Personality And Speech
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
There is no finer instrument than the English language, none capable of a greater range of perfect expression. It can be made sweet or vigorous, connotative or precise. It is entirely responsive to the mind that plays upon it.
PERSONALITY IS sometimes defined as the expression of one's self. We express ourselves by our dress, our grooming, our bearing, by every act and movement; but, most of all, we express ourselves by what we say and the way we say it. No other personality factor counts so much for or against us as does our speech.
What is your own reaction to an unpleasant voice, to slovenly enunciation, mispronunciation, and ungrammatical language? Haven't you often judged some persons as weak and ineffectual merely from hearing them speak or from reading their letters? In the same way, haven't you decided that other persons have strong personalities and that they are worthy of your respect, confidence, and friend-ship? Don't you have a mental picture of every person whose voice you hear over the radio? We cannot escape the fact that we are judged by both our written and our spoken language. As most of us speak a great deal more frequently than we write, we need first of all to master every phase of speech if we are to win friends, enjoy life more fully, and succeed in earning a satisfactory living.
In the past there has been too great a tendency to take speech for granted, but today our entire nation is rapidly becoming critical of voices, grammar, enunciation, pronunciation, and diction. Much of this new speech consciousness is due to radio, which gives us speech without the visual background of the speaker's appearance.
Most common among the speech faults of which we have become conscious are those which cultured English-speaking people from other lands refer to as "typically American"—flat, nasal voices, mumbling through our teeth and half-closed lips, and pronouncing our words so carelessly that we destroy all the beautiful sounds that are rightfully a part of our language.
These bad habits of speech—for they are merely habits—may be the result of poor training at home, of association with others who are careless of their speech, or of carelessness on our part. How we acquire these habits is immaterial. The point we must remember is that speech is a matter of habit; therefore we can acquire good habits of speech regardless of our heredity, environment, or formal education.