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The Art of Speeches and Presentations: The Secrets of Making People Remember What You Say by Philip Collins

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CHAPTER FOUR

LANGUAGE

After the preparation you have done, the time has arrived to start on the task that features in the job title – it is finally time to start writing. It is usually an error to start writing by piling up as many words as possible and then trying to boil the resultant mass down to speech length. But do start writing. Don’t indulge yourself with the notion that you have a glamorous condition called writer’s block. Just get on with it. Remember that writing is mostly editing and you need to be ruthless with your own work. The best source for good advice on how to write well remains George Orwell’s classic essay Politics and the English Language. Inure yourself to the jargon and dreary language which infests every profession. Above all else, try to be clear.

How Writers Write

The final element of being a good speech writer is the one that appears in the job title: writing. The connection between thinking and writing has been noted many times. Writing is arguing silently. This is the origin of rhetoric as a classical discipline. It evolved as an act of persuasion but also of discovery. The classical philosophers believed the skilled use of rhetoric helped to unearth the truth.

Writing is essentially a matter of saying things in the right order. Lots of speeches call to mind Eric Morecambe’s great response to André Previn’s charge that he was playing all the wrong notes. “I’m playing all the right notes” he said, “just not necessarily in the right order.”

People ...

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