If you want to present your ideas in a logical distinctive manner, you must be able to articulate them clearly. Effective articulation also requires acceptable enunciation. This means using the speech mechanism properly to produce the sounds that form words. You cannot articulate well with poor enunciation since they are both interrelated. Together, when executed properly, they constitute effective speech. Improving speech is a skill, like many others, that must be practiced.
Understand how becoming more articulate will help you express yourself more effectively, become a good conversationalist and even make friends. Proper speech promotes self-esteem and is vital to many careers, including teaching, nursing, business, law or the clergy.
Learn about the subject you are discussing. Keep up with current events. Develop your vocabulary so you can express yourself clearly. Read as much as possible since this gives you topics for discussion and improves your vocabulary.
Study correct grammar so you don't make errors that create poor impressions. For example, learn the difference between and the correct usage of expressions such as "as I said" rather than "like I said." Use pronouns correctly: "Him and me went to the store" should be "He and I went to the store."
Learn about your speech mechanism, since poor enunciation interferes with effective speaking. Speech involves the lips, soft palate, hard palate, tongue and teeth. Look in the mirror and observe where sounds such as the "t" are made. See that your tongue touches the upper ridge behind the teeth. Use your lips for sounds like "oow" and your front teeth on your lower lip for "f" and "v." Know the difference between a "voiced" sound like "z" and an unvoiced sound such as "s."
Avoid common enunciation errors, such as saying "filum" for "film" or "libary for "library." Overcome any lisping -- the improper formation of the "s" sound. Place your tongue on the upper palate and direct the air through that area rather than the side of the mouth. Avoid substituting "th" for "s," which many children do. Don't tighten your jaw or direct air through the nose if not appropriate.
Practice enunciation exercises regularly. Curl your tongue and raise it up toward your nose, then down to your chin to develop tongue control. Lift your tongue to the upper palate and say "snip, snap" to feel how a proper "s" sound is produced, thereby avoiding a lisp. Realize that the "ng" in "running," for example, is one sound through the nose, not two separate sounds with a click in the "g" as in many foreign languages.
Use tongue twisters to develop fluency in particular sounds. Say: "Bill had a billboard with a blue background," or "Four Frenchmen flew to France for a fashion show," or "Sister Suzie sat still at the symposium." You can even make up your own. Speak each one slowly at first, then practice saying them more quickly.
- "Speech for Today"; Hibbs et al; 1965
- "Improving Your Speech"; Letitia Raubichech; 1939
- Effective Communications: Being Articulate; Patrick Gil D. Racho; 2008
- Improve your articulation by listening to recordings of professional speakers and paying careful attention to their speech. Practice in front of a mirror and record your own speech.
- Sign up for speech courses in high school, college or through adult education programs, or work with a private speech therapist.
Based in Bellmore, N.Y., Shula Hirsch has been writing since 1960 on travel, education, raising children and senior problems. Her articles have appeared in "Newsday," "Mature Living," "Teaching Today," and "Travel News." She holds a Master of Arts degree from Columbia University and is a retired professor of English.