Choppiness in speaking occurs when you pause too often. Pausing in conversational speech is normal; pausing during a speech or presentation is ideal. Pausing too often, however, is tedious for the listener and is referred to as choppy speech. |
The problem with choppy speech is that you leave your audience waiting for you to continue. And, if they have to wait too often or too long for you to resume your words, they will stop listening.
While I wish more novice public speakers would learn the value of the pause, this article is intended for those who pause after every 2-3, 3-4, or 4-5 words. Given a 5-minute or 40-minute presentation laden with excessive pauses, your audience will resort to daydreaming, texting, or checking their email. Good speech is characterized by smooth, connected words and sentences. In music, the term is legato. The opposite of legato, however, is staccato which is exactly what is happening if you are breaking up your sentences with constant pausing.
Read the sentence below in one breath and do not pause until you come to the end:
The courageous dog struggled valiantly to save his master but did not manage to save itself.
Were you able to accomplish this exercise without taking a breath and without pausing? If not, try it again. (You may need to record yourself to be sure that you are not pausing.)
Now try the following sentence without a pause after the comma:
With its glorious flying buttresses, the Cathedral of Notre Dame is a noble and magnificent sight.
If you were able to get through the entire sentence, try it again but this time pause after the word buttresses.
[In written language, the comma is required after the word buttresses for visual clarity. In speaking, however, you are able to pause after the comma or not. It is entirely up to you. Call it ‘speaker’s license.’]
Another means of practice would be to read along with the professional readers of audio books. Their speed, their tempo, and their phrasing are excellent and it is a good exercise for improvement.
While it is much easier to learn to speak smoothly when reading printed words, it is also just as important to work on your conversational speech. If you find that you are afflicted with choppy speech in conversation, I suggest you record yourself speaking just as if you were talking to someone at the kitchen table or at work. Then play it back and study your speech patterns.
Choppy speech can be changed by practicing diligently and listening to yourself as you speak. If you are motivated, you can successfully learn to speak smoothly and put an end to your staccato speech forever.
The Voice Lady Nancy Daniels offers private, corporate and group workshops in voice and presentation skills as well as Voicing It!, the only video training program on voice improvement. Visit Voice Dynamic or watch Nancy in a brief video as she describes The Power of Your Speaking Voice.
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