Words that Matter, and Black English

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Words matter.

There’s a reason why Perry and I harp constantly on “peel and stick.” Why we pound nonstop on the issue of knowing your customer, knowing how he or she thinks and why he or she buys. Why we stress getting your words right and your language right and your copy right.

Words matter. Words change minds. Words get people to move and take action. Or else they don’t.

This pair of Google ads show how even the commas between the words make a tangible difference to your bottom line:

How to Write a Book, Fast
14 Days from Start to Finish
Unique, Step By Step Program

4.40% CTR

How to Write a Book Fast
14 Days from Start to Finish
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4.12% CTR

This stuff matters. There’s a reason why we endorse Ari Galper’s Chatwise program and whole method of selling through carefully-chosen words (and why he’s doing a seminar on it all again this spring).

There’s a reason why this ad

Popular Ethernet Terms
Complex Words – Simple Definitions
3 Page Guide – Free PDF Download
3.6% CTR

far outpulled this ad:

Popular Ethernet Terms
3 Page Guide – Free PDF Download
Complex Words – Simple Definitions
0.1% CTR

It’s because the first one gets the words right and it gets right what the folks in this market really wanted: benefits first, features second.

There’s a reason why we have a box on the opt-in page for our 5-day AdWords course that asks you what you want from Google. We want to know what words you’re using to describe your goals and to describe your problem.

That way we can give you what you’re looking for.

It’s because words matter. There are words I use that make you buy, and words I use that don’t. There are words that work for our customers that don’t work for yours.

And one of your jobs is to figure out which is which. I can point you in some good directions, but I can never ultimately answer to perfection what words and phrases and what hooks and offer are going to do the trick for you. That’s a lifetime pursuit.

In the world of words there is no right or wrong; there’s only language that builds trust and creates sales, and language that doesn’t.


Now, to get your blood boiling:

There’s a guy going around Chicago schools teaching black kids that their English is all wrong.

Here’s a 4-minute Fox News video about it:

(Fox News does here what made them famous: They carefully select just the right clips and soundbytes to whip you into an emotional state. Who Garrard McClendon is, and what he actually teaches and believes, is irrelevant. All that matters is that you feel the seething controversy and it keeps you watching.)

McClendon’s book is called, “Ask, not Ax: The African-American Guide to Better English.”

How do you feel about that?

You might tell me that Garrard McClendon’s aim is not to make African-American kids feel bad about their English. It’s not to convince them that their street slang is “wrong.” Rather, it’s to teach them a style of English that will get them better education opportunities, and better jobs.

Oh, really. Then why does he say it’s a guide to “better” English?

Notice also the shocked, self-conscious look on the girl’s face (at roughly 1:50) as she ‘confesses,’ embarrassed, that “in the area where I grew up in, we talk slang, we don’t talk proper English.”

They’re taught that there’s good English and bad English. Right English and wrong English.

The school administrator plays right along with it:  Gotta teach these ignorant kids what’s right and wrong.

My beef with McClendon is not that he wants to teach a certain kind of maintstream English. My beef is not that he wants inner-city kids to find better education and job opportunities through more clever management of their language.

My first beef is that otherwise intelligent, streetsmart kids are made to feel stupid because they pronounce “bathroom” and “birthday” funny and don’t sound white.

You can see it written all over their faces.

My far greater beef is that if McClendon told those students the real truth about why they’re learning this, he’d get kicked out and banned from Chicago schools for life.

So what is the real truth?

Very simply:

Your future is decided by educated white people in positions of power who determine whether to give you jobs, or not, or accept you into certain schools, or not, based on whether you ‘sound’ educated and white, like them, or not.

What is "80" and what is "20" for your business right now? Take my 2-minute quiz and I'll show you where you'll get the highest compound interest on your time and money!

If you sound just a little too black, or just a little too hispanic, then you won’t get accepted into the schools. You won’t get the jobs. You have to learn to talk in a way that pleases the decisionmaker and makes him feel good about himself for accepting you to the school or hiring you for the job.

And that is why your English matters.

But of course you’d get mauled by parents and barred from the schools if you told kids that.

Those educators really like McClendon. He’s African-American, so they can can send HIM into those scary Chicago high schools and have HIM tell those poor benighted kids that their English is all wrong … and do so with near-complete impunity.

Get this, write it on your right hand and forehead, do not miss it and do not forget it:

There is no such thing as right language or wrong language, good grammar or bad grammar, correct English or incorrect English. There is only language that got you want you wanted, or didn’t.

As someone who communicates well in three different languages, I can assure you that this is the universal law of all language, period.

Language is not right, it is not wrong. It simply either does the job or it does not. It gets you what you wanted, or it does not.

And it does not decay, or degrade.  It shifts, morphs, evolves.

Seventeen hundred years ago the Roman educated elite were lamenting the “decay” of Latin, that the uneducated masses were dissolving it into a mush of meaninglessness.

And it “decayed” its way right into Italian, Romanian, Spanish, Portuguese, French.

Language is a tool made to get you what you need when you need it. What’s right depends entirely on what you want, and who you happen to be talking to at the moment.

“Proper” Chinese

I worked for four years in the human resources department of a luxury hotel in a small tourist city in the mountains of southwestern China. Emblazoned in large, unmistakable red Chinese characters at our office entrance was this clear instruction to all potential job applicants:


The educated center of China’s elite was in Beijing, 2,000 miles away. So young people from the area frequently came in speaking a regional Yunnan Province dialect, or else Naxi-Hua, the entirely separate language of the local ethnic minority.

And our posted sign? A way to play keep-away. Keep out the poorly-trained guys and girls that never learned good Mandarin. Keep out the barking, guttural village sounds of the local Naxi farmers. Keep them and their noises far, far away from our privileged hotel grounds and our discriminating hotel guests.

If your goal is to convince educated people that you’re one of them, and you come off sounding like a village boy, then Sorry Pardner, You Lose.

And if you think that getting ahead in society was ever any more than this, then Sorry Pardner, You Lose.

The world is a game. A slick game of keep-away. Keep out the noise and the fuss and the bother of messages and things and people that we don’t want to see or hear or deal with or take time out for. It’s how you filter out the world (thank God), and how the world, if you let it, filters out you.

And this is why you’re an entrepreneur. To escape the world’s nasty game of keep-away, and create a business and an environment where you get to call the shots.

Which means you need to understand people. How they think. What they talk about, gripe about, whine about, bitch about. What they say and why. What words they use, and how they sniff out those who are not their own. Learn what they’re talking about, and how they’re talking about it. Learn what they want and wish and hope. Learn what gets them to take action. Learn what makes them trust you, and love you.

Because in the end, all there is is what does the job, and what doesn’t. What demonstrates to people that you’re just like them, and what doesn’t. What builds understanding, and what doesn’t. What gets people to believe you and trust you, and what doesn’t.

Get it right, Pardner, and You Win.

To your success,
Bryan Todd

p.s. Now that you’ve seen the hyped-up Fox News version, here’s an outstanding 8-minute interview with Garrard McClendon where he articulates his own position far more thoroughly and eloquently. I still don’t like some of his default assumptions, but you need to watch it anyway. Here’s a man impassioned about bridging cultures and breaking down barriers through good education:

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About the Author

Bryan Todd, co-author of "The Ultimate Guide to Google AdWords" is an in-demand consultant not just in Google AdWords but in all of the major aspects of online marketing.

25 Comments on “Words that Matter, and Black English”

  1. Hi Bryan

    “My first beef is that otherwise intelligent, streetsmart kids are made to feel stupid because they pronounce “bathroom” and “birthday” funny and don’t sound white.”

    What is wrong with that? Shakespeare couldn’t spell his name right yet he is known the world over for his writing.

    The answer is not language, but self confidence. That is way harder to teach. When a kid has self confidence they don’t worry how they sound, only how it sounds to others.

    I have been learning a lot about USPs recently, and used it naturally simply to make it clear what our business did for our clients. It worked. I didn’t know it was a USP in those days but our profits went up.

    These kids aren’t going to access their USP if they start pretending to be somebody else. As I said to a friend the other day, you do not become free by trying to be what you are not. You achieve freedom by being who you are – only more so. Then you know the limits of your freedom and can act.

    That is what these kids need. If you are black, be proud of it. If you are yellow, be proud of it. If you are blue, be proud of it!!! (If you are green, go and see your doctor, you might be sick).

  2. I apologize for my strong terminology. I felt that some of your ~views~ were racist.

    “If I am advocating anything else, it is only that if we were all more tolerant of the differences between each other, including how people speak, the world might be a better place”

    There are precise reasons why America and Americans have done better than others historically. It has nothing to do with the color of anyone’s skin. It has everything to do with the objective superiority of freedom and capitalism and a best-in-world system of justice.

    Tolerance of different viewpoints is essential, we agree, but granting them moral or value equivalence is a big mistake.

    One of the hugest cultural problems in this country is the notion of multiculturalism–that nothing that no one way of running things, no one economy is better than any other. Just different, equally valid “choices.” In fact, if you ask the average public school educated kid, they are likely as not to say that capitalism is bad, that they think the reason this nation is/was great is because of democracy (mob rule) rather than our Constitution, and the rule of law.

    In a paradox that is going to bite us in our tails in my lifetime, we are now adapting to become more socialist in our economics and more totalitarian in our politics. All a reasonable person must do is look at the rest of the world who have tried those approaches, and see where it leads–poverty and murder.

    By the way, you ~shouldn’t~ respect my view if it is clearly incorrect. And I do not think you are a racist. We just have very different ideas about politics, economics, and the future of America. You are getting your way, and we will see where it leads.

  3. “white middle-class males do better educationally and in their careers than other groups.”

    Actually Asians on average do better educationally that whites. They also, on average, test better on IQ tests than whites.

    None of this makes a bit of difference.

    Only the individual matters.

  4. Actually, Scott, I am not judging anybody for anything, nor lumping any individual into any category, nor criticizing anybody, nor advocating any particular standpoint. Those are all interpretations that you have placed upon what I wrote.

    I’m merely making observations. You ask me to “check the statistics” about violent crimes committed by African-Americans, but resist facts that indicate that white middle-class males do better educationally and in their careers than other groups.

    Both these statements may be facts, but neither of them say anything about any individual African-American or white middle-class male, and at no stage have I said or implied anything of the sort. You have made some extraordinary non-sequiturs to conclude otherwise.

    I actually agree with most of what you have said. I too have worked for everything that I have got, free from much in the way of privelege, or much in the way of oppression.

    However, I recognise that if I had not been born into one of the countries fortunate enough to enjoy the “freedom” that comes from a few centuries of imperialist ambition, and instead into a country which has had its wealth plundered in the name of another nation’s “freedom” I might not have had as many opportunites to thrive. If our Western idea of “freedom” were extended across the world, we would all have to adapt to a much lower standard of living.

    Note that I do not hold myself responsible for the behaviour of my nation.

    This blog is getting out of hand. I’m actually not that interested in whether you think I’m a racist or not, Scott. I know the truth in my heart.

    My main original point, if you re-read the rest of my first comment rather than the one sentence you seem to have got hung up about, is that from a marketing perspective, it only makes sense to address your customers in the language that they best understand and respond to. I can’t fathom any other logic.

    In communication terms, I see it as everyone’s responsibility to make their communications as easy as possible for another person to understand, and to work as hard as they can or need to in order to understand the other person.

    If I am advocating anything else, it is only that if we were all more tolerant of the differences between each other, including how people speak, the world might be a better place.

    If you think that’s racist, all I can say is that I respect your view and you are welcome to hang on to it.

  5. You make a classic collectivist and racist mistake. Collectivism is judging the individual by their membership in some group. Racism is judging someone based upon their race, not the content of their character. (You know like how MLK, Jr., wanted us to judge one another–content of character, not color of skin).

    You want the right to judge white people ~because~ they are white people, to call them out, lump them in with and judge them for other white people’s sins. I am not buying. That is overtly racist.

    It is also overtly racist to judge whites because they are white, but judge other-colored people individually because of theirs. It is discrimination based upon race, no way around it.

    The Unibomber was a white guy. His actions are his own. I had nothing to do with them.

    Violent crimes are overwhelming committed by African-Americans. OVERWHELMINGLY. Check the statistics. Each person is personally responsible for their actions and choices, and the color of their skin has nothing to do with it–the content of their character does.

    I have worked for everything I have gotten in this life. Bully for some white guy I never met who got the silver spoon–I didn’t. Bully for the black kid whose father is a millionaire and who never wants for a thing, or the people in college who only got in because of affirmative action.

    How is criticizing white people for other people’s actions and NOT doing the same to blacks creating an egalitarian society?

    And why do you want an egalitarian society anyway? Freedom is much more important for prosperity and happiness than equality. Our Founding Fathers were primarily concerned with equality before the law. Equality without freedom is totalitarianism.

    One of us is advocating racism and politically correct mind control “Murray.” On that much we can agree.

  6. Ref Scott de Salvo’s comment “… Let’s try not to bash white males …”

    That comment comes into the same category as people who say “well, I don’t mind if a black person calls me a ‘honky'”.

    No, of course not, but it misses the point that name-calling is far more derogatory to a disadvantaged group than to a priveleged group.

    Let’s be clear, I’ve got nothing against white middle-class males, as I am one and so are many of my friends (except the women, black people, working class people, Asians, Eastern Europeans etc etc that I know).

    But are you seriously trying to suggest that there isn’t a white-dominated, male-dominated, class-dominated hegemony????

    Maybe not in your part of the world, Bruv, but there certainly is one around here! Pointing that out is not a racist comment, it’s an observation of the real world, verifiable by facts. To pretend otherwise is “political correctness”, which is a form of mind control.

    I’m completely committed to the most egalitarian society imaginable. That can be brought about by maximum tolerance of the differences between people, including the way that they speak, rather than labelling people as “right” or “wrong” against some arbitrary set of subjective values.

  7. Bryan: I don’t see where you and Garrard McClendon disagree.

    He acknowledges the beauty and use of dialect. AND He is rightly pointing out the limited and ineffective use of language in his community. His community has to acknowledge and train in the use of educated dialect; otherwise Blacks will not be accepted by people in power. (Does Barack Obama say “ax” when addressing Congress?)

    Surely you agree that language must adapt to its audience and the speaker’s intention.

    I praise Garrard McClendon for taking a courageous and unpopular stand for excellence and for injecting into his community an awareness of the enormous power language has to enable a person to gain listening.

  8. Bryan–

    Love how you see both the surface and deep meaning of the purpose of language.

    In certain settings certain languages are more appropriate than others…

    The language a person uses (or *doesn’t *use) by no means defines the person, their depth or value as a human being.

    It is just a tool to get the job done as you state–different tools are needed for different jobs! Flexibility in communication – certainly a valuable skill no matter what the situation.

  9. I think the critical phrase is “who are you marketing to.”

    When I managed a crew of drivers, I had to curse like a sailor to be heard. Since I became a father, nary a foul word would you hear from me.

    Part of that “marketing” message seems to require an extreme position. Even going so far as to “insult” opposing views.

    This ad-hominem style hit me when my wife and I were devouring parenting books. For those of you unfamiliar, let me give you a summary.

    A standard parenting book will tell you that their way is the ONLY way to raise a child. Any way not in line with THE WAY will result in your failure as a parent. EVERY one of these books would have a message in the appendix that would read in some form, “your results may vary.”

    It was merely the author’s way of getting his message out in a crowded market place, to appeal to the deepest darkest fears/frustrations/worries/ of his market.

    I see no deviation from that in Garrard’s message.

  10. Apologies to Bryan if I took him the wrong way.

    I am a little hung up on the social and cultural problems we have today, and believe that one of the main reasons is: failure to define reasonable standards; and failure to measure performance by those standards; and failure to hold people to those standards.

    I understand Bryan’s point. 300 years ago, if you dropped me in the middle of England, they’d have a hard time understanding me. Yet here we are, speaking every different form of “English.”

    I should have given Byran the benefit of the doubt, so again, my apologies to Bryan.

  11. Bryan,

    Thank you for mentioning the box on the opt-in page for your 5-day AdWords course that asks customers what they want from Google.

    I did a similar thing on my website and what I can tell so far is

    * I get more insights in my prospects’ wishes.
    (this is filled out with good info by a
    significant percentage of prospects )

    * the lead-conversion rate is not affected by this ( I don’t have exact numbers yet from my split-test for that, but it seems to be close ).

    So, this is essentially free market research…

    Plus, I guess that when a customer writes down his/her goals, this creates kind of an inner psychological committment to my product, similar to goal-setting in law-of-attraction strategies.

    Also, when a customer later asks me a question or so, I already have information about his/her goals, so I can help him/her more efficiently.

    Best wishes to you,


  12. Good and valid comments from everyone – and thank you, Perry.

    Yes, Garrard does know the real audience he’s marketing to. And it’s not the students. It’s the educators and administrators who are damn sick and tired of kids that get pushed through the system and are never, ever taught that their use of English is crippling them, killing their chances of getting good education opportunities and good work opportunities in a white society that doesn’t have the patience to deal with their dialect.

    So he’s doing something about it. There’s a lot I dislike about his approach. But in the end I commend him.

    Were it the students he was marketing to, and not parents and teachers and school administrators, his message would be markedly different. Namely, “You’re trying to make it in a society that cannot and will not understand you. Here’s how you’re going to have to play the game and deal with it.”

    So is there such a thing as an absolute, objective “right” and “wrong” in words and language? The answer is a firm and emphatic NO.

    There are verbs and nouns, adjectives and pronouns and adverbs and conjunctions. Beyond that rudimentary universal skeleton, what’s right and wrong depends solely on what the two people communicating with each other happen to understand and agree on. It varies from person to person, family to family, neighborhood to neighborhood, town to town, region to region and country to country.

    And year to year.

    And what is “standard English”? That’s purely a matter of convention. It’s argued and debated, and then voted on, by tiny revolving committees of academics and writers and publishers at universities. Their verdicts change every new year. And the dictionaries they edit and approve get changed right along with it.

    Those are the “rules.” Hence the compelling illusion, reinforced by the structure of our own brains, that language and words and grammar are either “right” or “wrong.”

    The only true right and wrong is whether you made yourself understood or not. Sometimes the failure to do so is your fault, and sometimes it’s the other person’s fault.

    Your ability to get through life and win respect and build relationships of trust and understanding depends on your ability to “get” the language of the people you want to live and work with. To understand their thinking, and learn to think the same way yourself … and express it right back to them.

    That’s not ruthless, amoral pragmatism. That’s maturity.

    So if I walk into a job interview and get kicked out because the person behind the desk thinks I sound like an uneducated slob,
    or if I pitch my product to a prospect and he laughs in my face,
    or if my make a joke to my spouse, and it gets taken as an insult instead,

    … then I’ve still got some serious learning to do. And probably some serious growing up to do, too. Both me and the other person.


  13. Scott,

    If you knew Bryan as well as I do, you’d know the last thing Bryan was trying to say was that the purpose of language is to say whatever gets somebody their own desired result – ie pragmatism taken to the extreme.

    That is totally antithetical to who Bryan is. Bryan was not saying that AT ALL.

    When he said:

    “There is no such thing as right language or wrong language, good grammar or bad grammar, correct English or incorrect English. There is only language that got you want you wanted, or didn’t”

    I can see how one could interpret that statement as a wholesale disregard for truth. It might seem only one step away from saying “There’s no such thing as a good website or bad website, only a website that got you the customer’s money.”

    What he’s saying is, regardles of the “official rules” of any language, what actually matters is the full meaning that is conveyed between the speaker and the listener.

    At the end of the day, especially when we are in sales, the final criteria is whether our communication produced the desired result. In a job search it’s whether you got the job offer. I loved Jim’s point that when they’re interviewing for a job, they’re selling themselves, and that sales environment is just as ruthless the one we live in.

    Garrard is teaching these kids how to sell to people different from themselves.

    A less obvious point is that employees must also be able to communicate effectively to their employers’ customers. My employee Mendy is black and she does outstanding work. She is fully capable of speaking and writing standard English. She says “ask” not “aks” though I have no doubt she is capable of speaking African-American dialect, too.

    BTW she LOVED this post.

    Perry Marshall

  14. Bryan —

    Your opinions on how WE should speak to OUR AUDIENCE are valid.

    But you seem to throw it out the window when looking at these kids and they’re “poor psyche.” “You can see the hurt.”

    Bogus thinking. When these kids are applying for a job, they’re in EXACTLY the position we are when we sell to our prospects — they’re SELLING to us, and we have the right to deny them the job or the sale or whatever purely on the basis of how they speak.

    That’s NOT an unfair, discriminatory way in which we keep them down or tell them they’re stupid. It’s what we demand of them IF THEY’RE GOING TO BE EFFECTIVE IN THE JOB WE’RE HIRING FOR.

    And I hate to tell you this, Bryan, but EVERY MSM outlet specializes in slanting the news by fact-exclusion. Maybe it just doesn’t bother you when liberal stations like CBS, NBC, MSNBC, CNN, ABC, PBS and the like do it. Maybe it only come into your awareness when the evil Fox does it.

    But I should point out that the number of liberal point-makers allowed a say on Fox FAR exceeds the number of conservative point-makers allowed a say on the other stations. Probably even when they’re combined.

  15. Hello Bryan,

    It seems all Garrard is doing is practicing what you and Perry preach.

    Unique selling proposition: Black man who “talks white”

    Knows his customer: white school administrators,principles, and English teachers.

    Knows the conversation going on inside their heads:”If I hear one more student “ax me if they can have a baffroom pass” my lilly white head will explode.

    The topic seems to have struke such an emotional chord with you that you overlooked the marketing. Hey, maybe you should make that a rule! “Make it so emotional people overlook the marketing”

    Warmest regards,

  16. I’ll try again, since my last post pointing out Bryan’s views on these issues are incorrect and harmful was deleted. Perhaps I worded it too strongly.

    The main point of the now-deleted post is that, in my opinion, it is a dangerously immoral pragmatism which allows Bryan to state that there is no right or wrong, only that which gets you what you want, or doesn’t. I think that is the worst and most disappointing premise I have ever seen out of Bryan or Perry. Especially after reading some of Perry’s inspirational quasi-religious views.

    Anyway, great AdWords information, Bryan, but in my opinion, you are so off the mark with this blog post that it is just very disappointing. There IS a right and wrong, and it has more to do with whether it gets you what you want right now or not.

    And to Murray: Let’s try not to bash white males so much, eh? Because, you know, doing so makes you just as racist as I would be if I said that we should lock up all Italians [or insert ethnicity of choice] to drop the crime rate. Just not cool.

  17. Stephen Pinker, professor of Psychology at Harvard, explains in his book “The Language Instinct” that African American Vernacular English in fact has as many grammatical rules as any other language or dialect. They are just different rules.

    A lot of “educators” think that their job is to control how people use the language, rather than to understand it. They should understand that the correct pronunciation is the one in most common use, not the one written in a book somewhere.

    Languages are organic and they evolve. Here in the UK, London especially, the white kids are starting to talk like the black kids, in fact the default London accent today sounds more black than white. This can only be a good thing for integrating our cultures.

    I find myself constantly haranguing my kids for saying “don’t have” US-style instead of the quaint UK “haven’t got”, and other such generational differences. But they ignore me, and so they should.

    One of the major advantages of marketing via the Internet is that it allows us to speak directly to our customers, and the only sensible way to do this is to use their language, not any proscribed ideal.

    Hopefully this can contribute to breaking down the class, race and gender barriers kept in place by white middle-class males.

  18. I think you’re spot on: the key is your audience. I’m a white, middle class, educated some-time employer who makes his living largely from writing. So, if someone emails me, talks to me or sends me printed material asking me for something (even if it’s just attention) then using non-standard English looks careless to me.

    For example, my daughter might say “would of” instead of “would have” in an email to a friend but, if she did it to a potential employer or client of my background, her email would be immediately ignored.

    I agree that we need to pick our audience. The difficulty comes when we don’t have the skills to communicate authentically with that audience. I wouldn’t have the first idea how to communicate with young black Americans but there’s an argument for saying that if you have good “standard” English (in other words, standard spelling, vocab and sentence construction) you can get your message across to anyone who speaks the language. If you don’t have it, then you’re stuck with communicating only with those who share your idioms.

  19. You said, “My first beef is that otherwise intelligent, streetsmart kids are made to feel stupid because they pronounce “bathroom” and “birthday” funny and don’t sound white.”

    I’m not sure that I can, by viewing this video, that know that these kids are “streetsmart” or that they felt stupid. I feel stupid many times a week but it is not fatal. Just axk me.

    Oh, if a person says mask they can say ask.

  20. Bryan,

    Great meeting you at the System in May.

    All microcosms of society, whether the poor black group in their neighborhood or the country club crowd, vet their members by the way they present themselves.

    The way we dress and the way we speak are the two most important aspects of whether we get into the club or not.

    Using Tom’s Word Magic course combined with John Carlton’s power words has really helped my copy. Words hold power whether we want to believe it or not.

    If taught at a young age, kids can learn several languages at once. Whether teachers will put the effort in, that’s another story. Garrard McClendon certainly is passionate about what he’s teaching. He makes a great case for it.

    Your article kept me going from top to bottom and I watched both clips. That’s rare for me.

    Thanks for your passion and your eloquence.

  21. Two 1981 articles in The Quarterly Journal of Speech describe the communication strategies of Black slaves on antebellum plantations.

    The underlying point is that “all social realities impose performance demands on those who participate in them.” Talking to “the Man” back then was fraught with danger and even death. Blacks dealt with it with specific language strategies that live on in certain ways in today’s Black argot. Slaves weren’t stupid, they were crafty. It was the only way they could survive under demeaning, often inhumane circumstances.

    I also remember a lecture years ago by a well-known social work professor who showed video clips of different ethnic families during family therapy sessions. Of the Italian, Irish, Jewish, and Black families we watched, only the Blacks, regardless of the way they spoke, were engaged honestly with what was going on in their families.

    It is important to be understood when you communicate. Language, appearance, and other factors do play a part. But while times may be slowly changing the US, the social reality has a long history of Whites being on top, with the power to say what counts and what doesn’t.

  22. Hi Brian,
    I tend to agree wholeheartedly with Garrards view and mission. Those who oppose him have their heads in the sand about the true workings of the corporate world.
    It reinforces the story told of an largely illiterate hispanic taxi driver who became an executive after teaching himself the entire dictionary.
    As marketers however we need to know and understand the true language of our matket exactly as you state.
    Great article

  23. Bryan,

    I think Garrard is an amazing black American. He is brave enough to take a course that is causing him pain because of his passion and the energy of his conviction.

    I have seen whites disqualify themselves from opportunities with whites because of their English. Bad English is associated with low intelligence. Many Yankees make that mistake when they first arrive in some southern communities.

    Bryan,if you were running a big, fancy, properous Chicago business from a swanky, downtown office, would your receptionist speak Chicago street slang?

    Tom Doiron

  24. There is in the US a mainstream English by what ever you want to call it. If you want to be part of general commerce then that is what is spoken. Your ability to speak will effect your job and most likely your future. This also applies to written English as well.

    Where I have a problems is with those who want to deny that it can effect ones future. That freedoms are being threatened by teaching good english.

    As far as words and AdWords ads go, I continue to be amazed how a trivial change can sometimes make a big difference. I have seen it in my own work more than once. I showed the results of a series of split tests to a company president once, and he thought I was joking about the changes making a difference. He was also one of those who thought split testing was a waste of time. With testing, I doubled their sign ups, while lowering AdWords spend.


  25. Hey Bryan,

    Good stuff!

    Interesting riff on the use of language. Although I might differ with you about some minor points, I think your rant is brilliant!

    This is what my Word Magic course is all about. Using the right words to get what you want.

    I LOVED the examples of the ad-words that put the bennies first over the features. Compelling examples and good writing. I can almost hear your voice in the copy.

    Is it my imagination, were you a little huffy about this subject? Or just wanting to be emphatic? Interesting internal audio phenomenon triggered by your rhythm and bolding…


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