Churchill comes alive! When rhetorical tactics deliver real-life results

Sure enough, repetition works. It works in oratory; it works in practice; it works in driving a point home. Repetition works. It works.

It’s always nice when some of our favorite quotes seem to come to life in the real world.

Here’s a brief story from the holidays that may help reaffirm something you speechwriters—and parents—have long believed but were hard pressed to prove.

We all know that repetition is one of the speechwriter’s most hallowed tactical devices. Unlike those scribes who dwell solely in the world of print (where readers can return to a line again and again to gain understanding through rereading), speechwriters understand that it’s nearly impossible for a live audience to “rehear” a speech.

It’s true that, if they hear a confusing line, they can hit the proverbial replay button in their head. But while they’re doing that, the speaker—and the message—have moved on.

So we often employ the same tactic speechwriters have used throughout history to ensure a message is heard and understood: Repeat ad nauseum. It was Winston Churchill, after all, who reminded us: “If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit again. Then hit a third time—a tremendous whack.”

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