As we approach the third year of the Trump presidency, I have been thinking about why his tweets so effectively influence his most ardent supporters. They’re not especially well-written, and their content is bombastic and mostly false. However, I believe that Trump writes with such authority and conviction that he easily wins over impressionable minds. How exactly does he do this? I’ll enumerate a few ways.
- Capitalization and punctuation marks: Trump frequently uses all-caps to emphasize his words, and loves using exclamation marks at the end of sentences. Although I think that this punctuation suggests that he is shouting all the time, I can see how some readers might appreciate such emphatic statements. These loud declarations demand attention, and they are only too happy to grant it. Plus, I can’t deny that such tactics make the tweets more visible and memorable, and I’m sure that Trump is counting on this.
2. Sacrificing proper grammar for simplicity of message: Trump often passes off sentence fragments as full sentences, just to quickly get his point across. This is probably a good idea for tweets, since Twitter restricts character count. And while I think that such writing comes across as simple-minded, and more appropriate for a newspaper headline than a sentence, such shorthand closely mirrors colloquial speech. I wouldn’t be surprised if Trump’s followers feel that he is trying to relate to them in this manner.
3. Frequent misspellings: You may be asking yourself, “How can this be good?” The answer is that if journalists spend too much time criticizing Trump’s spelling, along with his grammatical mistakes and abuses, his followers might feel that they are nitpicking just because he is a Republican. Many followers might see these misspellings as endearing rather than egregious, and admire him for his failings.
Now, let me offer a hypothetical tweet to make my point. “DEMS denied funding for Wall, and now they COMPLANE about Federal Workers going broke! Can’t have it both ways! Pay up or shut up!”
The fallacy here is that the Democrats should shoulder all of the blame for the government shutdown. In fact, Trump previously said that he would take the blame for the shutdown–only to backtrack when it was politically convenient. Also, eight House Republicans recently voted against Trump’s border wall. That’s not many, but it’s still enough to prevent unanimous support. Moving on to sentence construction, we see that he is brief and emphatic. The capitalization draws attention to key points, and the exclamation marks lend authority to the statements. The misspelling is obvious, but relatively unimportant given the rest of the tweet’s contents. Lastly, this hypothetical tweet once again targets Democrats as enemies and deflects attention away from himself.
So, should Democratic leaders adopt Trump’s writing style if they want to win over supporters? I would advise against it. Not only would such mimicry appear to be blatantly mocking Trump, but most Democratic supporters would feel that such statements would mock their intelligence. However, it might not be a bad idea to project the same level of authority. Don’t distort or ignore the truth, and don’t paint your opponents as enemies of the people, but write confidently, angrily, and with purpose. Call your supporters to action, and convince them that your way is the only way. It might seem uncouth, but we might be past the point where decorum matters. Going high doesn’t necessarily mean going properly. If speaking LOUDLY and carrying a big stick is what it takes, then by all means do it.