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Political Speechwriters

The Job

Political speechwriters write speeches for politicians, or they may assist the politician in composing a speech. A politician may need speechwriters for several reasons. Many politicians are extremely busy and simply do not have the time to write the many speeches they need to give. Others may not feel comfortable writing their own speeches and require the presence of a speechwriter to help them make sense of what they want to say, and how they want to convey that message in a speech. Still other politicians may have excellent ideas for their speeches but need help communicating their vision to others.

A political speechwriter usually begins writing a speech once a topic is selected. They may have a topic assigned to them, or they may have to determine the topic of the speech themselves. To do this, a speechwriter may meet with the politician for whom they are writing to receive his or her input. A speechwriter might also meet with representatives of the group to which the politician will be speaking, in order to discover their concerns and ensure that they are addressed in the speech. Next, the speechwriter will typically research the topic to be mentioned in the speech. To do this, they may utilize the resources of libraries, the Internet, or interview knowledgeable authorities in the field.

Once a speechwriter has gathered enough initial information, they begin to write the speech. Speechwriters must keep several things in mind while writing the speech. They need to ensure that the speech sounds like it was written by the politician who will ultimately be delivering it. They also need to keep in mind who will be hearing the speech, making sure that the speech is written so that it will be not only be understood by the intended audience, but that it will also be persuasive and effective in delivering the politician's message. The speechwriter is also concerned with the mechanics of good speechwriting: allowing the speaker to engage the audience; providing clear, key points of the speech that can be easily recognized and digested by the audience; and ensuring that the audience identifies positively with the speaker by the end of the speech. They also have to be concerned with more mundane issues, such as making sure the speech does not exceed any time limits.

After the speechwriter finishes a rough draft of a speech, it will need to be approved by the politician delivering it. Depending on the individual, he or she may or may not have had any interaction with the speechwriter until this stage. The politician, as well as his or her advisers, may revise the speech and send it back to the speechwriter for additional work, changing anything the politician or advisers are not satisfied or comfortable with. At this point, the speech may be shuffled back and forth several more times before it is finally approved.

After the speech is approved, the speechwriter may be responsible for producing the speech in its final form, which varies across different situations. The speech may need to be typed on easily readable note cards for a politician speaking in a small auditorium, or the speech might need to be on a computer disk that can be input into a Teleprompter and displayed on a monitor for the politician to read at a large rally or televised event.