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C. S. Lewis and the Craft of Communication

Steven A. Beebe

C. S. Lewis, based on the popularity of his books and essays, is one of the best communicators of the twentieth century. During his lifetime he was hailed for his talents as author, speaker, educator, and broadcaster; he continues to be a best-selling author more than a half-century after his death.

C. S. Lewis and the Craft of Communication analyzes Lewis’s communication skill. A comprehensive review of Lewis’s work reveals five communication principles that explain his success as a communicator. Based on Lewis’s own advice about communication in his books, essays, and letters, as well as his communication practice, being a skilled communicator is to be holistic, intentional, transpositional, evocative, and audience-centered. These five principles are memorably summarized by the acronym HI TEA. Dr. Steven Beebe, past president of the National Communication Association and an internationally-recognized communication author and educator, uses Lewis’s own words to examine these five principles in a most engaging style.

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8 Audience Centered


“We must learn the language of our audience.”1

- C. S. Lewis

“You must translate every bit of your Theology into the vernacular. This is very troublesome, and it means that you can say very little in half an hour, but it is essential.”2

- C. S. Lewis

John Lawlor, an officer in the Royal Air Force, was in a bar listening to the radio on August 6, 1941, at 7:45 pm, in the officer’s mess of the Royal Air Force base where he was stationed during World War II. Someone ordered a drink. Just as the barman was about to hand the drink back to the customer, Lawlor heard the voice of C. S. Lewis during his first radio broadcast talk: “Suddenly everyone just froze listening to this extraordinary voice. And what he had to say. And finally they end up and there was the barman with his arm still up there and the other man still waiting for his drink. And they all forgot it, so riveting was that.”3 What was it that made Lewis’s talk grab the attention of his audience? Here are the opening few sentences of Lewis’s first broadcast talk:

Every one has heard people quarrelling. Sometimes it sounds funny and sometimes it sounds merely unpleasant; but however it sounds, I believe we can learn something very important from listening to the kind of things they say. They say...

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