Do I Make Myself Clear?

Voice and Communication Skills Top Tips: Style

Clients have often said to me that they find native English speakers harder to understand than their colleagues who have English as a second language. Why is this? Surely native English speakers are easier to understand...

Generally, the answer is no! Native English speakers tend not to spend as much time considering their choice of words and use of language and use more colloquialisms and expressions which are not necessarily accessible to all.

The first objective of any speaker is to be clear so that your audience understands your message. There are a number of factors which affect clarity of message: the selection of words and language is just one area for consideration.

There are other benefits in spending time on this as your choices will influence the way you are perceived by your audience. Do you have a plain or elaborate style of speaking? Do you explain ideas using a few words or many? Do you come across as a clear or a chaotic thinker? Do you sound authoritative or lacklustre? Do you inspire or demotivate?

Spending time selecting the most appropriate words and language prior to a speech or presentation will be time well spent – and will add to the impact of your message. Not only will the result be clearer but also more effective. 


Here are our 10 Top Tips:


1. Avoid expressions (and acronyms) that your audience won’t understand.

'We must take all outcomes from the RBT’s in order to maximize customer identification of our core competencies.'

really means:

'We must learn from these events, so that our customers know what we do well.'


 2. Use monosyllabic words to make the message stronger and give the speaker an air of authority.

 'This must be done now.'

rather than:

'It is necessary that all the actions be effected without delay.'


 3. Speak in the active rather than the passive voice to give more energy to your message and to involve your audience.

 'We must start this straightaway.'

instead of :

'This must be started straightaway.'


 4. Use verbs rather than nouns to energise your speaking.


'We must take action now.'

'We must act now.'

5. Use personal pronouns especially, for example, when feeding back to your team.


'Very pleased with the performance.'

'I am very pleased with your performance.'


6. Avoid a profusion of adjectives and adverbs, and write with nouns and verbs. Then, when you do use an adjective or adverb, it will carry much more weight.

'We must achieve our target.'

rather than:

'We must quickly achieve our challenging target.'


7. Be precise, and avoid words which qualify your meaning such as ‘rather’, ‘pretty’, ‘reasonably’, ‘quite’, ‘somewhat’.


8. Don’t overuse abstract words - such as globalisation, rationalisation, internationalism, diversification - as this can make a speech sound overelaborate.


9. Use figures of speech (such as similes and metaphors) sparingly in order to maximise their effect.


10. Finally, read your script/notes back to yourself and if anything sounds clumsy, rewrite it.


Careful word selection will bring maximum clarity, authority, and impact.


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