Political Speech Writing
By Eric Hammer
Believe it or not, very few politicians actually write their
own speeches. In most cases, they work with someone who is a
paid professional in political speech writing to help them to
write effective speeches, which they may then tweak on their
Even politicians who clearly know how to write well like President
Barack Obama often do not write their own speeches. Partially,
this is because they may not be comfortable with the idea. However,
this is also in part because they just dont have time.
Politicians must deliver hundreds of speeches a year and even
the best of them cant keep up with coming up with something
effective to say on whatever subject they happen to be speaking
Of course, politicians can also get themselves into some serious
hot water when they work with others who are in the business
of political speech writing. Take for example Carl Paladino,
the former gubernatorial candidate in New York State. Many people
say that his campaign was struck a fatal blow when he simply
read a speech word for word that was prepared for him by an ultra-orthodox
rabbi which criticized the gay lifestyle. In a liberal state
like New York, this was a death sentence for his campaign when
word got out about what hed said. Therefore, politicians
who hire speech writers tend to want to vet their candidates
thoroughly in order to make sure you know what youre doing
and that your own views will mesh well with the candidate or
How Much Can You Make?
As with most jobs that involve freelancing rather than working
for someone, the amount you can earn varies widely. Most political
speech writers get by, making around the same amounts that many
freelance journalists and authors make, in other words, just
barely a living maybe $20,000 a year. However, for those
who make it to the top of the profession, for example, those
who are hired to work regularly with presidential campaigns and
who may even become "advisors" of a sort to the president,
the money you make could easily top $200,000.
Ways to Make More | Related Opportunities
In addition to political speech writing, it is possible to
land work helping others to write effective speeches. CEOs for
example, while not generally in the habit of making political
speeches often hire professional speech writers to help them
prepare an effective speech for stockholders or for a press conference.
You may also be able to make a nice living helping ordinary
people write speeches, for example when they have lifecycle events
(bar/bat mitzvah, communion, wedding, etc.). Many people feel
extremely uncomfortable making speeches and will pay good money
to hire professional speech writers to help them.
Finally, a related skill to speech writing is writing opinion
articles for the newspaper which are then published under someone
elses name (i.e. ghost writing). These kinds of articles
are sometimes written by professional writers who are given a
rough outline of what the politician wants to say and then put
into quality prose by someone who works in the background.
Qualifications / Requirements
Becoming a political speech writer does not technically require
any formal licensing or training, however, realistically you
probably want to take a major in either journalism or political
science in college in order to get into this business. People
will feel more comfortable hiring you if they know you understand
how to put things briefly and succinctly, while at the same time
conveying a particular idea, skills you may get from either of
Start by studying famous speeches and reading a number of
books on writing speeches (see below). Learn some of the techniques
of professionals speech writers (for example, many professional
speech writers will group things into threes for the simple reason
that human mind seems to be wired to accept things in groups
of three more readily think Winston Churchills famous
"blood sweat and tears" or Hitlers (for a sharp
contrast) famous "eine volke, eine reich, eine furher"
("one people, one country, one leader").
Another common thing that many speech writers use is the contrast
as in John F. Kennedys famous "Ask not what
your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country,"
or Winston Churchills combination of the two techniques,
"Never has so much been done for so many by so few."
You need to learn these techniques and others of speech writing
and only then start looking for work. Start with small time campaigns
where they may not have the money to hire professional speech
writers. Offer to volunteer. If your speeches help your candidate
to get elected, your name will become known as well and their
career will help launch your career.
Ask Deb: How to Become a Speechwriter
While more generalized than the topic of this article, this is
still a good resource for those interested in the art of speech
writing with some great information.
Amazon: So Youd Like to be a Presidential Speechwriter
This is a kind of course of study on the subject of political
speech writing. While not nearly as comprehensive as you might
want, its a good place to get started.
NPR: The Inside Art of Political Speech Writing
While not a guide on how to become a speech writer, this
is essential reading for you nonetheless as it covers some of
the techniques in speech writing.
Scholastic: Tips from the Insiders: How to Write
a Political Speech Another guide to the practical
side of writing speeches as opposed to a how to get the job guide,
but still a very useful read.