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What does a Speechwriter do?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 13 November 2016
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A speechwriter is someone who prepares speeches for delivery by someone else. Many speechwriters work in the political sector, handling the authoring of speeches for government officials. They can also work in the business sector, working with CEOs and other public figures who want assistance with preparing speeches and presentations. This type of work requires a broad spectrum of skills and knowledge, in addition to a willingness to be in the background, because speechwriters are rarely acknowledged.

While many people understand that speechwriters are used to prepare speeches, and that many public speeches are not written by the person who delivers the speech, the speechwriter is rarely explicitly identified. Members of the public may be aware of the existence of a speechwriting team, as it is not uncommon for a single person to employ several speechwriters, but the members of the team are generally not credited for individual speeches.

A speechwriter starts by meeting with the person delivering the speech to discuss the audience, the goal of the speech, and the points which need to be conveyed. Thinking about these issues, the speechwriter drafts a speech which integrates the desired points. It is important to strike the right tone, both for the audience and the person delivering the speech, as public officials like to maintain a consistent public face. The speechwriter may integrate various “signature” lines or pieces of rhetoric which people associate with the speaker, for example.

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Once the draft is prepared, it can be sent to the official for evaluation, and notes are returned with any requests for adjustment. Sometimes an entire speech needs to be scrapped and rewritten, and in other cases a speechwriter just needs to make some changes. Once the speech is fully prepared for delivery, copies can be circulated to the media, and the speech can be loaded into a teleprompter or similar device for use during the speech.

Being skilled at rhetoric and oratory is an important skill for a speechwriter, but not the only one. These professionals must also be familiar with a broad spectrum of issues, and to be able to translate complex information into terms which will be understood by the audience. Many speechwriters have a background in liberal arts and the humanities, but they may also approach their career from the sciences. In the case of a speechwriting team, people with different skills can be matched to different needs, ensuring that a speech is prepared by the person best suited for the job.

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