A speechwriter is a person who is hired to prepare and write speeches that will be delivered by another person. Speechwriters are used by many senior-level elected officials and executives in the government and private sectors.

Skills and training

A speechwriter works directly with senior executives to determine what points, themes, positions, or messages the executive would like to cover. Moreover, speechwriters need to be able to accept criticism and comments on the different drafts of the speech, and be able to incorporate the proposed changes into the draft. Speechwriters have to be able to work on several different speeches at once, and manage their time so that they can meet strict deadlines for finishing the speech on time.[1] Speechwriters must also be able to accept anonymity, because with few exceptions, speechwriters (like ghostwriters) are not officially credited or acknowledged. This aspects creates a dilemma for historians and compilers of speech anthology. If some poignant phrase gains popularity such as John F.Kennedy's 'Ask what you have done for the country and not what the country has done for you.', to whom the credit should be attributed; was it to the President or to Ted Sorenson (the speech writer) or to both? Professional Speechwriter, Lawrence Bernstein writes

Some clients have called with six months to spare, others with four hours to go; some want to meet up first, others want coaching afterwards; quite a few did everything by email and we’ve never even spoken.[2]

While there is a guild called "The Speechwriters' Guild" for professional writers who specialise in writing speeches, speechwriters do not usually have specific training in the area or field for which they are writing speeches; a speechwriter preparing a speech for a governor on health policy will rarely have a Master of Public Health degree. Instead, speechwriters often have a broad understanding of basic economics, political roles, and policy issues, which makes them a generalist who is able to "translate" complex economic and policy issues into a clear message for the general public. As well, as with many other writing occupations, most speechwriters do not have specific training in their writing craft. Instead, speechwriters often develop their speechwriting skills by combining a general liberal arts education (e.g., in political science, philosophy, law, or English literature) with a variety of work experience in politics, public administration, journalism, or a related field.

The speechwriter writes with the challenge that includes delivery as part of the message. Executive speechwriter Anthony Trendl writes

Speechwriters specialize in a kind of writing that merges marketing, theater, public relations, sales, education and politics all in one presentation.[3]

Speechwriting process

Writing a speech involves several steps. A speechwriter has to meet with the executive and the executive's senior staff to find out the broad framework of points or messages that the executive wants to cover in the speech. Then, the speechwriter does his or her own research on the topic, to flesh out this framework with anecdotes, and examples. The speechwriter will also consider the audience for the speech, which can range from a town-hall meeting of community leaders to an international leaders' forum. Then the speechwriter blends the points, themes, positions, and messages with his or her own research to create an "informative, original and authentic speech" for the executive.[1]

The speechwriter then presents a draft version of the speech to the executive (or the executive's staff) and makes notes on any revisions or changes that are requested. If the speechwriter is familiar with the topic and the positions and style of the executive, only small changes may be needed. In other cases, the executive may feel that the speech does not have the right tone or flow, and the entire speech may have to be re-drafted.

Famous speechwriters

Some famous political speechwriters include:


United Kingdom

United States

Fictional speechwriters

Some fictional speechwriters include: James Hobert, speechwriter for the fictional Mayor of New York City Randall Winston on Spin City. Toby Ziegler, Sam Seaborn and later on, Will Bailey all wrote for the Bartlet Administration on the The West Wing.

See also

  • Ghostwriter, a professional writer who is paid to write books, articles, stories, or reports which are officially credited to another person
  • Judson Welliver Society, a social club of former presidential speechwriters


External links

  • List of White House speechwriters
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