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Emphasis – the most powerful communication tool

How many of us remember that teacher who, whilst knowledgeable about their subject, had the incredible gift of being able to put even the most sprightly children to sleep with their endless droning speeches, their voices never breeding excitement nor fear, just going on and on?  Well, there are lots of people like this, who speak as you would imagine typewriters might if they suddenly became living things.

This droning, boring way of speaking is quite easy to slip in to if you’re not careful, and comes from an absence of emphasis, or stress on certain words, and an absence of pauses that aren’t strictly necessary.

Emphasis of words is incredibly important, and can be achieved by a slight change of tone, lengthening or shortening syllables or phrases, or saying a word in a hushed or loud voice.  For example, consider the words in bold to be emphasised in speech:

I promise you things will get better.

Emphasising ‘will’ here is reassuring and authoritative. Now:

I promise you things will get better.

The emphasis on ‘I’ is personal, puts the focus on the speaker, makes them sound sincere.  It could suggest that the speaker is promising something that others can’t.

I promise you things will get better.

Here the emphasis is on the audience, makes them sound important to the speaker, and again, appears to suggest that audience is exclusive in that this promise is only being made to them.

Spaces are just as important:

I promise you, things will get better.

See how the space breaks up the sentence and makes it more interesting?

When using emphasis and space in speech, the thing to remember is to use these when appropriate, not just anywhere, and to convey meaning and express emotion.

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