Saturday, December 10, 2005

Democrats need to use better language to get their message out

Democrats need to pick up a classic book called The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White.

Here's a gem.

Make definite assertions. Avoid tame, colorless, hesitating, non-committal language. -- Rule 15

And another.

Write with nouns and verbs, not with adjectives and adverbs. The adjective hasn't been built that can pull a weak or inaccurate noun out of a tight place. -- Reminder 4

Compare that advice to the Democrats' latest slogan. Is it this?

We can do better.

Let's see. Yes. Indefinite, tame, colorless, hesitating, non-committal language anchored by an adjective lacking the power to pull an eye muscle.

Let's parse that slogan. Can? Why not say will. It would be definite at least. "We will do better." Still anemic. Better? not even best? No hope there. Would replacing the adjective with a noun or verb help? "We will lead" or "We will succeed". Vague but twitching with life.

Look at the state motto for New Hampshire

Live Free or Die

Two verbs, one conjunction, and one powerful modifier.

(Yes, that's a dodge. Free is an adjective in this sentence "you are free". Is it an adjective or adverb with verbs other than "to be"? The source is General Stark's toast "Live Free Or Die; Death Is Not The Worst of Evils.")

Here's some more.

Delaware's motto

Liberty and independence

New Jersey's motto

Liberty and prosperity

Vermont's motto

Freedom and unity

Two powerful nouns and one conjunction each. (No modifiers! what a relief. :) Interesting how the old states talk about liberty and freedom.)

Pennsylvania's motto

Virtue, liberty, and independence

Three powerful nouns and one conjunction. (Still no modifiers! and more liberty!)

Kentucky's motto

United we stand, divided we fall

Good parallelism. Active verbs. Muscled modifiers.

Powerful ideas can be expressed, and pathetic ones can be too. Why are the democrats using the latter?

I'd like to help the poor Democrats come up with a slogan. The trouble is I'm uncertain what their "message" is supposed to be. Maybe they are too.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey mate, I'm glad you got the hack working again! Thanks for using it. Great work with your blog, give the bastards hell.

Cheers, Glenn.

12/11/2005 1:13 AM  

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