Which words to use when speaking

Speaking is very different from writing. When we write the audience may not read what we have written for a while, whereas, when we speak the words go out into the room and can be lost.

If you use certain words, you are much more likely to be remembered.

So, what words are best?

The work “you” is the most important word in a speech.

By asking the audience, “When was the last time you…? They are likely to sit up and listen because they are being asked a question to them, directly. In any given speech “you” and “we” are better than “I” and “he” or “she.”

Then, the next most important thing about words, is to paint a picture of every point you want to make. Most people are visual.

As soon as you describe a scene, or a room or an incident, your audience will picture it and start to be involved with your story or scene. For example, say you want to illustrate how difficult it is to get up in the morning to go to gym. Instead of saying, “It’s really hard. I know, because I try to get up every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Luckily I do.” 

That’s boring. Instead say, “So, you’re lying under the doona and it’s warm and soft. You stretch and think to yourself: I’ll just lie here for another five minutes. But then that voice in your head says, “Get moving now!” 

So, you swing round, spring out of bed and start to dress.” Within 20 minutes you are rowing at gym, feeling very proud of yourself.

Yes, it took more words. And yes, it had description, action and feelings. But it is much more memorable than the brief “tell”. Show is much more effective than tell.

Next, are powerful verbs. 

Verbs are the most important part of a sentence. There are so many verbs in English. Make sure you use a very emotional one that carries the meaning you want. For example, I did not “get out of bed.”  “I sprang out of bed.” Can you see the connotations of “spring” compared to “get out.”

Use figurative language. Figurative language is all that poetic stuff, like metaphors, alliteration. Onomatopoeia, and similes. It sounds complicated. But it’s not. Instead of saying, “She was tall,” (boring) say, “She towered over me.” (It’s more exciting, because the audience picture a tower.) Instead of say, “She was brave.” Say, “She acted like a lion protecting her pride.” It’s a simile and it’s a picture.

“Boys bat better” is more interesting than, “boys play well.” “Spalt! Her life savings were swallowed up.” It is much more memorable than, “She lost her money.”

Finally, words should be short, sharp and simple. They are easier to say, easier to be heard and easier to pronounce.

So KISS: keep it simple sweetheart, when it comes to words.

Judith Field


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