How Less Can Be More in Your Speech
Have you ever listened to a speech that seemed to drag on and on? One that started out interesting, but became boring.
Chances are, the speaker fell prey to a common speaking malady…
This is a common problem most speakers unknowingly have. It kills the effectiveness of a story. It saps the attention of the audience, and leaves many speakers wondering, “What happened?”
If you want to add impact to your speech, take the step to lose the redundancies.
What do I mean by ‘redundancy?’ It’s the use of extraneous words that that add nothing. They lengthen sentences, but add no information. Think of them as the fast food of soft drinks of the speaking world… they fill you up, make you bigger, but add no value.
Examples of Speech Redundancies
For example, consider the following sentences I found on the web page grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/GRAMMAR
‘Many uneducated citizens who have never attended school continue to vote for better schools.’
To make this sentence leaner, shorten it to:
“Many uneducated citizens continue to vote for better schools.”
The filler “who have never attended school” doesn’t add to the purpose of the sentence. Does it matter if the people voting attended no school, a couple of years, or a half dozen?
Not for this sentence to make its point.
Another excellent example of a sentence filled with redundant words is:
“Unencumbered by a sense of responsibility, John let his wife with four kids and no life insurance.”
A leaner version of this is:
“John irresponsibly left his wife with four kids and no life insurance.”
Five fewer words in a sentence that is easier to say, and to comprehend.
Common Redundant Phrases
This problem isn’t limited to sentences. Here are common phrases from the website mentioned above, and a ‘leaner’ version of each:
Phrase Leaner version
True fact Fact
Twelve midnight Midnight
A total of 14 birds 14 birds
Frank and Honest exchange Frank exchange or Honest Exchange
There is no doubt but that No doubt
Another type of redundancy is the intensifier. This is a word that doesn’t add to the impact of a sentence. Commonly used intensifiers are very, really, extremely, highly. For example, “I’m very upset with Jenny” or “She’s extremely irritated with her son”
If you’re upset or irritated, adding intensifiers doesn’t increase the impact of that emotion.
Words and Phrases That Don’t Add to Your Speech
Another type of redundant phrase is the one that seems to add emphasis to your point, but adds nothing. Some of these include honestly, as a matter of fact, in my opinion.
Consider the following sentence. “Honestly, this has been one of the reasons for my success.” Adding ‘honestly’ creates doubt that you’ve been telling the truth up to that point.
If you say “In my opinion,” who’s opinion than yours could you be stating? If it’s someone else’s, it’s fine to say that person’s name. Otherwise, just state your opinion. The listener will know it’s yours.
By themselves, these redundant words and phrases won’t ruin your presentation. If you include too many, the audience will lose interest. Like a fast food meal, redundancies fill them with a lot of words, but add no value.
Beware of redundancies, they reduce the impact of your speech.
I really, really mean that. Honestly, I sincerely do.
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