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Resources | American Framing Steps | Speaking American (Nutshell Version)

Speaking American (Nutshell Version)

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STEP 1. Be clear about who your specific audience is. Spell it out in detail for yourself.

STEP 2. Think about how your audience sees your issue now. If possible, ask them questions directly or do polling. Listen carefully to see what phrases, images, or metaphors they use.

STEP 3. Consider how your audience is feeling and reacting now re your issue. Be ready to acknowledge their feelings at the beginning of your message.

STEP 4. Decide to speak 'American' by using simple language, avoiding the following:

  • long, abstract, multisyllabic words (like 'mul-ti-syl-la-bic')
  • lots of reasons, facts, and statistics at the beginning of your communication
  • complex arguments and explanations at the beginning of your communication
  • historical analysis at the beginning of your communication
  • attacking America or Americans or the flag by name or implication.


STEP 5. The next step in speaking American is arranging your message as a story of potentially successful problem solving, using simple language. Recognize that mainstream Americans want answers to the following practical questions:

  • What's the problem?
  • What will work to solve it?
  • What should we do now?
  • What should we do next?
  • Who is 'we'?


STEP 6. Develop your own message so that it establishes rapport with every member of your audience. Include referring to 'seeing,' 'hearing,' and 'feeling' these problems and their solutions, so that people of all learning styles will feel included.

STEP 7. The next step in speaking American is picking out the 'American story' words, phrases, metaphors, and images (frames) appropriate for communicating your message. These American 'story' elements are the most common carriers of our core values in everyday political communication. For example, if you mention being 'on the move' in your message, you connect to a big piece of the American ideal of progress. See Some American Story Elements That Evoke Core Values and Some American Metaphor Categories, plus the other resources in the American Framing Tools section of this site.

STEP 8. Using the brainstorming method (see the Detailed Version of these steps for specific directions if you need them), express your message in sound bite form, combining it with the words, phrases, metaphors, and images you have picked out and listed in Step 7. See Examples for more results of this kind of process. For more on why this kind of process works, see Malcom Gladwell's Blink.

STEP 9. Check your newly framed messages against the MP Criteria for Successful Mainstream Sound Bite Framing and revise as needed.

STEP 10. External validation and ongoing process: test your creations in the field, either informally or if you have the funding for it, professionally, and set up an ongoing mainstreaming group in your organization to continually refresh and update your messaging and your sound bites.

See also Speaking American (Detailed Step by Step Version), Tips for Using Your Creations During A Conversation, Longer Example of American Framing, and Advanced American Mainstreaming.