Zingers: The power of the “one-liner” in communicating with jurors

There is nothing more powerful in terms of capturing someone’s attention and imbedding your message in their brain than a good one-liner or as I like to call them, a “zinger”. A “zinger” is described as “a surprising or unusually pointed or telling remark.” In today’s modern fast paced world, speechwriters and politicians often work on developing that one biting quip or sound bite which will disarm an opponent and grab an audience’s favor. Such comments, often seem unscripted even though they were planned out well in advance. Attorneys can use “zingers” as a rhetorical device during cross-examination or in closing argument to drive a point home. “Zingers” are especially effective in rebutting your opponent’s argument. Your source material is everywhere. I urge you to look to quote books, comedians and popular culture for such material.

A recent book, “The Notes”, posthumously published on behalf of President Ronald Reagan, is a collection of quotes and anecdotes that Reagan gathered over his long career as a speaker and politician. He made a concerted effort through out his life to look for and collect such quotes on index cards. He collected such material all of his life. President Reagan was the master of the one-liner. Who can forget Reagan’s “There you go again” quip he used to boomerang criticism of his position back at his opponent, President Jimmy Carter during their presidential debate in 1980. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wi9y5-Vo61w Books containing anthologies of jokes is another source of such material. The master of the “zinger” is “Mark Twain” a/k/a Samuel Clemens. In dealing with the topic of truthfulness and the use of statistics to bolster a weak argument, Twain observed:

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.

Another way of putting it according to Twain was “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.” Such a statement can quickly and effectively eviscerate an opponent and swings the audience or jury in one’s favor. So cultivate your inner one-liners, you won’t be disappointed and you may just “zing” your opponent next time you are in court.
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File:Mark Twain by AF Bradley.jpg

Mark Twain, photo by A. F. Bradley
New York, 1907

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Posted on January 24, 2012, in cross-examination, Trial Advocacy. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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