I’m Not a Speech Writer!

Devices & Tools That Writers Can Use Like Speech Writers

I came across a snippet of an online class offered by Microsoft Office. In the blog posting, devices that speech writers use are the same tools that authors and poets can use.

You say, “I’m not a speechwriter?”

Yes, you are. You are writing to a people of a discerning ear who can appreciate a good vocabulary, syntax, color, and clarity. Good speeches are written by good writers. Great speeches are created with tools taken from historically famous writers.

In the beginning, John F. Kennedy was not very interesting as a speech giver. He had to work on his presentation, his breathing, his choice of words, and his delivery. But what made a difference for him was learning how tools like “anaphora,” “chiasmus,” and “tricolon” aided his method of writing.

JFK was a list maker.

 

Lists — As his speechwriter, Ted Sorensen, noted in his memoirs, time and again Kennedy preferred to work in lists. Kennedy believed that using simple lists made points memorable, because they were easily repeated. Sometimes, those lists followed the “rule of three,” or “tricolon,” making sure to use three images, arguments or examples.

Other times, Kennedy made longer lists by using “anaphora”: repeating one word several times to expand a list and continue an over-long sentence well past the rules of grammar.

Kennedy often used the classical literary device, “chiasmus,” to invert the word order in a sentence and make a new meaning. (see samples below)

Consider how Kennedy uses “the rule of three” and chiasmus to begin his inaugural address:

“We observe today not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom, symbolizing an end as well as a beginning, signifying renewal as well as change.”

writing chart

writing tools chart

Experiment with Different Tools

Simple but powerful control mechanisms, when used in clarity for the audience or reader, will help define the voice of your writing. Are you like JFK? No. You are the writer within using the tools of the trade to define your voice.

Rusty LaGrange