretised via metaphor and simile to sew dissent and division, like the ultra-nationalist vainglory that underpins today's Hungary under the thrall Fidesz and Jobbik, and Greece too much under the thrall of Golden Dawn.

To be fair, though, Joseph Romm does remark upon the darker side of rhetoric, and, to that effect, cites Cicero: "I have often seriously debated with myself whether men or communities have received more good or evil from oratory and a consuming devotion to eloquence."
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  68 reviews
104 of 106 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must-read for communicators, bloggers, anyone with a Twitter account 14 Aug. 2012
By John Cook - Published on
The book promises to help us "become more persuasive, more memorable and harder to manipulate". Romm achieves this by revealing the secrets of rhetoric, the art of verbal persuasion. This isn't a book about sneaky manipulation (although there is a chapter on how to identify such attempts in order to avoid being manipulated). This is about harnessing the power of language to craft compelling, memorable and emotionally engaging communication. These are skills all communicators need to hone, particularly scientists whose nature, let's face it, is to bleed their content of any emotion or character.

The first myth that Romm debunks is the notion that rhetoric is about soaring flowery language. On the contrary, there's a whole chapter "Short words win" devoted to keeping your language simple and natural. Winston Churchill, a master rhetorician that Romm references regularly, advocates the use of "short homely words of common usage" which have power and stick in the mind. George Orwell offers a simple rule of thumb: "Never use a long word when a short one will do".

A key chapter is on repetition and begins with a quote from Frank Luntz, the political strategist who infamously (and effectively) advised Republicans on how to confuse the public about climate change. Luntz advises that you repeat your message again and again and again: when you're absolutely sick of saying it, your target audience has heard it for the first time. This is sound advice for long-term messaging but Romm also talks about repetition in the way we put our words together. One form of repetition is rhyme (if you don't repeat, you can't compete). Another is anaphora, repeating the same phrase at the start of your sentences (we shall fight them on the beaches, we shall fight them in the fields, we shall fight them in the air). One of the most popular forms of repetition is chiasmus, repeating words in inverse order (ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country). As these iconic examples demonstrate, repetition helps messages stick.

For science communicators, I believe the most important lesson is the use of metaphors. Scientists are trained to think in the abstract while in general, people think in metaphors. It's a "Scientists are from Mars, people are from Venus" kind of thing. People conceptualize and make meaning of the world using analogies and metaphors, which transform the abstract into the concrete. Consequently, we take more notice of messages and remember them better when metaphors are used. Romm provides example after example of history's greatest communicators using metaphors to land home their message. And if you want to take it to the next level, use extended metaphors where your metaphor is adopted through a whole speech, article, political campaign, etc.

Lastly, Romm advises on how to spot someone using rhetoric to deceive or manipulate. This is just as important as understanding how to communicate better - learning how to see through misinformation and deceptive arguments. Actually, I would've liked to have seen more on this topic (I do have somewhat of an interest in the science of debunking). A key to seeing through misinformation is understanding the rhetorical techniques of misinformers, and Romm only touches the tip of the iceberg here.

Language Intelligence is extremely readable, due to the fact that Romm practices what he preaches, employing the full kitbag of rhetorical techniques that he expounds about. The principles of rhetorics are illustrated with colourful examples from some of history's greatest figures. It's not just a user manual on how to communicate but also a riveting account of the history of communication. Language Intelligence is a must-read for anyone who seeks to communicate better or safeguard themselves from rhetorical manipulation. If you're a communicator, a blogger, a public speaker or merely someone with a Twitter account, adopt this book as your user manual in how to tune up your talks, posts and tweets to maximum impact.
51 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What do Winston Churchill and Lady Gaga Know that You Don't? 12 Aug. 2012
By Scott A. Mandia - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
They know (knew) how to use rhetoric to send the strongest and longest lasting messages. Now you can learn the secrets of the great communicators such as Jesus Christ, Shakespeare, Lincoln, Lady Gaga, Winston Churchill, Bob Dylan, and others by reading Joseph Romm's latest book titled: Language Intelligence: Lessons on persuasion from Jesus, Shakespeare, Lincoln, and Lady Gaga.

Rhetoric in this case does not mean the most commonly thought of definition where you envision a political animal gushing forth with a diatribe of nonsense (picturing Rush Limbaugh now?) but instead, the more formal definition which is "the art or science of effective use of language."

Romm takes us on a history tour and shows us why the greatest communicators have been the ones that worked hardest at improving their rhetoric. I was surprised to learn that Winston Churchill in his early twenties already understood the power of effective rhetoric. (At the same age I was more concerned with finding the best price on beer and wings! Rhetoric was off my radar.) While only 22 years old, Churchill wrote a manifesto in which he said,

"The influence exercised over the human mind by apt analogies is and has always been immense. Whether they translate and established truth into simple language or whether they adventurously aspire to reveal the unknown, they are among the most formidable weapons of the rhetorician. The effect upon the most cultivated audiences is electrical...One such will make a speech or mar a measure."

The reader also learns that Lincoln studied Shakespearean orations in order to improve his speechmaking skills and would often argue for hours about the use of a single word in his or an opponent's speech.

I was quite pleased to read that Romm places Bob Dylan and Lady Gaga into the category of rhetorical genius. Dylan has been my favorite song writer since I started really listening to his lyrics as a high school student and I am a huge fan of Lady Gaga - not only because her songs are "sticky" but her message is inspiring. P-P-P-P-Poker Face. Rhetoric is a big reason why these two messengers have such a huge following.

Romm gives up his secrets in this book just like the great poker player Doyle Brunson did with his landmark Super System that changed the game of Texas Hold `em. (The book was so good that Doyle had to completely change his game because he was getting beat by 18 year old Internet players who went to school on Brunson's book.) So why is Romm divulging his secrets?

Romm is a strong advocate for immediate action to halt the oncoming freight train that is human-caused climate change. His blog, Climate Progress, is arguably the best climate-related blog on the web and there you can see how Romm uses powerful rhetoric to send his messages. Unfortunately, most scientists are hard-wired to make many of the mistakes Romm tries to steer the reader away from. On the other hand, the public relations evil geniuses that represent the fossil fuel industry have used the rhetoric playbook for years to beat our brains out on the football field that is public understanding of climate change. Romm is handing his playbook to you - climate communicators - in order to level that playing field.

Romm's book is packed with powerful advice. A few are highlighted below:

1. The title is probably more important than the content. Hey bloggers, your title is like the cover letter while your blog is the resume. A great cover letter means your resume will get a read. Bad letter = no read. Spice up those titles.
2. Keep it simple! Avoid jargon and try to use one syllable words as often as possible. I recall a phone interview I did with a reporter at The Los Angeles Times. Afterward, the reporter said, "Thank you for talking to me so even a 12 year old could understand." Big words impress few. Small words impress many.
3. Tell a story! (This is a key point made by legendary actor Alan Alda who now spends his time teaching science students how to effectively communicate.)
4. Use metaphors, similes, analogies, and irony to make your points. The brain is always trying to make connections and these rhetorical strategies help to cement those connections. Climate communicators can see many great examples at
5. Repetition, repetition, repetition. One of the quotes that really stuck with me is one from Republican strategist and no friend of climate change, Frank Luntz:

"There's a simple rule: You say it again, and you say it again, and you say it again, and you say it again, and you say it again, and then again and again and again and again, and about the time that you're absolutely sick of saying it is about the time that your audience has heard it for the first time."

Reading this book is like taking steroids. If you are not a good communicator right now, after reading this book, you will be. If you are a good communicator right now, you will become a great one! Give yourself a legal injection of powerful rhetoric - read this book.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Tour de Force!! 14 Aug. 2012
By Michael Totten - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Joe Romm has written a much needed book in these days of toxic media and polarized politics that have all but derailed needed action on the greatest challenge of our times, climate destabilization. As readers of Joe Romm's award-winning web site, Climate Progress, well know, Joe has been sharing insights about the importance of understanding the force of rhetoric and persuasion in illuminating or obfuscating understanding of a complex subject like the threat of climate weirding. The rhetoric used by climate deniers has proven very potent in confusing the public. Many of us have been awaiting for the arrival of Joe's book on rhetoric and persuasion, and it turns out to be outstanding, just like his previous books which are all packed with deft phrasing, helpful insights and suggestions, and always consummate in facts and accuracy. Joe's Language Intelligence should be used in school curricula, because an educated citizenry must be well-schooled in the tools of rhetoric and persuasion, so as to be able to discern the veneer of suggestive arguments disguising vacuous and highly misleading, inaccurate statements. And certainly any person speaking in public or in elected office should make reading this book their top priority.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Language learning paragraph by paragraph ... 14 Aug. 2012
By A. Siegel - Published on
This book surprised me by just how much I learned ... in terms of straight out knowledge/education (truly, I had little understanding of the Shakespeare's educational formation and how it related to the language power of the best-known English translation of the Bible) and in terms of ways of thinking about how to structure / use language more effectively.

In 2004, amid many frustrations, I could not understand why Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry (and the 'campaign') remained locked so hard into the Vietman War and failed to create a narrative of his life-long service to the nation from the SEAL operations in Vietnam, to principaled efforts to end the war on his return from overseas, to protecting citizens in the courts as a prosecutor, to his service in Congress. Â Rather than "SEAL in Vietnam", I yearned for "a life of service" as message -- a truthful message that would communicate how John Kerry had, for decades, been devoting himself to larger purpose in service to America and Americans. While that frustration remained through the campaign and beyond, that frustration never fit within a meaningful intellectual construct until page 96 of Joe Romm's new book Language Intelligence: Lessons on Persuasion from Jesus, Shakespeare, Lincoln and Lady Gaga.

"The 2004 presidential campaign revealed how foreshadowing had moved to the forefront of modern political campaigns. ... John Kerry based much of his campaign on events in Vietnam ... Kerry, however, made two fatal mistakes in his foreshadowing effort ... First, he never linked the second half of his life to the first half, never completed the life story, to show that the foreshadowing had in fact foreshadowed anything."

A core inadequacy of the 2004 campaign captured succinctly within the framework of rhetoric and the power/importance of rhetoric.
As for the second 'fatal mistake', leaving the door open for the misrepresentations and (outright) lies for the Swiftboat Veterans for Truthiness:

"Second, if you are going to build a campaign around some foreshadowing event, you must defend your story against the inevitable attacks. Your opponents understand the power of foreshadowing and will not just sit by while you write the story you write."

Page 96 does not rest unique -- essentially every page provided some form of education and enlightenment from lessons about the educational environment of Shakespeare's formation to Lincoln's intense passion about rhetoric to the power of metaphor within Lady Gaga's lyrics. Paragraph-to-paragraph, page-to-page, Language Intelligence is filled with insights and lessons about the power of language and how to use language more effectively for impact.

This is a book that should appear in the nation's classrooms -- honestly, any debate team that reads this (and absorbs it) would be advantaged against those who don't. And, while a valuable tool for English classes, it merits addition to the (all too rare) civics class as a tool to better understand and interpret political dialogue in the United States.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Practical, thoughtful, and powerful 14 Aug. 2012
By Andrew P. Jones - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As a communicator and writer, I appreciate the practicality of "Language Intelligence." It reminds me of those books that live in a cherished section of a near-my-desk bookshelf: "The Elements of Style," "Getting to Yes," and "Difficult Conversations." These are books I return to often to make my work more effective and my life easier. Romm's new book belongs there.

Two bonuses: 1) the book is funny and hip and 2) it is grounded in the classics without sounding academic.
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