Book Review: Language Intelligence By Joseph Romm

Language Intelligence: Lessons on persuasion from Jesus, Shakespeare, Lincoln, and Lady Gaga  by Joseph J. Romm

ISBN-10: 1477452222
ISBN-13: 978-1477452226


  • Explains good communications skills.
  • Lots of interesting current and historical examples.
  • Spells things out in plain but effective language.


  • Glosses over a few areas.
  • Feels a bit rushed.

SUMMARY: This is the book to buy right now to improve your communication skills.  But, you know, read the review first if you want.

We’re all trying to build connections with others.  We’re all trying to construct great communications form blog posts to answering interview questions.  We all want to make that right sentence or post or book that makes things come together.

Of course it’s challenging.  We’re not Lincoln or Shakespeare or Bob Dylan or any of the great wordsmiths.  They had the tools and skills to make great plays and speeches and songs – and to take apart lies and rumors and ignorance.  We’re not people like them, and we look at our own skill with words, and it’s lacking.

Then along comes this book.  It’s your toolbox for putting together speeches and books and essays that uses the lessons of all those greats and more.  It lays out how the great speakers and writers became so great – and how the lessons are timeless.

“Language Intelligent” was actually created by Joseph Romm, an activist for climate science and solutions.  If you’ve followed the way discussion about climate issues has often been hijacked or poorly communicated, you can guess this is a man that has had to learn the hard way how to create or fix up communications about vital issues.

Romm’s book spells out six tools that are used by good speakers and communicators:

  1. Use short words.
  2. 2) Repeat yourself
  3. Use irony and foreshadowing
  4. Use metaphors.
  5. Use extended metaphors
  6. Know how people seduce others with words.

Apparently I’ve just given away all the secrets of the book, right?  Actually no I haven’t, because Romm doesn’t just talk about these techniques – he looks at them historically, he looks at how great figures in history and arts used them, and he looks at how you can as well.  Romm doesn’t say, he shows.

So as you read this book, you’ll walk through a funhouse of historical tidbits and fascinating examples.  You’ll learn that Lincoln wasn’t as plain as he appeared.  You’ll find out how the King James Bible changed language and rhetoric.  You’ll discover that some political figures you thought of as dunces weren’t.  You’ll marvel at Lady Gaga’s ability to mess with words to create memorable references.

The book doesn’t just give you the tools of good communication – it’s a primer on how people have used them effectively throughout history.  It’s the toolbox – with instruction manual and a few warnings.

So why would you be interested?  In fact, why am I reviewing this beyond the fact I loved it?

Because communications is vital to human experience, human success, and career success.  Because if you want a job you’d better be able to show people that you’re the right person, and language skills will let you do that.  Because we geeks have to communicate things a lot of people don’t always understand, and we need to do it in the right way.

Oh, and because I’m really not sure we’re getting proper training in good communication anyway, putting everyone at a disadvantage.  That’s bad in all cases, but also bad on a job search – which is what I focus on here.  If you’ve ever seen a bad resume, bad cover letter, or watched a painfully poor interview you know what I mean.

So go on, get the book, get your toolbox.  Go and build great things with language  This is a must-read.

For fun, I also used each bit of advice here.  See if you can spot how I did it . . .

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at, nerd and geek culture at, and does a site of creative tools at He can be reached at