language use

Using Language Clearly
Avoid unnecessary jargon and define any technical vocabulary you must use.
Use words that your audience will know and understand.

Your language should be free of any significant grammatical and semantic error.
Use correct vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation.
When in doubt, consult reference books or ask for help.
Don’t use it if you don’t know what it means.

Keep your words simple, direct, and clear.
”Plain” talk is what the listeners want.

Avoid vagueness.
Use specific rather than vague language.
1. They are a fine speaker. (vague)
2. To some extent, guns should be regulated. (more concrete)
3. It depends. (depends on what?)
4. This clearly shows … ("this" means what?)

Avoid clutter in your language.
1. Uh, … you know … something like that.
2. He was born in the year of 1831. ? He was born in 1831.
3. We are facing a difficult crisis situation that will be troublesome to successfully resolve. We have a crisis.

Avoid cliches.
1. She is sweet as a bee.
2. He was fit as a fiddle.
3. She's cool as a cucumber.

Use the language suitable for your setting and the audience.
Read the special needs of the occasion.
a. "you guys" in a commencement address?
b. "ladies and gentlemen" in an informal party?
c. "a humorous speaking style" in an eulogy?

Avoid any terms that could potentially offend racial, ethnic, religious, or gender groups.

Avoid profanity or slang.
a. It was hot as hell.
b. You chicks, gals …
c. You bastard (moron, prick, etc. etc.)!

Avoid sexist language —> Use gender-neutral nouns and pronouns.
a. Dog is man's best friend —>The dog is a person's best friend.
b. Avoid using "he," "mankind," or "man" when talking about all people —> Change “he” to “he or she” or “they.”
c. Use police officer instead of policeman.

Avoid ageist stereotypes such as “set in her ways” or “over the hill.”

Use euphemisms to make unpleasant ideas sound more agreeable such as “passed away” instead of “died.”

Using Language Artfully
Add vividness and intensity to your language using these techniques.

*Alliteration – Repetition of the initial consonants sound of close of adjoining words.
Example: We should not demean our democracy with the politics of distraction, denial, and despair. —Al Gore

*Anaphora – Repetition of words or phrases

*Antithesis – Juxtaposition of contrasting ideas, usually in parallel structure.
Examples: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." Neil Armstrong; "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." John F. Kennedy; "Humans use symbols to imagine the possible, from potato chip to computer chip." Craig Smith

*Imagery - The use of vivid language to create mental images of objects, actions, or occasions.
Contrast the following two speeches to introduce a movie. The latter is more vivid than the former.
Speech 1: I read in the paper that a new movie has just come out and it's playing in the neighborhood. I heard it was gooda lot of action and all that. Wanna go?
Speech 2: Steven Seagal's new film shows him piercing the villain's lungs with a simple poke of his finger
he even reaches inside this guy's eye socket, pulls out the eyeball, and then plops it on the table. Let's go!

*Hyperbole – Exaggeration for effect
Example: “If we don’t start saving our pennies now, we will all be poor and miserable.”

*Metaphor – Implicit or oblique comparison of unlike things without using the words like or as. It is often useful to use an extended metaphor throughout the speech.
For example, "monetary" metaphors penetrate Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, as in the following quotes from that speech:
"In a sense we've come to our nation's Capitol to cash a check."
"America has given the Negro people a bad check."
"But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt."
"So we've come to cash this check—a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice."

*Parallelisms – Construction sentences beginning or ending with the same words.
Example: “Our children need love. Our children need security. Our children need education.”
— Similar arrangement of a pair or series of related words, phrases, or sentences.
Example: Rich and poor, intelligent and ignorant, wise and foolish, virtuous and vicious, man and woman—it is ever the same, each soul must depend wholly on itself. — Elizabeth Cady Stanton

*Personification – Human characteristics used in nonhuman settings
Example: "The sky wept tears of grief that day.”

*Repetition – Reiteration of the same word or set of words at the beginning or end of successive clauses or sentences.
Examples: "We left America safe, we left America secure, we left America free—still a become of hope to mankind, still a light unto the nations." Ronald Reagan; "We are a people in a quandary about the present. We are a people in search of our future. We are a people in search of a national community." Barbara Jordan; Martin Luther King, Jr. repeated the sentence “I have a dream” many times during his famous speech.

*Rhyming – Words ending in the same sound combination
Example: "He’s a lean, mean, fightin’ machine.”

*Rhythm - Pattern of sound in a speech by the choice and arrangement of words.

*Simile – An explicit comparison of two unlike things using the word like or as
Example: Eating junk food is like eating poison.

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