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How To Utter The Speech Correct And Effective Speaking

( Originally Published 1922 )

I. Uttering Words Clearly Enunciation

Words are made up of sounds. Giving these sounds is called articulation. To speak so that people will understand you, you must give every sound its place, with distinct, full utterance. To do this you must pay heed to your consonants, to your initial and final consonants especially.

No fault is more common than indistinct articulation. To overcome this fault, faithful, intelligent practice is required.

Exercises to loosen up the throat and make the tongue, lips, and jaw flexible are necessary. Care must be taken to develop a sense for syllable divisions. The lazy habit of omitting

syllables and running sounds together must be overcome.

Exercises in Enunciation

1. Practise frequently the exercises for lips, tongue, jaw, and throat(p.71)

2. In speaking and oral reading watch yourself and see that you get in all the syllables.

3. Practise on the following. Pronounce each word slowly at first, being sure to enunciate each separate syllable. Read the same sentences at a normal rate, listening carefully for all the sounds:

Momentarily athletics made William forget arithmetic.

From a posteriori reasoning both scientists, though working separately, arrived at similar generalizations.

Every morning she conscientiously studied geography, particularly the geography of Asia and the Arctic regions, which she found peculiarly and inexplicably difficult.

The government peremptorily demanded satisfactory adjudication of this abominably bungled business.

His instruction in the consonants was indubitably superior. Naturally all candidates try to please the soldiers.

In February signs of spring are generally visible.

4. Practise these tongue-twisters with serious care for distinct consonants.

Shall I show you to a seat?

Stalwart Sam Simpson steadily strode seaward.

Clumsy Chris Keddy kindly kissed coquettish Kitty.

Lester Lee leaned lightly on the flimsy five-foot fence.

The weary wanderer wondered wistfully whether winsome Winifred would weep.

Meaningless mumbling makes Mary's master mutter madly.

Amidst the mists and coldest frosts, With barest wrists and stoutest boasts, He thrusts his fists against the posts And still insists he sees the ghosts.

Exercises are, of course, but a step. You will come to speak your words well only when you learn to take pride in articulating every word you utter, either at home or school, as if you were on dress parade in class.

II. Uttering Words Correctly Pronunciation

One of the really serious things of life for him who would be educated in this country is the learning of English pronunciation. The matter becomes doubly grave with the public speaker, whose every utterance is for inspection, so to speak, and whose reputation and influence would be injured by gross mispronunciation. Fortunately, however, in this day of many dictionaries it is easy to look up the words one needs to use. There are a number of words that have two or more accepted pronunciations. In such cases, it would seem better to speak the word after the manner that seems favored by the educated people in your locality. At any rate it is certainly wise to fix upon one of the pronunciations as your own and stick to it.

No one can learn English pronunciation in a day. Mastery can come only as the result of a desire to speak words correctly, backed by long-continued use of the dictionary, a conscious training of the ear to recognize correct sounds, and a pronunciation conscience that feels shame at errors.

III. Putting Meaning into Words

All of us have heard some one read who uttered every word exactly alike, with the same tone for each, and the same time, with no emphasis, no pauses all merely a bare pronunciation of words. We call such reading or speaking expressionless, because there is no meaning conveyed. Good reading and speaking require that the voice be so used that not only will main ideas be made clear, but also the finer shades of thought and emotion will be expressed or suggested.


Spoken language falls into natural thought groups or phrases. These groups do not always conform to the punctuation of written speech, nor to divisions upon a grammatical basis; they follow rather the demand of the mind for smaller units of thought than the sentence or clause. In this grouping the words most closely related in thought fall together. At the end of each unit the speaker pauses, not with the falling inflection as at the period, but with the voice suspended ready to go on into the next group. The pause is long or short depending on the prominence the speaker feels is due the thought of the unit. Notice the grouping of the following. The groups are set off by bars; period pauses are not marked.

Those who make the least noise do the most work. An engine that expends all its steam in whistling has nothing left with which to turn the wheels.

God always has in training some commanding genius for the control of great crises in the affairs of nations and peoples.

Every good speaker comes to convey his thought in groups like this. Without it there can be no intelligible utterance. The ability to find thought units will come with practice in the habit of centering the attention on ideas instead of on words. There is only one fixed guide for grouping: there can be only one emphatic word to a group. But more important is this fact: he who would learn to group must learn to think.


The next step in conveying ideas is to take care to give exact meanings by showing the relations of words to each other. Words in a given sentence, or group, are not all of equal weight in expressing the main idea. In the same way, in any discourse of any length there are sentences, or groups of sentences, that mean more than others. Words or sentences that bring out main ideas must be given prominence. This is done with words or groups of words, (1) by taking more time for the utterance, (2) by a pause after the word or words, (3) by emphasis, (4) by a certain double inflection to indicate contrast. With a group of sentences or a series of some one part of the speech, it is done by climax.

The several methods of indicating prominence of words are not at all distinct from each other. In fact, in this sentence, "When God wants to make an oak, He takes one hundred years; but when He wants to make a squash, He takes six months," all four are used.

a. Time. A trained speaker often makes his big main ideas stand out by taking plenty of time to utter the words that express them. He expands them, draws them out, lingers on them, giving his audience a chance to get the full meaning. Impressive words or even whole sentences that convey largeness of thought, solemnity, sadness, grandeur, wonder, awe, all need time. The following sentences illustrate.

All hail, Columbus, discoverer, dreamer, hero, and apostle. CHAUNCEY DEPEW

It is God's way; His will, not ours, be done. MCKINLEY

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.


We base our argument on this fundamental principle: Industrial peace can come only when justice is done; justice can be done only when the facts in the case are known; the facts can be known only through impartial investigation that will uncover those facts.

Great in life, he was surpassingly great in death.

b. The Pause. The pause has the effect of centering attention even more than giving more time. It makes the word preceding, prominent, or serves to throw into bold relief an important or startling idea that is to follow. One of the most effective uses of the pause on record was that of Henry toward the close of his House of Burgesses speech:

Caesar had his Brutus, Charles the First his Cromwell, and George the Third (here a pause long enough for the chairman and others to call "Treason! Treason! ") may profit by their example.

In the following, the pauses are effective:

Socrates died like a philosopher; Jesus Christ died like a god. And shadows of dead men Watching 'em there.

c. Emphasis. Emphasis is secured in three ways by stress, by loudness, by intensity.

(1) Stress is added force. The word is uttered with an upward swing of the voice ending in a stroke, much like the accent on a syllable. It varies in intensity from the slight emphasis on some word in every sentence in ordinary speech to the explosive utterance of the highly-wrought orator. Words carrying new or important ideas are always stressed. "Do you read the latest novels?" "Well, I read Conrad's books as they appear."

Go back over the illustrative sentences given in this section and mark the words that are stressed.

(2) Loudness. Loudness is a form of emphasis in cases where a sudden elevation of tone will arrest the attention and make an idea stand out. It is more common in exciting dramatic situations than elsewhere. Laertes' cry as he leaps into Ophelia's grave,

Hold off the earth awhile
Till I have caught her once more in my arms,

and Hamlet's shout as he throws himself after him,

This is I, Hamlet the Dane,

as also James Fitz-James's defiance to Roderick Dhu and his host,

Come one, come all, this rock shall fly
From its firm base as soon as I,

are emphatic through loudness.

(3) Intensity. The most gripping form of emphasis is intensity. Intensity is impassioned earnestness. It is stress plus the vibrant tenseness of voice that comes from deep feeling. The classic example of intensity was that desperate, heroic cry of the French at Verdun, voicing as it did the concentrated determination of a whole nation, "They shall not pass."

There have been in the history of oratory wonderful examples of the thrill and power of great emotion breaking through into intensified utterance. Webster's burning query in his "seventh of March" speech "What states are to secede? What is to remain American? What am I to be?" which made some in the audience "shudder as if some dire calamity was at hand;" Patrick Henry's flaming "Give me Liberty, or give me Death;" President Wilson's solemn restraint in his "war message" to Congress, described as the "most tense moment in American history," are examples.

Intensity may be expressed in a shrill high tone, but it is more often voiced in a lower key.

This caution to the student: do not work for intensity. Given a trained, flexible voice, true feeling will express itself naturally. Avoid artificial "tremolo" like the plague.

d. Double Inflection. Inflection is the upward or downward swing or bend of the voice from the average key. Contrasts are indicated by an upward and downward, or double, inflection. This is a peculiar little wave of the voice that serves advance notice, as it were, that a contrasting idea is coming.

In the sentence, "Elizabeth is helping mother," the emphasis is direct, but let us say, "Elizabeth is helping mother, Betty is reading to father," and the double inflection is used to make the opposing ideas stand out.

e. Climax. Climax is giving continued prominence to a sentence or group of sentences that contain the main idea and strongest feelings of the speech. The means used are the same as in the case of words time, pauses, emphasis through stress, loudness, or intensity, only now the stress, the loudness, or the intensity is sustained in more forceful and energized utterance. Climax comes as a natural result of a speaker's warming to his subject and leading by natural gradations to the more vital and important ideas.


When one speaks of the death of a friend he naturally uses a different tone from that in which he announces a picnic or a baseball victory. Aside from the mere ideas expressed is the general feeling background, which in one case is sad, in the other joyous. It is so in all speaking. There is a certain tone quality that fits the occasion, the ideas, the mood. There is a fitting tone for bigness, for delicacy; for solemnity, for joyousness; for things important, for things trivial. To read Thanatopsis in the same tone one would use in reciting Twinkle, twinkle, little star, would be as much out of harmony as for a minister to talk and joke with his helpers during the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, a crime the writer once saw a pastor commit.

The sympathetic speaker instinctively catches the right mood, and his voice shows it. Let your tone always reflect the appropriate feeling quality. If you are reading, try to re-live the author's mood; if you are to speak at a jolly banquet, see to it that your voice echoes the good cheer of the occasion; if you have an oration based on the suffering in Poland, let your tones convey the serious nature of your subject.


It is possible for the voice not only to express the main ideas and emotions that a speaker wishes to convey, but to bring out all the finer shades of meaning and feeling that may lie underneath. These are the touches that give the real color and character to speech, that reveal the personality and sincerity of a speaker. Traces of sarcasm, delicate irony, or these elements in open guise; pathos, tenderness, sentiment of every variety; distrust, revolt, distaste, hostility; confidence, admiration, friendliness; hesitation, decision, solicitude, pity, sympathy; arrogance, impudence, self-satisfaction the list would fill pages. Professor Phillips in his Natural Drills in Expression has listed 214 tone drills to illustrate the various possible mental states of the speaker. It is neither possible nor necessary at this point to discuss these in full; it is enough to suggest the means by which one expresses the different shades of meaning.

a. Voice Training. These feelings should be natural or should not be attempted; if they are genuine, a properly trained voice will reflect them well enough. All that has been said of voice culture, then, has direct bearing here.

b. Inflection, Tone Quality, and Time. Many of these fine shades of meaning are indicated by the various up and down movements of the voice in inflection, by tone quality, by the time, or by a combination of all. The wave effect, combined with other qualities, may convey a hundred little variations in meaning. In such a sentence as "Is this your gratitude?" the slide, a little more time, and a certain indefinable quality may indicate scorn and disgust. In like manner, in Burke's "But, Mr. Speaker, we have a right to tax America. Oh, inestimable right! Oh, wonderful, transcendent right! the assertion of which has cost this country thirteen provinces, six islands, one hundred thousand lives, and seventy millions of money," irony, scorn, indignation, denunciation are combined with a suggestion of the bigness of the mistake and the greatness of the losses suffered. The cultivated girl who sees the Grand Canyon for the first time may say, "Oh, it is wonderful, isn't it?" with wonder, surprise, awe, almost ecstasy in her tone. So one might go on with innumerable examples, but it is enough to suggest the field. The intelligent student will see that the subject of shading meanings is almost as big as thought life itself; he will see the need, if he is to express his exact thought and feeling, of training his vocal organs so to obey his will as to respond to the slightest promptings of the inner voice.

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