Reading: “Word Hero”

21 November, 2011

books, Language, writing

During my Saturday haunting of the book shelves at Barnes & Noble, I stumbled by accident on this gem: Word Hero, by Jay Heinrichs: “A fiendishly clever guide to crafting the lines that get laughs, go viral, and live forever.”

Had I looked for it in the business or marketing section I’d never have found it, which explains why I hadn’t picked this up already. Nope, I discovered it in the Linguistics and Language Arts section, a bottom-of-the-shelf and poorly populated section at that. I had to get on my hands and knees to see the book bindings.  Personally, I think the publisher’s categorization is off. The audience that ought to read this will likely not be visiting the linguistics section, online or offline. Rhetoric gets a bad rap. Heinrichs brings it back to earth and grounds it in the most current examples he can conjure–brilliant lines from TV shows, slogans from advertising, memorable quotes from great writers, business people, and politicians.  He quotes unabashedly  dozens of brilliant lines from the TV show Glee (a particular favorite of mine) as examples of classic rhetorical “witsmithing.”

Despite Heinrichs’ usage of classic rhetorical “figures of speech,” this teaches everything that other marketing writing books are teaching and then some. It’s actually sending me digging into traditional rhetoric lessons. Because really the same rules apply today that applied nearly 2,000 years ago. The words we use–our language and colloquialisms– have changed, but the techniques we wield for persuasion and influence through writing, Heinrichs proves, have not. In Word Hero, Heinrichs has gathered together a few dozen traditional rhetorical “figures” and recast them as usable  word “tools.”

I recommend that Word Hero be wolfed down from the same Viking-sized dinner plate as The Micro-Script Rules (Bill Schley) and  Powerlines (Steve Cone), followed by an after-dinner grog of the Heath brothers’ Made to Stick.

For more on Jay Heinrichs, visit his blog Figures of Speech Served Fresh

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