Recently I was talking to a woman on the phone and I was continually asking her to repeat herself. When our business was completed, I told her that because of the way she clipped her words, I had missed much of what she was saying. Admittedly, had I been facing her in conversation, it would have been much easier to understand her; however, on the phone where there is no visual support for speech, much of what she was saying was lost.
She was quite interested in my remarks and further questioned me about her speech, informing me that she was a percussionist. At that point, I knew how to make her understand what I was saying by explaining what she was doing in musical terms.
In playing an instrument or in singing, there is a term known as staccato. As my piano teacher explained this to me when I was a child, hit the note as if it were hot. If you liken speech to this term, it means that you are ending your words very quickly without drawing out your sound – almost as if you are bouncing off your words.
The opposite of this effect is known as legato. In music, it means holding the note down. In speech, it means enunciating the word and allowing the sound to last just a bit. It makes your speech very smooth.
It is also important to recognize that clipping your words and speaking too quickly are not the same thing. Fast speech is exactly what it says. Clipped speech, on the other hand, is shortening the articulation of the word.
If you are aware that you are a ‘clipper,’ try this exercise.
- Say the word brown and hold the 'ow' briefly with the 'n' coming in at the very end. Don't exaggerate it; just hold it a bit. Now say it again, clipping the word. Could you tell the difference?
While it will take some practice and the breaking of some lifelong habits, it is definitely worth the effort to learn to enunciate your words more smoothly. Start listening to yourself when you speak as much as possible. Listen to professional broadcasters and take note of how they sound. Your ear can be your best friend in making legato speech a habit.
The reason for speaking is to be understood and the only way that is going to happen is if you begin to enunciate your words with more precision.
The Voice Lady Nancy Daniels offers private, corporate and group workshops in voice and presentation skills as well as Voicing It!, the only video training program on voice improvement. Visit Voice Dynamic and discover how to speak more distinctly.