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The Copywriter – April 2010

The Budget – a word cloud analysis

With the general election in full swing, we thought it only right to give a nod to the politicians in April's edition of The Copywriter. This year’s budget is likely to be Alistair Darling’s swan song, the final flourish in a series of three which the No. 11 speechwriters would no doubt have agonised over. As tribute to their efforts, we put both the 2009 and 2010 budget speeches through the cloud generator to really analyse the stuff they’re made of – the true currency here at Stratton Craig – the words.

Of course there were those you’d expect: ‘recovery’ is emblazoned across both clouds as the Chancellor plots his course amidst the worst financial turbulence for decades. ‘Global’ and ‘world’ remain heavily stressed in an effort to explain the epic proportions of the downturn – ‘the storm which began in America’ that Britain has had the bad luck of getting swept up in.

But there are also some clear differences. Last year, words like ‘help’, ‘measures’, ‘steps’ and ‘extra’ were emphasised as the government outlined the massive fiscal stimulus required to snatch the economy from the jaws of a depression. This year, out the other side of the recession, we see the spectre of ‘borrowing’ looming large, returning to haunt the Chancellor as he now works out how to pay all that money back. ‘Inflation’ also rears its head for the first time in the 2010 cloud, as well as ‘pay’ and ‘bonuses’ as he attempts to satisfy the national clamouring for a piece of the bankers’ pie with his 50 per cent tax on their rewards. He is also much happier to talk about ‘jobs’ in 2010, a word strutting proudly across the word cloud as unemployment has fallen of late.

At Stratton Craig, we’re also interested in the words that slip below the headline-grabbing radar – the small print, those subtle formulations that produce ‘tone of voice’ or personality in writing. Seen together, the two clouds might summarise a great adventure story: in 2009, the country ‘was plunged into deep ‘crisis’’, the events of the past year have been ‘major’, the Labour government needed to act ‘quickly’, swooping in to rescue us all; in 2010, Darling the conquering hero, looks back and recounts the tough ‘decisions’ and ‘choices’ with rhetoric that is almost triumphant.

The word ‘already’ stands out as Darling reminds the House of the government’s interventions that have begun taking effect. It’s a swaggering appeal to voters where the word ‘right’ (not seen at all on the 2009 cloud) holds forth confidently. Interestingly enough, however, words such as ‘future’ and ‘long-term’ are not as prominent as they were in 2009 when they were used to shift the focus away from the gloom of the present. This time it seems Darling decided not to try and convince the public of the great future yet to come under Labour. Perhaps even super heroes know when it might be time to retire…

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