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A speechwriter's best friend

Review of The Political Speechwriter′s Companion: A Guide for Writers and Speakers, 2nd edition; by Robert Lehrman and Eric Schnure. 536 pages.

To call this book an essential tool for speechwriters doesn't do it justice—or really capture its ambitious scope. If you could take one of those Swiss army knives with 35 different useful functions, and turn it into the equivalent of a handy volume on speechwriting, you would end up with something very close to The Political Speechwriter's Companion. It is without doubt a most worthy successor to its beloved and very popular predecessor.

Just like when you pack a Swiss army knife for a long (or short) camping trip, with the Companion close by your desk, you'll be ready as a speechwriter for just about any situation that might come up in your professional endeavors. This includes: how to begin a speech, and how to end one; finding language that people will both understand and remember; making the best use of anecdotes and jokes; getting on with the person you write for; and why solid research is so important in the mix of ingredients that produces a strong speech.

As in any situation where a number of different parts with vastly different functions are brought together in a single package, overall functionality is key. And here, Robert Lehrman and Eric Schnure (and their publishers at SAGE) deserve extra congratulations. This book begins with a simple table of contents, highlighting the titles of its 18 chapters, followed by a second, more detailed table of contents that breaks the roughly 370 pages of the book focused on the mechanics of speechwriting into easily-digested two to six page chunks.

This secondary table of contents allows the reader to directly access suggestions on specific topics such as: “Writing to Make Them Laugh,” “Making Evidence Memorable,” “What Do Audiences Feel About the Speaker?” “Making Language Rhythmic,” “Appealing to Emotion,” “Researching the Poetry,” and so on. Just like any other multi-functional tool, a book like this has to be structured so it can be used on the fly, under the gun of pressing deadlines, or else it’s going to sit on the shelf and gather dust.

As the hosts used to say on those late-night TV infomercials—“and there’s more.” In addition to plentiful servings of annotated speeches, interviews with various experts, helpful exercises, memory-jogging checklists, pointers on further reading and too many laugh-out-loud observations from Lehrman and Schnure to count, the Companion also comes with about 80 pages worth of model speeches “for almost any occasion.”

You may not be able to use the Companion to clean your nails, uncork a bottle of wine or clip the end off a cigar, as you can with some actual Swiss army knives. The book doesn’t come with a laser pointer, or a universal wrench. Nor can you easily fit it into your back pocket, or attach it to your belt (no way, at 536 pages). But when it comes to helping readers prepare effective speeches while providing advice on managing the issues, both small and large, that can impede scribes’ best efforts, this book is the multi-implement tool you will want to have within reach.

Get the best price by buying the book directly from the publisher and using the code SAGE2019.

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