Public Speaking
by Clarence Stratton
1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse









To C.C.S.




Importance of Speech. There never has been in the history of the world a time when the spoken word has been equaled in value and importance by any other means of communication. If one traces the development of mankind from what he considers its earliest stage he will find that the wandering family of savages depended entirely upon what its members said to one another. A little later when a group of families made a clan or tribe the individuals still heard the commands of the leader, or in tribal council voiced their own opinions. The beginnings of poetry show us the bard who recited to his audiences. Drama, in all primitive societies a valuable spreader of knowledge, entertainment, and religion, is entirely oral. In so late and well-organized communities as the city republics of Greece all matters were discussed in open assemblies of the rather small populations.

Every great epoch of the world's progress shows the supreme importance of speech upon human action—individual and collective. In the Roman Forum were made speeches that affected the entire ancient world. Renaissance Italy, imperial Spain, unwieldy Russia, freedom-loving England, revolutionary France, all experienced periods when the power of certain men to speak stirred other men into tempestuous action.

The history of the United States might almost be written as the continuous record of the influence of great speakers upon others. The colonists were led to concerted action by persuasive speeches. The Colonial Congresses and Constitutional Convention were dominated by powerful orators. The history of the slavery problem is mainly the story of famous speeches and debates. Most of the active representative Americans have been leaders because of their ability to impress their fellows by their power of expressing sentiments and enthusiasms which all would voice if they could. Presidents have been nominated and candidates elected because of this equipment.

During the Great War the millions of the world were as much concerned with what some of their leaders were saying as with what their other leaders were doing.[1]

Speech in Modern Life. There is no aspect of modern life in which the spoken work is not supreme in importance. Representatives of the nations of the world deciding upon a peace treaty and deliberating upon a League of Nations sway and are swayed by speech. National assemblies—from the strangely named new ones of infant nations to the century-old organizations—speak, and listen to speeches. In state legislatures, municipal councils, law courts, religious organizations, theaters, lodges, societies, boards of directors, stockholders' meetings, business discussions, classrooms, dinner parties, social functions, friendly calls—in every human relationship where two people meet there is communication by means of speech.

[Footnote 1: See Great American Speeches, edited by Clarence Stratton, Lippincott and Company.]

Scientific invention keeps moving as rapidly as it can to take advantage of this supreme importance. Great as was the advance marked by the telegraph, it was soon overtaken and passed by the convenience of the telephone. The first conveys messages at great distance, but it fails to give the answer at once. It fails to provide for the rapid interchange of ideas which the second affords. Wireless telegraphy has already been followed by wireless telephony. The rapid intelligent disposal of the complicated affairs of our modern world requires more than mere writing—it demands immediate interchange of ideas by means of speech.

Many people who in their habitual occupations are popularly said to write a great deal do nothing of the sort. The millions of typists in the world do no writing at all in the real sense of that word; they merely reproduce what some one else has actually composed and dictated. This latter person also does no actual writing. He speaks what he wants to have put into writing. Dictating is not an easily acquired accomplishment in business—as many a man will testify. Modern office practice has intensified the difficulty. It may be rather disconcerting to deliver well-constructed, meaningful sentences to an unresponsive stenographer, but at any rate the receiver is alive. But to talk into the metallic receiver of a mechanical dictaphone has an almost ridiculous air. Men have to train themselves deliberately to speak well when they first begin to use these time-saving devices. Outside of business, a great deal of the material printed in periodicals and books—sometimes long novels—has been delivered orally, and not written at all by its author. Were anything more needed to show how much speech is used it would be furnished by the reports of the telephone companies. In one table the number of daily connections in 1895 was 2,351,420. In 1918 this item had increased to 31,263,611. In twenty-three years the calls had grown fifteen times as numerous. In 1882 there were 100,000 subscriber stations. In 1918 this number had swelled to 11,000,000.

Subordinates and executives in all forms of business could save incalculable time and annoyance by being able to present their material clearly and forcefully over the telephone, as well as in direct face-to-face intercourse.

The Director of high schools in a large municipality addressed a circular letter to the business firms of the city, asking them to state what is most necessary in order to fit boys for success in business. Ninety-nine per cent laid stress on the advantage of being able to write and speak English accurately and forcibly.

Testimony in support of the statement that training in speaking is of paramount importance in all careers might be adduced from a score of sources. Even from the seemingly far-removed phase of military leadership comes the same support. The following paragraph is part of a letter issued by the office of the Adjutant-General during the early months of the participation of this country in the Great War.

"A great number of men have failed at camp because of inability to articulate clearly. A man who cannot impart his idea to his command in clear distinct language, and with sufficient volume of voice to be heard reasonably far, is not qualified to give command upon which human life will depend. Many men disqualified by this handicap might have become officers under their country's flag had they been properly trained in school and college. It is to be hoped therefore that more emphasis will be placed upon the basic principles of elocution in the training of our youth. Even without prescribed training in elocution a great improvement could be wrought by the instructors in our schools and colleges, regardless of the subjects, by insisting that all answers be given in a loud, clear, well rounded voice which, of course, necessitates the opening of the mouth and free movement of the lips. It is remarkable how many excellent men suffer from this handicap, and how almost impossible it is to correct this after the formative years of life."

Perhaps the most concise summary of the relative values of exercise in the three different forms of communication through language was enunciated by Francis Bacon in his essay entitled Studies, published first in 1597: "Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man."

Speech and Talk. The high value here placed upon speech must not be transferred to mere talk. The babbler will always be justly regarded with contempt. Without ideas, opinions, information, talk becomes the most wasteful product in the world, wasteful not only of the time of the person who insists upon delivering it, but more woefully and unjustifiably wasteful of the time and patience of those poor victims who are forced to listen to it. Shakespeare put a man of this disposition into The Merchant of Venice and then had his discourse described by another.

"Gratiano speaks an infinite deal of nothing, more than any man in all Venice. His reasons are as two grains of wheat hid in two bushels of chaff: you shall seek all day 'ere you find them, and when you have them, they are not worth the search."

But the man who has ideas and can best express them is a leader everywhere. He does the organizing, he makes and imparts the plans, he carries his own theories and beliefs into execution, he is the intrusted agent, the advanced executive. He can act for himself. He can influence others to significant and purposeful action. The advantages that come to men who can think upon their feet, who can express extempore a carefully considered proposition, who can adapt their conversation or arguments to every changing condition, cannot be emphasized too strongly.

Speech an Acquired Ability. We frequently regard and discuss speech as a perfectly natural attribute of all human beings. In some sense it is. Yet an American child left to the care of deaf-mutes, never hearing the speech of his own kind, would not develop into a speaker of the native language of his parents. He doubtless would be able to imitate every natural sound he might hear. He could reproduce the cry or utterance of every animal or bird he had ever heard. But he would no more speak English naturally than he would Arabic. In this sense, language is not a natural attribute as is hunger. It is an imitative accomplishment acquired only after long years of patient practice and arduous effort. Some people never really attain a facile mastery of the means of communication. Some mature men and women are no more advanced in the use of speech than children of ten or fifteen. The practice is life-long. The effort is unceasing.

A child seems to be as well adapted to learning one language as another. There may be certain physical formations or powers inherited from a race which predispose the easier mastery of a language, but even these handicaps for learning a different tongue can be overcome by imitation, study, and practice. Any child can be taught an alien tongue through constant companionship of nurse or governess. The second generation of immigrants to this country learns our speech even while it may continue the tongue of the native land. The third generation—if it mix continuously with speakers of English—relinquishes entirely the exercise of the mother tongue. The succeeding generation seldom can speak it, frequently cannot even understand it.

Training to Acquire Speech Ability. The methods by which older persons may improve their ability to speak are analogous to those just suggested as operative for children, except that the more mature the person the wider is his range of models to imitate, of examples from which to make deductions; the more resources he has within himself and about him for self-development and improvement. A child's vocabulary increases rapidly through new experiences. A mature person can create new surroundings. He can deliberately widen his horizon either by reading or association. The child is mentally alert. A man can keep himself intellectually alert. A child delights in his use of his powers of expression. A man can easily make his intercourse a source of delight to himself and to all with whom he comes in contact. A child's imagination is kept stimulated continually. A man can consciously stimulate either his imagination or his reason. In the democracy of childhood the ability to impress companions depends to a great extent upon the ability to speak. There is no necessity of following the parallel any farther.

Good speakers, then, are made, not born. Training counts for as much as natural ability. In fact if a person considers carefully the careers of men whose ability to speak has impressed the world by its preeminence he will incline to the conclusion that the majority of them were not to any signal extent born speakers at all. In nearly all cases of great speakers who have left records of their own progress in this powerful art their testimony is that without the effort to improve, without the unceasing practice they would have always remained no more marked for this so-called gift than all others.

Overcoming Drawbacks. According to the regularly repeated tradition the great Greek orator, Demosthenes, overcame impediments that would have daunted any ordinary man. His voice was weak. He lisped, and his manner was awkward. With pebbles in his mouth he tried his lungs against the noise of the dashing waves. This strengthened his voice and gave him presence of mind in case of tumult among his listeners. He declaimed as he ran uphill. Whether these traditions be true or not, their basis must be that it was only by rigorous training that he did become a tolerable speaker. The significant point, however, is that with apparent handicaps he did develop his ability until he became great.

Charles James Fox began his parliamentary career by being decidedly awkward and filling his speeches with needless repetitions, yet he became renowned as one of Great Britain's most brilliant speakers and statesmen.

Henry Clay clearly describes his own exercises in self-training when he was quite a grown man.

"I owe my success in life to one single fact, namely, at the age of twenty-seven I commenced, and continued for years, the practice of daily reading and speaking upon the contents of some historical or scientific book. These offhand efforts were made sometimes in a corn field, at others in the forests, and not infrequently in some distant barn with the horse and ox for my auditors. It is to this early practice in the art of all arts that I am indebted to the primary and leading impulses that stimulated me forward, and shaped and molded my entire destiny."

Abraham Lincoln never let pass any opportunity to try to make a speech. His early employers, when called upon after his fame was won to describe his habits as a young man, admitted that they might have been disposed to consider him an idle fellow. They explained that he was not only idle himself but the cause of idleness in others. Unless closely watched, he was likely to mount a stump and, to the intense delight of his fellow farm hands, deliver a side-splitting imitation of some itinerant preacher or a stirring political harangue.

The American whose reputation for speech is the greatest won it more through training than by natural gift.

"I could not speak before the school," said Daniel Webster. ... "Many a piece did I commit to memory and rehearse in my room over and over again, but when the day came, and the schoolmaster called my name, and I saw all eyes turned upon my seat, I could not raise myself from it.... Mr. Buckminster always pressed and entreated, most winningly, that I would venture, but I could never command sufficient resolution. When the occasion was over I went home and wept bitter tears of mortification."

Results of Training. The significance of all these illustrations is that no great speaker has come by his ability without careful and persistent training. No molder of the world's destinies springs fully equipped from the welter of promiscuous events. He has been training for a long time. On the other hand the much more practical lesson to be derived from these biographical excerpts is that these men started from ordinary conditions to make themselves into forceful thinkers with powers of convincing expression. They overcame handicaps. They strengthened their voices. They learned how to prepare and arrange material. They made themselves able to explain topics to others. They knew so well the reasons for their own belief that they could convince others.

In a smaller way, to a lesser degree, any person can do the same thing, and by the same or similar methods. Barring some people who have physical defects or nervous diseases, any person who has enough brains to grasp an idea, to form an opinion, or to produce a thought, can be made to speak well. The preceding sentence says "barring some people who have physical defects" because not all so handicapped at the beginning need despair of learning to improve in speaking ability. By systems in which the results appear almost miraculous the dumb are now taught to speak. Stutterers and stammerers become excellent deliverers of speeches in public. Weak voices are strengthened. Hesitant expressions are made coherent. Such marvels of modern science belong, however, to special classes and institutions. They are cited here to prove that in language training today practically nothing is impossible to the teacher with knowledge and patience in educating students with alertness and persistence.

Practical Help. This book attempts to provide a guide for such teachers and students. It aims to be eminently practical. It is intended to help students to improve in speech. It assumes that those who use it are able to speak their language with some facility—at least they can pronounce its usual words. That and the realization that one is alive, as indicated by a mental openness to ideas and an intellectual alertness about most things in the universe, are all that are absolutely required of a beginner who tries to improve in speaking. Practically all else can be added unto him.

As this volume has a definite aim it has a simple practical basis. It will not soar too far above the essentials. It tries not to offer an elaborate explanation of an enthymeme when the embryonic speaker's knees are knocking together so loudly that he can not hear the instructor's correcting pronunciation of the name. It takes into account that when a beginner stands before an audience—and this is true not only the first time—even his body is not under his control. Lips grow cold and dry; perspiration gushes from every pore of the brow and runs down the face; legs grow weak; eyes see nothing; hands swell to enormous proportions; violent pains shoot across the chest; the breath is confined within the lungs; from the clapper-like tongue comes only a faint click. Is it any wonder that under such physical agonies the mind refuses to respond—rather, is incapable of any action whatever?

Speech Based on Thought and Language. Every speech is a result of the combination of thought and language, of material and expression. It would be quite possible to begin with considerations of the thought content of speeches—the material; but this book begins with the other;—the language, the expression. If this order have no other advantage, it does possess this one;—that during the informal discussions and expressions of opinion occasioned by the early chapters and exercises, members of the class are attaining a feeling of ease in speaking among themselves which will later eradicate a great deal of the nervousness usually experienced when speaking before the class. In addition, some attention to such topics as voice, tone, pronunciation, common errors, use of the dictionary, vocabulary, may instil habits of self-criticism and observation which may save from doubt and embarrassing mistakes later.


1. Recall some recent speech you heard. In parallel columns make lists of its excellences and deficiencies.

2. Give the class an account of the occasion, the purpose of the speaker, and his effect upon his audience, or upon you.

3. Explain how children learn to speak.

4. From your observation give the class an account of how young children enlarge their vocabularies.

5. Using the material of this chapter as the basis of your remarks, show the value of public speaking.

6. Of what value is public speaking to women?

7. What effects upon speeches by women will universal suffrage have?

8. Choose some profession—as law, engineering—and show how an ability to speak may be of value in it.

9. Choose some business position, and show how an ability to speak is a decided advantage in it.

10. What is the best method of acquiring a foreign language? For example, how shall the alien learn English?

11. Choose some great man whom you admire. Show how he became a speaker. Or give an account of one of his speeches.

12. Show the value of public speaking to a girl—in school; in business; in other careers.

13. Explain the operation of a dictaphone.

14. How can training in public speaking help an applicant for a position?

15. Explain the sentence quoted from Bacon's essay on studies.



Organs of Speech. Although the effects produced by the human voice are myriad in their complexity, the apparatus involved in making the sounds which constitute speech is extremely simple. In construction it has been usually compared to an organ pipe, a comparison justifiable for imparting a non-technical understanding of its operation.

An organ pipe is a tube in which a current of air passing over the edge of a piece of metal causes it to vibrate, thus putting into motion the column of air in the pipe which then produces a note. The operating air is forced across the sounding piece of metal from a bellows. The tube in which the thin sounding plate and the column of air vibrate acts as a resonator. The resulting sound depends upon various sizes of the producing parts. If the tube is quite long the sound is low in pitch. If the tube is short the sound is high. Stopping the end of the pipe or leaving it open alters the pitch. A stopped pipe gives a note an octave lower than an open pipe of the same length. The amount of the vibrating plate which is allowed to move also determines the pitch of a note. If the air is under great pressure the note is loud. If the air is under little pressure the note is soft.

It is quite easy to transfer this explanation to the voice-producing apparatus in the human body.

To the bellows correspond the lungs from which the expelled air is forced upwards through the windpipe. The lungs are able to expel air regularly and gently, with no more expense of energy than ordinary breathing requires. But the lungs can also force air out with tremendous power—power enough to carry sound over hundreds of yards. In ordinary repose the outward moving breath produces no sound whatever, for it meets in its passage no obstruction.

Producing Tone. At the upper end of the windpipe is a triangular chamber, the front angle of which forms the Adam's apple. In this are the vocal cords. These cords are two tapes of membrane which can be brought closely together, and by muscular tension stretched until passing air causes them to vibrate. They in turn cause the air above them to vibrate, much as the air in an organ pipe vibrates. Thus tone is produced.

The air above the vocal cords may fill all the open spaces above the larynx—the throat, the mouth, the nasal cavity in the head, the nostrils. This rather large amount of air, vibrating freely, produces a sound low in pitch. The larger the cavities are made the lower the pitch. You can verify this by producing a note. Then place your finger upon your Adam's apple. Produce a sound lower in pitch. Notice what your larynx does. Sing a few notes down the scale or up to observe the same principle of the change of pitch in the human voice.

Producing Vowels. If the mouth be kept wide open and no other organ be allowed to modify or interrupt the sound a vowel is produced. In speech every part of the head that can be used is brought into action to modify these uninterrupted vibrations of vocal cords and air. The lips, the cheeks, the teeth, the tongue, the hard palate, the soft palate, the nasal cavity, all cooeperate to make articulate speech.

As in its mechanism, so in the essence of its modifications, the human voice is a marvel of simplicity. If the mouth be opened naturally and the tongue and lips be kept as much out of the way as in ordinary breathing, and then the vocal cords be made to vibrate, the resulting sound will be the vowel a as in father. If now, starting from that same position and with that same vowel sound, the tongue be gradually raised the sound will be modified. Try it. The sound will pass through other vowels. Near the middle position it will sound like a in fate; and when the tongue gets quite close to the roof of the mouth without touching it the vowel will be the e of feet. Others—such as the i of it—can be distinguished clearly.

Starting again from that same open position and with that same vowel sound, ah, if the tongue be allowed to lie flat, but the lips be gradually closed and at the same time rounded, the sound will pass from ah to the o of hope, then on to the oo of troop. The oa of broad and other vowels can be distinguished at various positions.

By moving lips and tongue at the same time an almost infinite variety of vowel sounds can be made.

Producing Consonants. In order to produce consonant sounds the other parts of the speaking apparatus are brought into operation. Everyone of them has some function in the formation of some consonant by interrupting or checking the breath. A student, by observing or feeling the motions of his mouth can easily instruct himself in the importance of each part if he will carefully pronounce a few times all the various consonant sounds of the language.

The lips produce the sounds of p, b, wh, and w. The lips and teeth produce the sounds of f, v. The tongue and teeth together make the sounds of th and dh. The tongue in conjunction with the forward portion of the hard palate produces several sounds—t, d, s, z, r, and l. The tongue operating against or near the rear of the hard palate pronounces ch, j, sh, zh, and a different r. To make the consonant y the tongue, the hard palate, and the soft palate operate. The tongue and soft palate make k and g. A strong breathing makes the sound of h. By including the nasal passages in conjunction with some of the other parts here listed the so-called nasals, m, n, and ng, are made. According to the organ involved our consonant sounds are conveniently grouped as labials (lips), dentals (teeth), linguals (tongue), palatals (palate), and nasals (nose).

The correct position and action of the vocal organs are of supreme importance to all speakers. Many an inveterate stammerer, stutterer, or repeater can be relieved, if not cured, of the embarrassing impediment by attention to the position of his speech organs and by careful, persistent practice in their manipulation. In fact every speaker must be cognizant of the placement of these parts if he desires to have control over his speech. Frequently it is such correct placement rather than loud noise or force which carries expressions clearly to listeners.

While it is true that singing will strengthen the lungs and help in control of breath, it is not always the fact—as might be expected—that singing will develop the speaking voice. Not every person who can sing has a pleasant or forceful voice in ordinary discourse. In singing, to secure purity of musical tone, the vowels are likely to be disproportionately dwelt upon. Thus we have the endless la-la-la and ah-ah of so many vocal show-pieces. The same practice leads to the repeated criticism that it makes no difference whether a song be in English or a foreign language—the listeners understand just as much in either case.

In speaking effectively the aim and method are the exact opposite. When a man speaks he wants to be listened to for the meaning of what he is uttering. There are so many words in the language with the same or similar vowel sounds that only the sharpest discrimination by means of consonants permits of their being intelligible. The speaker, therefore, will exercise the greatest care in pronouncing consonants distinctly. As these sounds usually begin and end words, and as they are produced by rather sudden checks or interruptions, they can be made to produce a wave motion in the air which will carry the entire word safely and clearly beyond the ear into the understanding. In public speaking no amount of care and attention bestowed upon pronouncing consonants can be spared.

Tone. The most marked quality of a person's voice is its tone. It will be enough for the purposes of this manual to assert that the tone should be both clear and agreeable. In public speaking the first of these is all important, though an absence of the second qualification may almost neutralize all the advantages of the first. Clearness may be impaired by several causes. The speaker may feel that his throat closes up, that he becomes choked. His tongue may become stiff and "cleave to the roof of his mouth"—as the feeling is popularly described. He may breathe so energetically that the escaping or entering air makes more noise than the words themselves. He may be more or less conscious of all these. The others he may not discover for himself. The instructor or members of the class will inform him of their presence. Set jaws will prevent him from opening his mouth wide enough and operating his lips flexibly enough to speak with a full tone. A nasal quality results mainly from lack of free resonance in the head and nose passages. Adenoids and colds in the head produce this condition. It should be eradicated by advice and practice.

Usually whatever corrections will make the tone clearer will also make it more agreeable. The nasal pessimistic whine is not a pleasant recommendation of personality. High, forced, strident tones produce not only irritation in the listener but throat trouble for the speaker.

Articulate—that is, connected—speech may be considered with reference to four elements, all of which are constantly present in any spoken discourse.

Speed. First, there is the speed of delivery. An angry woman can utter more words in a minute than any one wants to hear. The general principle underlying all speech delivery is that as the audience increases in number the rapidity of utterance should be lessened. Those who are accustomed to addressing large audiences, or to speaking in the open air, speak very slowly. A second consideration is the material being delivered. Easily grasped narrative, description, and explanation, simply phrased and directly constructed, may be delivered much more rapidly than involved explanation, unfamiliar phraseology, long and intricate sentence constructions, unusual material, abstract reasoning, and unwelcome sentiments. The beginnings of speeches move much more slowly than later parts. A speaker who intends to lead an audience a long distance, or to hold the attention for a long time, will be extremely careful not to speak at the beginning so rapidly that he leaves them far behind.

This does not mean that a speaker must drawl his words. One of our national characteristics is that we shorten our words in pronouncing them—ing generally loses the g, does not has become doesn't and quite incorrectly don't, yes is yeeh, etc. In many cases nothing more is required than the restoration of the word to its correct form. Some words can easily be lengthened because of the significance of their meanings. Others must be extended in order to carry. The best method of keeping down the rate of delivery is by a judicious use of pauses. Pauses are to the listener what punctuation marks are to the reader. He is not conscious of their presence, but he would be left floundering if they were absent. Some of the most effective parts of speeches are the pauses. They impart clearness to ideas, as well as aiding in emphasis and rhythm.

Pitch. A second quality of speech is its pitch. This simply means its place in the musical scale. Speaking voices are high, medium, or low. Unfortunate tendencies of Americans seem to be for women to pitch their voices too high, with resultant strain and unpleasantness, and for men to pitch their voices too low, with resultant growls and gruffness. The voices of young children should be carefully guarded in this respect; so should the changing voices of growing boys. To secure a good pitch for the speaking voice the normal natural pitch of usual conversation should be found. Speech in that same pitch should be developed for larger audiences. Frequently a better pitch can be secured by slightly lowering the voice. If the natural pitch be too low for clearness or agreeableness it should be slightly raised—never more than is absolutely necessary.

No connected group of words should be delivered in a monotonously level pitch. The voice must rise and fall. These changes must answer intelligently to the meaning of the material. Such variations are called inflections. The most disagreeable violations of required inflections are raising the voice where it should fall—as at the completion of an idea, and letting it drop where it should remain up—as before the completion of an idea, frequently answering to a comma. Other variations of pitch depend upon emphasis.

Emphasis. Emphasis is giving prominence to a word or phrase so that its importance is impressed upon a listener. This result is most easily secured by contrast. More force may be put into its delivery than the rest of the speech. The word may be made louder or not so loud. The voice may be pitched higher or lower. The word may be lengthened. Pauses will make it prominent. In speaking, combinations of these are employed to produce emphasis.

While all qualities of speech are important, emphasis is of cardinal value. Listeners will never recall everything that a speaker has said. By a skilful employment of emphasis he will put into their consciousness the main theme of his message, the salient arguments of his contention, the leading motives of action. Here again is that close interdependence of manner and material referred to in the preceding chapter. In later chapters will be discussed various methods of determining and securing emphasis of larger sections than mere words and phrases.

Phrasing. Somewhat related to emphasis is phrasing. This is the grouping together of words, phrases, clauses, and other units so that their meaning and significance may be easily grasped by a listener. As has been already said, pauses serve as punctuation marks for the hearer. Short pauses correspond to commas, longer ones to colons and semi-colons, marked ones to periods. Speakers can by pauses clearly indicate the conclusions of sections, the completion of topics, the passage from one part of the material to another, the transfer of attention from one subject to its opposite. Within smaller range pauses can add delightful variety to delivery as they can signally reinforce the interpretation. No speaker should fall into the habit of monotonously letting his pauses mark the limit of his breath capacity, nor should he take any regular phrase, clause, or sentence length to be indicated by pauses. In this as in all other aspects variety is the charm of speech.

Enunciation. No matter what handicaps a person may have he may overcome them to secure a distinct, agreeable enunciation. Care in enunciating words will enable a speaker to be heard almost anywhere. It is recorded that John Fox, a famous preacher of South Place Chapel, London, whose voice was neither loud nor strong, was heard in every part of Covent Garden Theatre, seating 3500, when he made anti-corn-law orations, by the clearness with which he pronounced the final consonants of the words he spoke.

One of the orators best known to readers is Edmund Burke, whose speeches are studied as models of argumentative arrangement and style. Yet in actual speech-making Burke was more or less a failure because of the unfortunate method of his delivery. Many men markedly inferior in capacity to Burke overcame disadvantageous accidents, but he was frequently hurried and impetuous. Though his tones were naturally sonorous, they were harsh; and he never divested his speech of a strong Irish accent. Then, too, his gestures were clumsy. These facts will explain to us who read and study leisurely these masterpieces why they failed of their purpose when presented by their gifted but ineffective author.

Pronunciation. Enunciation depends to a great degree upon pronunciation. The pronunciation of a word is no fixed and unchangeable thing. Every district of a land may have its peculiar local sounds, every succeeding generation may vary the manner of accenting a word. English people today pronounce schedule with a soft ch sound. Program has had its accent shifted from the last to the first syllable. Many words have two regularly heard pronunciations—neither, advertisement, Elizabethan, rations, oblique, route, quinine, etc. Fashions come and go in pronunciation as in all other human interests. Some sounds stamp themselves as carelessnesses or perversions at once and are never admitted into educated, cultured speech. Others thrive and have their day, only to fade before some more widely accepted pronunciation. The first rule in pronunciation is to consult a good dictionary. This will help in most cases but not in all, for a dictionary merely records all accepted sounds; only partly can it point out the better of disputed sounds by placing it first. Secondly, speech is a living, growing, changing thing. Dictionaries drop behind the times surprisingly rapidly. The regularly accepted sound may have come into general use after the dictionary was printed. New activities, unusual phases of life may throw into general conversation thousands of unused, unheard words. This was true of the recent Great War, when with little or no preparation thousands of military, industrial, naval, and aeronautical terms came into daily use. Discussions still flutter mildly around cantonment and rations, and a score of others.

Next to authoritative books, the best models are to be secured from the speech of authorities in each branch to which the term specifically belongs. Thus the military leaders have made the pronunciation of oblique with the long i the correct one for all military usages. The accepted sound of cantonments was fixed by the men who built and controlled them. As it is not always possible for the ordinary person to hear such authorities deliver such terms in discourse one can merely say that a familiarity with correct pronunciation can be secured only like liberty—at the price of eternal vigilance.

Constant consultation of the dictionary and other books of recognized reference value, close observance of the speech of others, scrutiny of one's own pronunciation, mental criticism of others' slips, and determination to correct one's own errors, are the various methods of attaining certainty of correct delivery of word sounds.

Poise. When a speaker stands before an audience to address its members he should be perfectly at ease. Physical ease will produce an effect upon the listeners. Mental ease because of mastery of the material will induce confidence in the delivery. Bodily eccentricities and awkwardness which detract from the speech itself should be eradicated by strenuous practice. Pose and poise should first command respectful attention. The body should be erect, but not stiff. Most of the muscles should be relaxed. The feet should be naturally placed, not so far apart as to suggest straddling, not so close together as to suggest the military stand at "attention."

What should be done with the hands? Nothing. They should not be clasped; they should not be put behind the back; they should not be jammed into pockets; the arms should not be held akimbo; they should not be folded. Merely let the arms and hands hang at the sides naturally.

Gestures. Should a speaker make gestures? Certainly never if the gesture detracts from the force of an expression, as when a preacher pounds the book so hard that the congregation cannot hear his words. Certainly yes, when the feeling of the speaker behind the phrase makes him enforce his meaning by a suitable movement. In speaking today fewer gestures are indulged in than years ago. There should never be many. Senseless, jerky, agitated pokings and twitchings should be eradicated completely. Insincere flourishes should be inhibited. Beginners should beware of gestures until they become such practised masters of their minds and bodies that physical emphasis may be added to spoken force.

A speaker should feel perfectly free to change his position or move his feet during his remarks. Usually such a change should be made to correspond with a pause in delivery. In this way it reinforces the indication of progress or change of topic, already cited in discussing pauses.

Delivery. A speaker should never begin to talk the very instant he has taken his place before his audience. He should make a slight pause to collect the attention before he utters his salutation (to be considered later) and should make another short pause between it and the opening sentences of his speech proper. After he has spoken the last word he should not fling away from his station to his seat. This always spoils the effect of an entire address by ruining the impression that the last phrase might have made.

As for the speech itself, there are five ways of delivering it:

1. To write it out in full and read it.

2. To write it out in full and commit it to memory.

3. To write out and memorize the opening and closing sentences and other especially important parts, leaving the rest for extempore delivery.

4. To use an outline or a brief which suggests the headings in logical order.

5. To speak without manuscript or notes.

Reading the Speech. The first of these methods—to read the speech from a prepared manuscript—really changes the speech to a lecture or reading. True, it prevents the author from saying anything he would not say in careful consideration of his topic. It assures him of getting in all he wants to say. It gives the impression that all his utterances are the result of calm, collected thinking. On the other hand, so few people can read from a manuscript convincingly that the reproduction is likely to be a dull, lifeless proceeding in which almost anything might be said, so little does the material impress the audience. This method can hardly be considered speech-making at all.

Memorizing the Speech. The second method—of repeating memorized compositions—is better. It at least seems alive. It has an appearance of direct address. It possesses the other advantages of the first method—definite reasoning and careful construction. But its dangers are grave. Few people can recite memorized passages with the personal appeal and direct significance that effective spoken discourse should have. Emphasis is lacking. Variety is absent. The tone becomes monotonous. The speech is so well committed that it flows too easily. If several speakers follow various methods, almost any listener can unerringly pick the memorized efforts. Let the speaker in delivery strive for variety, pauses, emphasis; let him be actor enough to simulate the feeling of spontaneous composition as he talks, yet no matter how successful he may be in his attempts there will still be slight inconsistencies, trifling incongruities, which will disturb a listener even if he cannot describe his mental reaction. The secret lies in the fact that written and spoken composition differ in certain details which are present in each form in spite of the utmost care to weed them out.

Memorizing Parts. The third manner can be made effective if the speaker can make the gap just described between written and spoken discourse extremely narrow. If not, his speech will appear just what it is—an incongruous patchwork of carefully prepared, reconsidered writing, and more or less spontaneously evolved speaking.

Speaking from Outline or Brief. The fourth method is by far the best for students training themselves to become public speakers. After a time the brief or outline can be retained in the mind, and the speaker passes from this method to the next. A brief for an important law case in the United States Supreme Court is a long and elaborate instrument. But a student speaker's brief or outline need not be long.

Directions, models, and exercises for constructing and using outlines will be given in a later chapter.

The Best Method. The last method is unquestionably the best. Let a man so command all the aspects of a subject that he fears no breakdown in his thoughts, let him be able to use language so that he need never hesitate for the best expression, let him know the effect he wants to make upon his audience, the time he has to do it in, and he will know by what approaches he can best reach his important theme, what he may safely omit, what he must include, what he may hurry over, what he must slowly unfold, what he may handle lightly, what he must treat seriously; in short, he will make a great speech. This manner is the ideal towards which all students, all speakers, should strive.

Attributes of the Speaker. Attributes of the speaker himself will aid or mar his speech. Among those which help are sincerity, earnestness, simplicity, fairness, self-control, sense of humor, sympathy. All great speakers have possessed these traits. Reports upon significant speakers describing their manner emphasize them. John Bright, the famous English parliamentarian of the middle of the last century, is described as follows:

His style of speaking was exactly what a conventional demagogue's ought not to be. It was pure to austerity; it was stripped of all superfluous ornament. It never gushed or foamed. It never allowed itself to be mastered by passion. The first peculiarity that struck the listener was its superb self-restraint. The orator at his most powerful passages appeared as if he were rather keeping in his strength than taxing it with effort.

JUSTIN MCCARTHY: History of Our Own Time

In American history the greatest speeches were made by Abraham Lincoln. In Cooper Union, New York, he made in 1860 the most powerful speech against the slave power. The New York Tribune the next day printed this description of his manner.

Mr. Lincoln is one of nature's orators, using his rare powers solely to elucidate and convince, though their inevitable effect is to delight and electrify as well. We present herewith a very full and accurate report of this speech; yet the tones, the gestures, the kindling eye, and the mirth-provoking look defy the reporter's skill. The vast assemblage frequently rang with cheers and shouts of applause, which were prolonged and intensified at the close. No man ever before made such an impression on his first appeal to a New York audience.

Shakespeare's Advice. Some of the best advice for speakers was written by Shakespeare as long ago as just after 1600, and although it was intended primarily for actors, its precepts are just as applicable to almost any kind of delivered discourse. Every sentence of it is full of significance for a student of speaking. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, is airing his opinions about the proper manner of speaking upon the stage.


Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue; but if you mouth it, as many of your players do, I had as lief the town-crier spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the air too much with your hand, thus, but use all gently; for in the very torrent, tempest, and, as I may say, whirlwind of your passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness. Oh, it offends me to the soul to hear a robustious periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings, who for the most part are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumb-shows and noise. I would have such a fellow whipped for o'erdoing Termagant. It out-herods Herod. Pray you, avoid it.

Be not too tame neither, but let your own discretion be your tutor. Suit the action to the word, the word to the action; with this special observance, that you o'erstep not the modesty of nature. For anything so overdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold, as 't were, the mirror up to nature; to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure. Now this overdone, or come tardy off, though it make the unskilful laugh, cannot but make the judicious grieve; the censure of the which one must in your allowance o'erweigh a whole theater of others. Oh, there be players that I have seen play, and heard others praise, and that highly, not to speak it profanely, that, neither having the accent of Christians nor the gait of Christian, pagan, nor man, have so strutted and bellowed that I have thought some of nature's journeymen had made men and not made them well, they imitated humanity so abominably.

Oh, reform it altogether. And let those that play your clowns speak no more than is set down for them; for there be of them that will themselves laugh, to set on some quantity of barren spectators to laugh too, though in the meantime some necessary question of the play be then to be considered. That's villainous, and shows a most pitiful ambition in the fool that uses it. Go make you ready.


1. 'Neath our feet broke the brittle bright stubble like chaff.

2. The first sip of love is pleasant; the second, perilous; the third, pestilent.

3. Our ardors are ordered by our enthusiasms.

4. She's positively sick of seeing her soiled, silk, Sunday dress.

5. The rough cough and hiccough plowed me through.

6. She stood at the gate welcoming him in.

7. Five miles meandering with a mazy motion.

8. Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers: if Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, where is the peck of pickled peppers that Peter Piper picked?

9. Theophilus Thistle, the thistle-sifter, sifted a sieve of unsifted thistles. If Theophilus Thistle, the thistle-sifter, sifted a sieve of unsifted thistles, where is the sieve of unsifted thistles that Theophilus Thistle, the thistle-sifter, sifted?

10. Alone, alone, all, all alone, Alone on a wide, wide sea!

11. The splendor falls on castle walls, And snowy summits old in story.

12. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow Creeps in this petty pace from day to day To the last syllable of recorded time.

13. The moan of doves in immemorial elms, And murmurings of innumerable bees.

14. The Ladies' Aid ladies were talking about a conversation they had overheard, before the meeting, between a man and his wife.

"They must have been at the Zoo," said Mrs. A.; "because I heard her mention 'a trained deer.'"

"Goodness me!" laughed Mrs. B. "What queer hearing you must have! They were talking about going away, and she said, 'Find out about the train, dear.'"

"Well, did anybody ever!" exclaimed Mrs. C. "I am sure they were talking about musicians, for she said, 'a trained ear,' as distinctly as could be."

The discussion began to warm up, and in the midst of it the lady herself appeared. They carried the case to her promptly, and asked for a settlement.

"Well, well, you do beat all!" she exclaimed, after hearing each one. "I'd been out in the country overnight and was asking my husband if it rained here last night."

15. Learning condemns beyond the reach of hope The careless lips that speak of sŏap for soap; Her edict exiles from her fair abode The clownish voice that utters rŏad for road; Less stern to him who calls his coat a cŏat, And steers his boat believing it a bŏat. She pardoned one, our classic city's boast, Who said at Cambridge, mŏst instead of most, But knit her brows and stamped her angry foot To hear a Teacher call a root a rŏot.

16. Hear the tolling of the bells— Iron bells! What a world of solemn thought their monody compels! In the silence of the night, How we shiver with affright At the melancholy menace of their tone! For every sound that floats From the rust within their throats Is a groan. And the people—ah, the people— They that dwell up in the steeple, All alone, And who, tolling, tolling, tolling, In that muffled monotone, Feel a glory in so rolling On the human heart a stone— They are neither man nor woman— They are neither brute nor human— They are Ghouls: And their king it is who tolls; And he rolls, rolls, rolls, Rolls A Paean from the bells! And his merry bosom swells With the paean of the bells! And he dances, and he yells; Keeping time, time, time, In a sort of Runic rhyme, To the paean of the bells— Of the bells.

17. Collecting, projecting, Receding and speeding, And shocking and rocking, And darting and parting. And threading and spreading, And whizzing and hissing, And dripping and skipping, And hitting and splitting, And shining and twining, And rattling and battling, And shaking and quaking, And pouring and roaring, And waving and raving, And tossing and crossing, And flowing and going, And running and stunning, And foaming and roaming, And dinning and spinning, And dropping and hopping, And working and jerking, And guggling and struggling, And heaving and cleaving, And moaning and groaning;

And glittering and frittering, And gathering and feathering, And whitening and brightening, And quivering and shivering, And hurrying and skurrying, And thundering and floundering;

Dividing and gliding and sliding, And falling and brawling and sprawling, And driving and riving and striving, And sprinkling and twinkling and wrinkling, And sounding and bounding and rounding, And bubbling and troubling and doubling, And grumbling and rumbling and tumbling, And clattering and battering and shattering;

Retreating and beating and meeting and sheeting, Delaying and straying and playing and spraying, Advancing and prancing and glancing and dancing, Recoiling, turmoiling and toiling and boiling, And gleaming and streaming and steaming and beaming, And rushing and flushing and brushing and gushing, And flapping and rapping and clapping and slapping, And curling and whirling and purling and twirling, And thumping and plumping and bumping and jumping, And dashing and flashing and splashing and clashing; And so never ending, but always descending, Sounds and motions for ever and ever are blending, All at once and all o'er, with a mighty uproar; And this way the water comes down at Lodore.

18. Sister Susie's sewing shirts for soldiers, Such skill at sewing shirts our shy young Sister Susie shows. Some soldiers send epistles Say they'd rather sleep in thistles Than the saucy, soft, short shirts for soldiers Sister Susie sews.



Vocabularies. The collection of words a person can command either in use or understanding is a vocabulary. Every person has three distinct ones: his reading vocabulary, his writing vocabulary, his speaking vocabulary. Of these, the reading vocabulary is the largest. There are thousands of words he recognizes in reading and although he might not be able to construct a dictionary definition for everyone, he has a sufficiently clear idea to grasp the meaning. In this rude approximation to sense he is aided by the context, but for all practical purposes he understands the word. If he were writing, carefully taking time to note exactly what he was expressing, he might recall that word and so consciously put it into a sentence. He might use it in exactly the same sense in which he had seen it in print. But never in the rush of ideas and words in spoken discourse would he risk using a word he knew so slightly. If nothing more, he would beware of mispronunciation.

Thus a person could easily deduce from his reading that a hangar is a building to house airplanes. He might—to avoid repeating the word shed too frequently—use it in writing. But until he was absolutely certain of its significance and its sound he would hardly venture to say it to other men.

Spoken discourse is so alive, it moves so rapidly, that it is never so precise, so varied in its choice of words, as written material. The phraseology of written discourse sounds slightly or markedly stilted, bookish, if repeated by the tongue. This difference—though it may appear almost trifling—is apparent to everyone. Its recognition can be partly illustrated by the fact that after President Lowell and Senator Lodge had debated on the topic, the League of Nations, in Boston and were shown the reports of their speeches, each made changes in certain expressions. The version for print and reading is a little more formal than the delivered sentences. The Senator said, "I want" but preferred to write "I wish"; then he changed "has got to be" into "must," and "nothing to see" into "nothing visible."

One might say that all three vocabularies should correspond, but there is no real need of this. So long as people read they will meet thousands of words for which they have no need in speaking. Everybody must be able to understand the masterpieces of the past with their archaic (old-fashioned) words like eftsoons or halidom, but no one need use such expressions now. So there is no discredit in the fact that one's speaking vocabulary is more restricted than his reading vocabulary.

New Ideas, New Words. It is true, however, that an educated person should never rest content with the size of his usable speaking vocabulary. The addition of every new word is likely to indicate the grasp of a new idea. Likewise, every new idea is almost certain to require its individual terms for expression. An enlarging vocabulary is the outward and visible sign of an inward and intellectual growth. No man's vocabulary can equal the size of a dictionary, the latest of which in English is estimated to contain some 450,000 words. Life may be maintained upon a surprisingly meager group of words, as travelers in foreign lands can testify. Shakespeare's vocabulary is said to have included as many as 15,000 words. Figures for that of the average person vary considerably.

Increasing the Vocabulary. The method of increasing a vocabulary is a quite simple process. Its procedure is a fascinating exercise. It covers four steps. When a new word is encountered it should be noticed with keen attention. If heard, its pronunciation will be fixed upon the ear. If seen, its spelling should be mastered at once. The next step is to consult a dictionary for either spelling or pronunciation. Then all its meanings should be examined. Still the word is not yours until you have used it exactly. This you should do at the first opportunity. If the opportunity seems long in coming make it for yourself by discussing with some one the topic with which it was used or frankly discuss the word itself. How many unfamiliar words have you heard or seen recently? How many do you easily use now in your own remarks? You might find it a good plan to take a linguistic inventory every night. A little practice in this will produce amazingly interesting and profitable results in both use and understanding. A keenness for words will be rapidly developed. Word-lists of all kinds will take on entirely new meanings. A spontaneous receptivity will develop into permanent retention of words and phrases.


1. Tell of some new word you have added to your vocabulary recently. Explain when you met it, how it happened to impress you, what you learned of it.

2. In studying a foreign language how did you fix in your mind the words which permanently stuck there?

3. Look over a page in a dictionary. Report to the class on some interesting material you find.

4. Make a list of ten slang or technical expressions. Explain them in exact, clear language.

5. Find and bring to class a short printed passage, which because of the words, you cannot understand. Unusual books, women's fashion magazines, technical journals, books of rules for games, financial reports, contain good examples.

6. How much do you know about any of the following words?

chassis fuselage orthodox sable comptometer germicide plebescite self-determination covenant layman purloin soviet ethiopian morale querulous vers libre farce nectar renegade zoom

7. Comment on the words in the following extracts:

"Of enchanting crimson brocade is the slipover blouse which follows the lines of the French cuirasse. Charmingly simple, this blouse, quite devoid of trimming, achieves smartness by concealing the waistline with five graceful folds."

"The shift bid consists in bidding a suit, of which you have little or nothing, with the ultimate object of transferring later to another declaration, which is perfectly sound. The idea is to keep your adversaries from leading this suit up to your hand, which they will likely avoid doing, thinking that you are strong in it."

"While sentiment is radically bearish on corn there is so little pressure on the market other than from shorts that a majority of traders are inclined to go slow in pressing the selling side on breaks until the situation becomes more clearly defined. The weekly forecast for cool weather is regarded as favorable for husking and shelling, and while there was evening up on the part of the pit operators for the double holiday, some of the larger local professionals went home short expecting a lower opening Tuesday."

8. Make a list of ten new words you have learned recently.

Suffixes and Prefixes. Definite steps for continuous additions can be mapped out and covered. Careful attention to prefixes and suffixes will enlarge the vocabulary.


1. a = on, in, at, to; abed, aboard, afield, afire

2. ab (a, abs) = from, away; absent, abstract, abdicate

3. ad, etc. = to, in addition to; adapt, admit, adduce

4. ante = before, anteroom, antebellum

5. anti = against, opposite; anticlimax, antipodes, antipathy

6. bi= two; bicycle, biennial, biped, biplane

7. circum = around, about; circumnavigate, circumscribe, circumvent

8. con (col, com, co, cor, etc.) = with, together; consent, collect, cooerdinate, composite, conspiracy

9. contra (counter) = against; contradict, counteract, countermand

10. de = down, from, away; depose, desist, decapitate, denatured

11. demi, hemi, semi = half; demi-tasse, hemisphere, semiannual, semitransparent

12. di (dis) = twice, double; dissyllable

13. dis (di, dif) = apart, away, not; distract, diverge, diversion, disparage

14. en (em) = in, on, into; engrave, embody, embrace

15. extra = beyond; extraordinary, extravagant

16. hyper = above; hypercritical

17. in (il, im, ir) = in, into, not; inclose, illustrate, irrigate, inform, illiterate, impious, irregular

18. ex (e, ec, ef) = out of, from, beyond, thoroughly, formerly but not now; exclude, excel, ex-senator.

19. inter = between, among; intercede, interchange, interfere, interurban, interlude

20. mis = wrongly, badly; miscalculate, misspell, misadventure

21. mono = one; monoplane

22. per = through, thoroughly, by; perchance, perfect, per-adventure

23. poly = many; polygon, polytheism

24. post = behind, after; postgraduate, post-mortem, postlude, postscript, post-meridian (P.M.)

25. pre = before (in time, place, or order); preeminent, predict, prefer, prefix, prejudge, prejudice

26. preter = beyond; preternatural

27. pro = before, forth, forward; proceed, prosecute

28. pro = siding with; pro-ally

29. re = back, again; recover, renew, recall

30. sub, etc. = under; submerge, subscribe, subterranean, subterfuge

31. super (sur) = over, above; superintend, supercargo

32. trans (tra) = across; translate, transmit, transfer

33. vice (vis) = instead of; vice-president, vice-admiral


1. ee, er = one who; absentee, profiteer, mower

2. ard, art= term of disparagement; drunkard, braggart

3. esque = like; statuesque

4. ism = state of being; barbarism, atheism

5. et, let = little; brooklet, bracelet, eaglet

6. ling = little, young; duckling, gosling

7. kin = little; lambkin, Peterkin

8. stead = a place; bedstead, homestead, instead

9. wright = a workman; wheelwright

Thesaurus. Besides frequently consulting a good modern dictionary a student speaker should familiarize himself with a Thesaurus of words and phrases. This is a peculiarly useful compilation of expressions according to their meaning relations. A dictionary lists words, then gives their meanings. A Thesaurus arranges meanings, then gives the words that express those ideas. The value of such a book can be best illustrated by explaining its use.

Suppose a speaker is going to attack some principle, some act, some party. He knows that his main theme will be denunciation of something. In the index of a Thesaurus he looks under denunciation, finding two numbers of paragraphs. Turning to the first he has under his eye a group of words all expressing shades of this idea. There are further references to other related terms. Let us look at the first group, taken from Roget's Thesaurus.

MALEDICTON, curse, imprecation, denunciation, execration, anathema, ban, proscription, excommunication, commination, fulmination.

Cursing, scolding, railing, Billingsgate language.

V. To curse, accurse, imprecate, scold, rail, execrate.

To denounce, proscribe, excommunicate, fulminate.

Adj. Cursing, &c, cursed, &c.

THREAT, menace, defiance, abuse, commination, intimidation.

V. To threaten, menace, defy, fulminate; to intimidate.

Adj. Threatening, menacing, minatory, abusive.

The second reference leads us farther. It presents the expressions dealing with the methods and results of denunciation, providing hundreds of words and phrases to use in various ways. It does even more, for in a parallel column it gives a list of opposites for the words indicating condemnation. This more than doubles its value. Finally having reached the word punishment it lists its cognates until the idea penalty is reached, where it balances that idea with reward and its synonyms. A portion of this section follows.

LAWSUIT, suit, action, cause, trial, litigation.

Denunciation, citation, arraignment, persecution, indictment, impeachment, apprehension, arrest, committal, imprisonment.

Pleadings, writ, summons, plea, bill, affidavit, &c.

Verdict, sentence, judgment, finding, decree, arbitrament, adjudication, award.

V. To go to law; to take the law of; to appeal to the law; to join issue; file a bill, file a claim.

To denounce, cite, apprehend, arraign, sue, prosecute, bring to trial, indict, attach, distrain, to commit, give in charge or custody; throw into prison.

To try, hear a cause, sit in judgment.

To pronounce, find, judge, sentence, give judgment; bring in a verdict; doom, to arbitrate, adjudicate, award, report.

ACQUITTAL, absolution, see Pardon, 918, clearance, discharge, release, reprieve, respite.

Exemption from punishment; impunity.

V. To acquit, absolve, clear, discharge, release, reprieve, respite.

Adj. Acquitted, &c.

Uncondemned, unpunished, unchastised.

CONDEMNATION, conviction, proscription; death warrant.

Attainder, attainment.

V. To condemn, convict, cast, find guilty, proscribe.

Adj. Condemnatory, &c.

PUNISHMENT, chastisement, castigation, correction, chastening, discipline, infliction, etc.

An observer will see at once just how far these lists go and what must supplement them. They do not define, they do not discriminate, they do not restrict. They are miscellaneous collections. A person must consult the dictionary or refer to some other authority to prevent error or embarrassment in use. For instance, under the entry newspaper occurs the attractive word ephemeris. But one should be careful of how and where he uses that word.

Another exercise which will aid in fixing both words and meanings in the mind and also help in the power of recalling them for instant use is to make some kind of word-list according to some principle or scheme. One plan might be to collect all the words dealing with the idea of book. Another might be to take some obvious word root and then follow it and other roots added to it through all its forms, meanings, and uses. One might choose tel (distant) and graph (record) and start with telegraph. Telephone will introduce phone, phonograph; they will lead on to dictaphone, dictagraph; the first half links with dictation; that may lead as far away as dictatorial. In fact there is no limit to the extent, the interest, and the value of these various exercises. The single aim of all of them should be, of course, the enlargement of the speaking vocabulary. Mere curiosities, current slang, far-fetched metaphors, passing foreign phrases, archaisms, obsolete and obsolescent terms, too new coinages, atrocities, should be avoided as a plague.

Consistent, persistent, insistent word-study is of inestimable value to a speaker. And since all people speak, it follows that it would benefit everybody.


1. Explain what is meant by each entry in the foregoing list.

2. List some verbal curiosities you have met recently. Examples: "Mr. Have-it-your-own-way is the best husband." "He shows a great deal of stick-to-it-iveness."

3. What should be the only condition for using foreign expressions? Can you show how foreign words become naturalized? Cite some foreign words used in speech.

4. Are archaic (old-fashioned), obsolete (discarded), and obsolescent (rapidly disappearing) terms more common in speech or books? Explain and illustrate.

Synonyms. As has already been suggested, a copious vocabulary must not be idle in a person's equipment. He must be able to use it. He must be able to discriminate as to meaning. This power of choosing the exact word results from a study of synonyms. It is a fact that no two words mean exactly the same thing. No matter how nearly alike the two meanings may appear to be, closer consideration will unfailingly show at least a slight difference of dignity, if nothing more—as red and crimson, pure and unspotted. Synonyms, then, are groups of words whose meanings are almost the same. These are the words which give so much trouble to learners of our language. A foreigner is told that stupid means dull, yet he is corrected if he says a stupid knife. Many who learn English as a native tongue fail to comprehend the many delicate shades of differences among synonyms.

In this matter, also, a dictionary goes so far as to list synonyms, and in some cases, actually adds a discussion to define the various limits. For fuller, more careful discrimination a good book of synonyms should be consulted. Except for some general consideration of words which everyone is certain to use or misuse, it is better to consult a treatise on synonyms when need arises than to study it consecutively. In consultation the material will be fixed by instant use. In study it may fade before being employed; it may never be required.

The subjoined paragraphs show entries in two different volumes upon synonyms:

Adjacent, adjoining, contiguous. Adjacent, in Latin, adjiciens, participle of adjicio, is compounded of ad and jacio, to lie near. Adjoining, as the word implies, signifies being joined together. Contiguous, in French contigu, Latin contiguus, comes from contingo, or con and tango, signifying to touch close.

What is adjacent may be separated altogether by the intervention of some third object; what is adjoining must touch in some part; and what is contiguous must be fitted to touch entirely on one side. Lands are adjacent to a house or town; fields are adjoining to each other; and houses contiguous to each other.

CRABBE: English Synonyms

Victory: Synonyms: achievement, advantage, conquest, mastery, success, supremacy, triumph. Victory is the state resulting from the overcoming of an opponent or opponents in any contest, or from the overcoming of difficulties, obstacles, evils, etc., considered as opponents or enemies. In the latter sense any hard-won achievement, advantage, or success may be termed a victory. In conquest and mastery there is implied a permanence of state that is not implied in victory. Triumph, originally denoting the public rejoicing in honor of a victory, has come to signify also a peculiarly exultant, complete, and glorious victory. Compare conquer. Antonyms: defeat, destruction, disappointment, disaster, failure, frustration, miscarriage, overthrow, retreat, rout.

FERNALD: English Synonyms, Antonyms and Prepositions

Antonyms. Notice that this second paragraph adds a new word-list—antonyms. To reinforce the understanding of what a thing is, it is desirable to know what it is not, or what its opposite is. This kind of explanation or description is especially valuable to a speaker. He can frequently impress an audience more definitely by explaining the opposite of what he wants them to apprehend. At times the term is not the extreme opposite; it is merely the negative of the other. Logically the other side of white is not white, while the antonym is the extreme black. Trained speakers use with great effect the principle underlying such groups of words. When Burke argued before the House of Commons for a plan to secure harmony with the American colonies he described the scheme he considered necessary by showing what it should not be. "No partial, narrow, contracted, pinched, occasional system will be at all suitable to such an object." Describing the peace he hoped would be secured he used this principle of opposites. "Not peace through the medium of war; not peace to be hunted through the labyrinth of intricate and endless negotiations, not peace to arise out of universal discord, fomented from principle in all parts of the empire; not peace to depend on the juridical determination of perplexing questions, or the precise marking the shadowy boundaries of a complex government."

We are told by an investigator that one of the reasons for a Frenchman's keen insight into the capabilities of his language is the early training received in schools covering differences among words. This continual weighing of the meaning or the suitability of an expression is bound to result in a delicate appreciation of its value as a means of effective communication. In all mental action the sense of contrast is an especially lively one. In a later chapter this principle, as applied to explanation and argument, will be discussed. Just here, the point is that the constant study of contrasts will sharpen the language sense and rapidly enlarge the vocabulary.


1. Put down a group of five words having similar meanings. Explain the differences among them.

2. Choose any word. Give its exact opposite.

3. From any short paragraph copy all the nouns. In a parallel column put opposites or contrasts.

4. Do the same for the adjectives, verbs, and adverbs.

5. Write down all the common nouns which correspond to a man, a girl, a leader, a house, a costume, a crime.

Composition of the English Language. Turning now from the means of improving the speaker's language equipment let us pass to some remarks upon his use of words. The English language is the largest, the most varied in the universe. Almost entirely free from difficulties of inflection and conjugation, with a simplified grammar, and a great freedom of construction, it suffers from only two signal drawbacks—its spelling and its pronunciation. While it has preserved to a great degree its original Anglo-Saxon grammar, it has enriched its vocabulary by borrowings from everywhere. Its words have no distinctive forms, so every foreign word can usually be naturalized by a mere change of sound. No matter what their origin, all belong to one family now; gnu is as much English as knew, japan as pogrom, fete as papoose, batik as radii, ohm as marconigram, macadamized as zoomed. Most of the modern borrowings—as just illustrated—were to serve for new things or ideas. But there was one time when a great reduplication of the vocabulary occurred. After the French conquered England in 1066, English and Norman-French were spoken side by side. The resultant tongue, composed of both, offered many doubles for the same idea. In some instances the fashionable and aristocratic French word marked a difference of meaning as is clearly indicated by such pairs as beef and ox, veal and calf, mutton and sheep, pork and pig. In many other cases words of French and English origin are separated by differences less distinct. Such are love and affection, worship and adoration. A speaker must take thought of such groups, and consciously endeavor to use the more appropriate for his purpose.

Anglo-Saxon and Romance. It may help him to remember that the Anglo-Saxon words are the more homely, the closer to our everyday feelings and experiences, the expression of our deepest ideas and sentiments, the natural outspoken response to keen emotion. On the other hand, the Romance words—as they are called, whether from the French or directly from the Latin—are likely to be longer; they belong generally to the more complicated relationships of society and government; they are more intellectual in the sense that they represent the operations of the brain rather than the impulses of the heart. They deal with more highly trained wills, with more abstruse problems; they reason, they argue, they consider; they are philosophical, scientific, legal, historical. Listen to a soldier relate his war experiences. What will his vocabulary be? Listen to a diplomat explaining the League of Nations. What will his vocabulary be? Have you ever heard a speaker who gave you the impression that all his words ended in tion? This was because his vocabulary was largely Romance.

The inferences from the foregoing are perfectly plain. Subject and audience will determine to a large extent what kinds of words a speaker will choose. The well-equipped speaker will be master of both kinds; he will draw from either as occasion offers. He will not insult one audience by talking below their intelligence, nor will he bore another by speaking over their heads.

General and Specific Terms. Effective speaking depends to a large extent upon the inclusion of specific terms as contrasted with general terms. "Glittering generalities" never make people listen. They mean nothing because they say too much. Study the following selections to see how the concrete phraseology used makes the material more telling, how it enforces the meaning. Pick out the best expressions and explain why they are better than more general terms. In the first, note how the last sentence drives home the meaning of the first two. Listeners may understand the first two, they remember the last.

Civil and religious liberty in this country can be preserved only through the agency of our political institutions. But those institutions alone will not suffice. It is not the ship so much as the skilful sailing that assures the prosperous voyage.

GEORGE WILLIAM CURTIS: The Public Duty of Educated Men, 1877

Describe the significance of the best expressions in the following speech made in Parliament by Thomas Babington Macaulay.

All those fierce spirits whom you hallooed on to harass us now turn round and begin to worry you. The Orangeman raises his war-whoop; Exeter Hall sets up its bray; Mr. Macneill shudders to see more costly cheer than ever provided for the Priest of Baal at the table of the Queen; and the Protestant operatives of Dublin call for impeachments in exceedingly bad English. But what did you expect? Did you think when, to serve your turn, you called the devil up that it was as easy to lay him as to raise him? Did you think when you went on, session after session, thwarting and reviling those whom you knew to be in the right, and flattering all the worst passions of those whom you knew to be in the wrong, that the day of reckoning would never come? It has come. There you sit, doing penance for the disingenuousness of years.

Why was the style of the extract below especially good for the evident purpose and audience? Why did the author use names for the candidates?

When an American citizen is content with voting merely, he consents to accept what is often a doubtful alternative. His first duty is to help shape the alternative. This, which was formerly less necessary, is now indispensable. In a rural community such as this country was a hundred years-ago, whoever was nominated for office was known to his neighbors, and the consciousness of that knowledge was a conservative influence in determining nominations. But in the local elections of the great cities of today, elections that control taxation and expenditure, the mass of the voters vote in absolute ignorance of the candidates. The citizen who supposes that he does all his duty when he votes, places a premium upon political knavery. Thieves welcome him to the polls and offer him a choice, which he has done nothing to prevent, between Jeremy Diddler and Dick Turpin. The party cries for which he is responsible are: "Turpin and Honesty," "Diddler and Reform." And within a few years, as a result of this indifference to the details of public duty, the most powerful politicians in the Empire State of the Union was Jonathan Wild, the Great, the captain of a band of plunderers.

GEORGE WILLIAM CURTIS: The Public Duty of Educated Men, 1877

Appropriate Diction. The final test of any diction is its appropriateness. The man who talks of dignified things as he would of a baseball game—unless he is doing it deliberately for humor, caricature, or burlesque—is ruining his own cause. The man who discusses trifles in the style of philosophy makes himself an egregious bore. As Shakespeare said, "Suit the action to the word, the word to the action; with this special observance, that you o'erstep not the modesty of nature."

Beware of the flowery expression; avoid metaphorical speech; flee from the lure of the overwrought style. In the first place it is so old-fashioned that audiences suspect it at once. It fails to move them. It may plunge its user into ridiculous failure. In the excitement of spontaneous composition a man sometimes takes risks. He may—as Pitt is reported to have said he did—throw himself into a sentence and trust to God Almighty to get him out. But a beginner had better walk before he tries to soar. If he speaks surely rather than amazingly his results will be better. The temptation to leave the ground is ever present in speaking.

A Parliamentary debater describing the Church of England wound up in a flowery conclusion thus: "I see the Church of England rising in the land, with one foot firmly planted in the soil, the other stretched toward Heaven!"

An American orator discussing the character of Washington discharged the following.

The higher we rise in the scale of being—material, intellectual, and moral—the more certainly we quit the region of the brilliant eccentricities and dazzling contrasts which belong to a vulgar greatness. Order and proportion characterize the primordial constitution of the terrestrial system; ineffable harmony rules the heavens. All the great eternal forces act in solemn silence. The brawling torrent that dries up in summer deafens you with its roaring whirlpools in March; while the vast earth on which we dwell, with all its oceans and all its continents and its thousand millions of inhabitants, revolves unheard upon its soft axle at the rate of a thousand miles an hour, and rushes noiselessly on its orbit a million and a half miles a day. Two storm-clouds encamped upon opposite hills on a sultry summer's evening, at the expense of no more electricity, according to Mr. Faraday, than is evolved in the decomposition of a single drop of water, will shake the surrounding atmosphere with their thunders, which, loudly as they rattle on the spot, will yet not be heard at the distance of twenty miles; while those tremendous and unutterable forces which ever issue from the throne of God, and drag the chariot wheels of Uranus and Neptune along the uttermost path-ways of the solar system, pervade the illimitable universe in silence.

Of course, today, nobody talks like that. At least no one should.

Trite Expressions. Less easily guarded against is the delivery of trite expressions. These are phrases and clauses which at first were so eloquent that once heard they stuck in people's minds, who then in an endeavor themselves to be emphatic inserted continually into their speeches these overworked, done-to-death expressions, which now having been used too frequently have no real meaning. One of the most frequently abused is "of the people, by the people, for the people." Others are words and phrases made popular by the war. Many are no more than jargon—meaningless counterfeits instead of the legal tender of real speech. It is amazing to notice how persistently some of them recur in the remarks of apparently well-trained men who should know better than to insert them. The following were used by a prominent United States political leader in a single speech. He could; easily have replaced them by living material or dispensed with them entirely.

Jot or tittle; the plain unvarnished truth; God forbid; the jackal press; that memorable occasion; tooth and nail; the God of our fathers; the awful horrors of Valley Forge; the blood-stained heights of Yorktown; tell it not in Gath; proclaim it not in the streets of Askalon; peace with honor; the Arabian Nights; Munchausen; the fathers; our globe-encircling domain; I am a Democrat; the pirates of the Barbary Coast; Democratic gospel pure and undefiled; Janus-faced double; Good Lord, good devil; all things to all men; God-fearing patriots; come what may; all things are fair in love or war; the silken bowstring; the unwary voter; bait to catch gudgeons; to live by or to die by; these obsequious courtiers; Guttenburg; rubber stamp; at all hazards; the most unkindest cut of all.

With the artificiality, the stiltedness of the foregoing contrast the simplicity, the sincerity of these two extracts from Abraham Lincoln.

And now, if they would listen—as I suppose they will not—I would address a few words to the Southern people.

I would say to them: You consider yourselves a reasonable and a just people; and I consider that in the general qualities of reason and justice you are not inferior to any other people. Still, when you speak of us Republicans, you do so only to denounce us as reptiles, or, at the best, as no better than outlaws. You will grant a hearing to pirates or murderers, but nothing like it to "Black Republicans." In all your contentions with one another, each of you deems an unconditional condemnation of "Black Republicanism" as the first thing to be attended to. Indeed, such condemnation of us seems to be an indispensable prerequisite—license, so to speak—among you to be admitted or permitted to speak at all. Now can you or not be prevailed upon to pause and to consider whether this is quite just to us, or even to yourselves? Bring forward your charges and specifications, and then be patient long enough to hear us deny or justify.

Cooper Union Speech, 1860

My Friends: No one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe everything. Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when or whether ever I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of that Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail. Trusting in Him who can go with me, and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.

Farewell Address at Springfield, 1861

Kinds of Sentences. What kinds of sentences shall a speaker construct as he speaks? That there is a difference between those a person composes when he writes and those the same person is likely to evolve when he speaks is realized by everyone. We hear that a speaker is "booky," or conversational, that he is stilted or lively, that he is too formal, that his discourse is dull and flat. To a great degree these criticisms are based upon the sentence structure.

The Simple Sentence. The simple sentence contains only one subject and one predicate. The complex sentence contains one independent clause and at least one subordinate clause. The compound sentence contains two or more independent clauses. It would be good advice to urge the employment of the simple sentence were it not for the fact that a long succession of sentences constructed exactly alike, making the same impression of form and sound and length, is likely to produce a deadly monotony of emphasis and pause, an impression of immaturity on the part of the speaker and of lack of skill in molding his phrases. Yet, in the main, the simple sentence is a valuable kind to know how to deliver. Containing but a single thought it is likely to make a definite impression upon a listener. It offers him not too much to grasp. It leads him a single step along the way. It speaks clearly, concisely. Its advantages follow from its qualities. At the beginning of addresses it is especially efficient in leading the audience at the same rate—slowly, it should be—as the speaker. In intricate explanation, in close reasoning, in matters of paramount importance, it should be employed.

Management of the short, simple sentence in written prose is difficult. In spoken discourse, as well, it is so easy to fall into the First Primer style that while the advantages of the use of the simple sentence are great, the ability to produce good sentences in succession must be developed.

The Complex Sentence. The complex sentence offers a good form for introducing pertinent, minor details, which are necessary, yet which do not merit inclusion in the general level of the speech. Aided by proper pitch and inflection of the voice, they can be skilfully subordinated to main ideas, yet introduced so adroitly that they at times relieve attention, at others briefly explain, at others keep adding up in a series the effect of which is a large total. Frequently such sentences indicate clearly the progress of the discussion. A topic introduced in a subordinate clause may later be raised to more importance without abruptness, for hearers are already familiar with it. A topic already treated may be recalled by citation in a later clause. So various parts of a speech may be closely knit together to present a coherent, progressive, unified whole.

In easily grasped general, descriptive, narrative, explanatory material, complex sentences will allow the covering of a wide field, or a long time, in short order by condensing facts into the few words of subordinate clauses.

The Compound Sentence. Somewhat like the use of complex sentences for general material is the use of compound ones for informal topics, familiar discourse, easy address, lighter material. Valuable, too, is this form for the speaker who knows accurately the meaning of conjunctions, who can avoid the stringing together of what should be simple sentences by a dozen senseless ands. A good rule for the beginner is to allow no ands in his speeches except those so imbedded in phrases—husband and wife, now and then, principal and interest—that he cannot avoid them. Let him never speak such sentences as, "I came to this meeting and discovered only when I got here that I was scheduled to speak." Let him be careful of beginning sentence's with and after he has made a pause.

The Exclamatory Sentence. Many speakers yield to the temptation to strive for effect by delivering exclamatory sentences—sometimes only clauses and phrases so enunciated. The disposition to do this is born of the desire to be emphatic. Strong feeling makes one burst out in ejaculation. Used sparingly this form may be extremely effective. Used too frequently it reduces a speech to a mere series of ejaculations of little more value than a succession of grunts, groans, and sobs. Exclamatory sentences seldom convey much meaning. They indicate emotion. But a speech, to be worth listening to, must convey ideas.

The Interrogative Sentence. A second sentence which may be classed with the preceding is the interrogative. There is a disposition on the part of speakers to ask direct questions of the audience. Frequently the rhetorical question—which is one asked because the answer is the quite apparent fact the speaker wants to impress upon his hearers—is an effective method of making a seemingly personal appeal to sluggish intellects or lazy wills. The interrogative form has the same disadvantage as the exclamatory. Except when its answer is perfectly plain it transfers no meaning. It would be easily possible for a speaker with no ideas at all, no knowledge of a topic, to engage time and attention by merely constructing a series of questions. At the conclusion the audience would wonder why in the world he spoke, for he had so little to say.

Long and Short Sentences. So far as long and short sentences are concerned some general rules have already been hinted at in dealing with other kinds. The advantages of the short sentence are mainly those of clearness, directness, emphasis. Its dangers are monotony, bareness, over-compactness. The advantages of the long—that is, quite long—sentence, are rather difficult to comprehend. A wordy sentence is likely to defeat its own purpose. Instead of guiding it will lose its hearer. Somewhat long sentences—as already said—will serve in general discussions, in rapidly moving descriptive and narrative passages, in rather simple explanation and argument. No one can state at just what number of words a short sentence becomes medium, and when the division of medium becomes long. Yet there must be some limits. A sentence in Les Miserables includes nearly one thousand words in both French original and English translation. John Milton produced some extraordinarily long sentences. But these are in written discourse. Some modern speakers have come dangerously near the limit. In one printed speech one sentence has four hundred ten words in it; a later one goes to five hundred forty. This second would fill about half a column of the usual newspaper. Surely these are much too long. A speaker can frequently make a long sentence acceptable by breaking it up into shorter elements by sensible pauses. Yet the general direction must surely be: avoid sentences which are too long.

Variety. The paramount rule of sentence structure in speech-making is certainly: secure variety. Long, medium, short; declarative, exclamatory, interrogative; simple, loose, periodic; use them all as material permits and economy of time and attention prescribes. With the marvelous variety possible in English sentence structure, no person with ideas and language at command need be a monotonous speaker.


1. Criticize this selection for its diction and sentence structure. What excellences has it? What can you find fault with? Does its date explain it?

"The books in the library, the portraits, the table at which he wrote, the scientific culture of the land, the course of agricultural occupation, the coming-in of harvests, fruit of the seed his own hand had scattered, the animals and implements of husbandry, the trees planted by him in lines, in copses, in orchards by thousands, the seat under the noble elm on which he used to sit to feel the southwest wind at evening, or hear the breathings of the sea, or the not less audible music of the starry heavens, all seemed at first unchanged. The sun of a bright day from which, however, something of the fervors of midsummer were wanting, fell temperately on them all, filled the air on all sides with the utterances of life, and gleamed on the long line of ocean. Some of those whom on earth he loved best, still were there. The great mind still seemed to preside; the great presence to be with you; you might expect to hear again the rich and playful tones of the voice of the old hospitality. Yet a moment more, and all the scene took on the aspect of one great monument, inscribed with his name, and sacred to his memory. And such it shall be in all the future of America! The sensation of desolateness, and loneliness, and darkness, with which you see it now, will pass away; the sharp grief of love and friendship will become soothed; men will repair thither as they are wont to commemorate the great days of history; the same glance shall take in, and same emotions shall greet and bless, the Harbor of the Pilgrims and the Tomb of Webster."

1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse