Great piece in the Washington Post by Barton Swaim author of “The Speechwriter: A Brief Education in Politics.”
His basic conclusion: “The most distinctive about Trump … is the structure of his language.”
Swain says that Trump — nnlike most politicians –doesn’t speak in political rhetoric; he speaks in punchlines – short jabs, not convoluted passages.
For context, Swaim argues that “most modern politicians are habitually careful with their language.”
They play defense … knowing that all of their words and sentences will be dissected by political opponents and the mainstream media.
Accordingly, their syntax “tends to abstraction. “
· They speak less about particular things and people — bills, countries, identifiable officials — and more about “legislation” and “the international community” and “officials” and “industry” and “Washington” and “government.”
· And, their sentences are very complex, using “a high number of subordinate clauses and qualifying phrases — “over the last several years,” “in general,” “in effect,” “what people are telling me,” and so on.
The problem: “When they rely too heavily on abstractions, when they avoid concrete nouns, when all their statements seem always hedged by qualifying phrases, they sound like politicians, in the worst sense of the word.
Trump’s language is different.
Trump “speaks in simple sentences, grammatically and conceptually … with very few of the complicating phrases you hear from an ordinary politician … He makes no effort to hedge his statements.””
And, Trump’s sentences usually “withhold their most important word or phrase until the very end.”
Pop, bang … here’s the takeaway … got it?
Trump’s sentences “get even shorter when he lapses into his campaign boilerplate. “
·His sentences sometimes contract to less than fifteen syllables … little more than a subject, a verb, and usually a direct object.
What makes his words effective is that they don’t sound like political speech.
Swaim ‘s overall observation: “For people who’ve grown weary of politicians using vague and convoluted language to lull or impress their listeners, to preserve their options and to avoid criticism, Trump sounds refreshingly clear and forthright.”
Trump may be wrong … or maybe even goofy … but he lays it out short and sweet … and lets people decide if they want to buy in.
So far, a lot of dogs seem to be eating the dog food …