Convince. Connect. Express. Explain. Denounce. Defend. Impress. Invite. Persuade. Promote.

The right language electrifies the best ideas. It sparks us to listen. It stimulates imagination and helps to power change.

It all comes down to language. (And we know language.)

Chances are you're missing some opportunities to take full advantage of what language can do for you. Tired of talking points making you say the same thing again and again? Ever a little uneasy using what polls say are "words that work" with the public? Sometimes think "values messaging" doesn't go far enough? If you're nodding your head, you're in good company – we hear things like this all the time. And we help.

We're experts with language – and at packing the most effective language with the right meaning for you and your goals. We check every choice from prepositions to pragmatics, from speech acts to sound symbolism, to ensure your language is literally (okay, metaphorically) chock full of what you mean to say.

We hang on your every word.

Whether you've got a public speech or a legal brief, a new brand to name or a national poll to field, a few talking points or a full communications plan, we're here to make sure you get the most out of what language can do. You know what you want to say. We know how to help others hear you better.

Real language is powerful language. It's clear, direct, natural, coherent, focused, consistent, playful at times. And it's authentic. Leveraging the tools of cognitive linguistics, we identify and avoid the counterproductive, clear out the artificial, and neutralize the toxic. We help you strip off these layers of dead weight so that your language can have as much life as your ideas.

Plug us in.

We join your communications team when you need us – for a couple of weeks, for a couple of years – and help you make the most of every language opportunity. We love to elevate, strengthen, amplify, ground, sweeten, sharpen, magnify. Our strength is taking your best existing language and making it even better.

We're your language strategists.

We've been honing our skills with language for well over a decade, working on some of the most challenging issues: talking about inequality, abortion, LGBTQ rights, the environment, sex education, and health care. We've partnered with leading polling and research firms. We've helped big players have an even bigger impact, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood, and the Ford Foundation.

Alyssa Wulf

Alyssa Wulf


Alyssa is a cognitive linguist who has dedicated her career to understanding language, judgment, empathy, and persuasion. She trained her ear growing up in South Dakota, Iowa, and Western New York and earned her professional credentials at Wesleyan, Gallaudet, and UC Berkeley. First an American Sign Language linguist in Washington DC, by 2004 Alyssa was Senior Linguist at the Rockridge Institute, where she crafted fundamental changes in political language for the reproductive and environmental movements. As President of Real Reason, Alyssa led the development of cognitive strategic initiatives to shift public discourse on contentious issues and advised national nonprofit leaders. 

Erik Sahlin

Erik Sahlin


Erik has spent most of his life sharpening his political and language instincts. Raised in Missouri and Minnesota, he worked on the ground in local politics while devouring the Congressional Record on the side. At Georgetown, Stanford, and UC Berkeley, Erik built his expertise as a social scientist through work in history, politics, and rhetoric. Living for two years in Taipei, he gained fluency in Mandarin Chinese while observing Taiwan's democratization first hand. Back in the US, Erik guided the Rockridge Institute think tank through the aftermath of the 2004 elections, before leaving to co-found the nonprofit Real Reason. There he helped ensure progressive advocates used language true to their political goals.

We're here to talk. 

Tell us about your specific needs. We make the time for real conversation before any engagement.


Real Language LLC
1300 Clay Street, Suite 600
Oakland, CA 94612



T (510) 981-2020
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