The Art of Public Speaking HTML version
DISTINCTNESS AND PRECISION OF UTTERANCE
In man speaks God.
--HESIOD, Words and Days.
And endless are the modes of speech, and far Extends from side to side the field of words.
In popular usage the terms "pronunciation," "enunciation," and "articulation" are synonymous, but real
pronunciation includes three distinct processes, and may therefore be defined as, the utterance of a syllable or
a group of syllables with regard to articulation, accentuation, and enunciation.
Distinct and precise utterance is one of the most important considerations of public speech. How preposterous
it is to hear a speaker making sounds of "inarticulate earnestness" under the contented delusion that he is
telling something to his audience! Telling? Telling means communicating, and how can he actually
communicate without making every word distinct?
Slovenly pronunciation results from either physical deformity or habit. A surgeon or a surgeon dentist may
correct a deformity, but your own will, working by self-observation and resolution in drill, will break a habit.
All depends upon whether you think it worth while.
Defective speech is so widespread that freedom from it is the exception. It is painfully common to hear public
speakers mutilate the king's English. If they do not actually murder it, as Curran once said, they often knock
an i out.
A Canadian clergyman, writing in the Homiletic Review, relates that in his student days "a classmate who was
an Englishman supplied a country church for a Sunday. On the following Monday he conducted a missionary
meeting. In the course of his address he said some farmers thought they were doing their duty toward missions
when they gave their 'hodds and hends' to the work, but the Lord required more. At the close of the meeting a
young woman seriously said to a friend: 'I am sure the farmers do well if they give their hogs and hens to
missions. It is more than most people can afford.'"
It is insufferable effrontery for any man to appear before an audience who persists in driving the h out of
happiness, home and heaven, and, to paraphrase Waldo Messaros, will not let it rest in hell. He who does not
show enough self-knowledge to see in himself such glaring faults, nor enough self-mastery to correct them,
has no business to instruct others. If he can do no better, he should be silent. If he will do no better, he should
also be silent.
Barring incurable physical defects--and few are incurable nowadays--the whole matter is one of will. The
catalogue of those who have done the impossible by faithful work is as inspiring as a roll-call of warriors.
"The less there is of you," says Nathan Sheppard, "the more need for you to make the most of what there is of
Articulation is the forming and joining of the elementary sounds of speech. It seems an appalling task to utter
articulately the third-of-a million words that go to make up our English vocabulary, but the way to make a
beginning is really simple: learn to utter correctly, and with easy change from one to the other, each of the