Tools of the Trade

We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire…Give us the tools and we will finish the job.
– Sir Winston Churchill

In my book Communication Wins, I write about message structure, types of messages, communication strategies, gaining credibility with your audience, audience analysis and many other topics that matter to writers.  Lady liberty2

One of my favorite chapters is Chapter 14 – Tools of the Trade. Below is an updated version of an excerpt from that chapter. Learn to use these tools and I guarantee that your writing and speaking will improve.

Compare and contrast: An apple and an orange are both fruits. They are comparable and alike. However, they are also different. They have contrast in their appearance (red versus orange), outer skin (smooth versus rough), texture and taste. You can increase your listeners’ understanding of one feature by highlighting its opposite. For example, we can better understand wisdom by illustrating foolishness.

Repetition: Repeating and summarizing concepts can help your audience grasp important concepts, experience emotions, or heed your call to action. Ministers, coaches, and motivational speakers often use this technique to drive home key points.

Metaphor: A metaphor is a game of pretend. A metaphor pretends that something is something else. A word or phrase that describes one thing is used to describe something not normally associated with that word or phrase. For example, “Her heart melted with compassion when she saw her tiny son struggling to tie his shoelaces.” Obviously, her heart did not “melt” in the literal sense.

Euphemism: An inoffensive or indirect expression replaces words that may be considered offensive, impolite, harsh or shocking. Saying someone “passed away” is a euphemism for “died.”

Simile: A figure of speech that makes a direct comparison between two unlike entities using the words “like” or “as.” For example, “She’s smart as a whip.” Similes can create vivid associations in your audience’s mind. Similes are like garlic; they should be used sparingly. The reason to use them sparingly is because they tend to require the audience to pause and think about the comparison and that can interrupt the flow of your message.

Symbolism: Symbolism evokes (but does not describe) an emotion, concept or idea. You can use the symbolism of something concrete to represent something abstract, such as a flag to evoke the concepts of duty, loyalty and honor; a light bulb to represent the concept of a brilliant idea; a company logo to represent brand attributes, or a lion to represent bravery and strength. Icons and emoticons are modern-day symbols. Symbols are often more effective than perfectly constructed sentences.

Concrete/Abstract: Concrete terms and words refer to things we engage through our senses. Something may be “hot,” “green,” or “loud.” Abstract terms may be just as real but less available to our senses – freedom, love, success and sexism (any ism) are examples of abstract words that have real meaning but are undetectable through our five senses.