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    Ban the Teleprompter!

    Rick Santorum wants to outlaw teleprompters for presidential candidates. Never mind that leaders from Demosthenes to George Washington have used speechwriters (once called logographers). We think the ban is a great idea!

    See, I always believed that when you run for president of the United States, it should be illegal to read off a teleprompter. Because all you’re doing is reading someone else’s words to people.

    Presidential candidate Rick Santorum, speaking in Gulfport, Mississippi, March 11

    The great Roman orator and rhetorician Marcus Tullius Cicero also hated the teleprompter (or its equivalent, known as “paper.” ) Why? Because speaking from memory makes people think you’re speaking from the heart.

    Cicero listed five techniques, or “canons,” for oratory: 

    • Invention was all about the construction of a speech, from research to writing.
    • Arrangement had to do with organization. Start by establishing your character, then tell your story, support your argument with facts, clobber the opposing argument, then conclude with an emotional summary.
    • Style is where you bring in your figures of speech and tropes—the clothing you drape onto your naked oratory.
    • And then there’s memory.  The ancients practiced elaborate exercises to strengthen their memory, and learned special techniques to recall the elements of a speech. Plato was skeptical of writing (even though he himself wrote), in part because he was concerned that reading would damage the all-important faculty of memory.
    • Finally comes delivery, where you control your tone and gestures and wow your audience.

    “It’s important for you to understand who that person is in their own words,” Mr. Santorum said. “See them, look them in the eye…hear what’s [in their] heart.” Actually, memory lets your audience think they’re hearing your heart. But they’re really just hearing what’s in your brain.

    Which is fine with us. We’re more concerned about a candidate’s brain than his heart.

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    Reader Comments (3)

    Dear Figaro,

    I am working on an analysis of my own writing for a style class. I am analyzing a piece of fiction I wrote previously.

    The sentence I am analyzing for schemes and figures:

    "'What can I get for you?' she chirped, her little pony-tail bouncing around as she spoke."

    My question is, is "she chirped" hyperbole, because the waitress did not literally "chirp"?

    Thanks for your advice,
    Kelly H.
    March 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKelly H.
    Dear Figaro,

    I have trouble using commas and dashes. In high school, I was informed that a comma is used like a pause yet I sometimes use it incorrectly. Additionally, I feel a dash should be used to add detail, yet I sometimes over and mis use them as well.

    Here is a stanza from a poem I wrote- Did I use commas and dashes correctly and do you feel I have overused them?

    Filled with people and great tourist
    attractions- the Inner Harbor, Mount
    Vernon, Washington Hill, Oh Fells-
    Charm City, they call you-people of all races, ethnicities
    reside in you.
    Thank you for your time and consideration.
    March 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterShae B.
    There is a severe lack of eloquence in modern speeches, and I am targeting political speeches specifically. It's no longer about the content of the words, but rather what image or familiar feeling they conjure up in the listener. I through the art of oratory, and I mean that which was practiced by Cicero, by the great statesmen of the ages, I'd hope the merging of content and style would go hand in hand. Perhaps a move away from the teleprompter might do just that. Maybe.
    March 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChristian R.

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