OK this post is more serious than sweet – more salt than sugar – my more analytical rather than arty side – but this week as I hear all the Budget news, I’m in a more serious headspace. Been glued to AM radio.
Budgets are dramatic times and the Queensland budget this week has been a battle of words to defend or to attack the current cuts.
As a positive and persuasive message trainer and coach, I’ll share with you the little language tricks governments (and those opposing them) use to further their positions. I am no longer a political spin doctor but I learned many of these tricks in politics. My aim is to make you aware of the many tricks from just tweaking words and tense – to empower you to be aware how tweaking language can “spin” a particular angle you want.
Government spokespeople would have prepared and practised their messages – crafting messages by harnessing the power of:
1.word choice (longer words and nouns)
2. tense (future)
3. positive words and repetition to “spin” their message.
1. word choice – the longer and fancier the word – the more “considered” and “softer” it sounds.
Governments and bureaucracies will use longer, fancier words and often more static nouns rather than action words (verbs). Words that end in –ion and –ment (forming nouns) are very popular and sound bureaucratic, official and dispassionate.
Words such as re-deployment, rationalisation, transition.
Those opposing the government (the Opposition and Unions) will use short, sharp and dramatic words – often verbs to highlight action and drama. These words also are more emotional.
Words such as: axe, slash, cut, sack.
Even nouns can be short, sharp and more dramatic words – the sack, the axe. sackings, axings, cuts
The media reporting on the drama will also use these emotive and short action words to capture the attention of their audience.
2. Tense – The Government will be future focussed on what they plan for the outcome of the cuts will be: future tense
Those opposing the government cuts will focus on what is happening now – the more immediate drama and effect.
3. Repeating positive words
Cuts and job losses are negative. A surplus is positive.
Governments will find positive words/ positive angles and keep repeating those positive words.
Just look at Campbell Newman’s comment on the ABC – look for the future focus and the repetition of positive language – surplus. The words in parenthesis (for the future) are mine – highlighting the future action and focus.
CAMPBELL NEWMAN: Our objective (for the future) is to get the budget back into surplus. And in the 2014/2015 financial year (the future), for the first time in nine years, there will be a fiscal surplus in Queensland (in the future) – a true surplus of over $600 million, which means for the first time in nine years we won’t (in the future) be borrowing to keep the lights on.
This analysis is not making light of the suffering of the 14 thousand who have lost or will lose their jobs.
The aim is to empower you to be aware of how tweaking words can spin a message.
That reminds me of another old trick – always start off with a higher number (e.g. 20 thousand job losses) so when you announce the “real” number 14 thousand – you can say well it could have been worse!
Other tricks are the use of metaphor and analogy – subject for a future post!