How to Enunciate: Speak for Success Lesson 1

Stop Dropping Your G's: Learn How to Enunciate

Businessman giving presentation to colleagues
••• Learn how to speak clearly: how to enunciate. Morsa Images / Getty Images

Speech Skill: Clarity

Welcome to the Speak for Success communication course. This speech lesson, like all the lessons in the course, follows a format that explains the speech problem and presents several exercises so you can work on the problem and learn to speak better.

Each lesson closes with a homework assignment designed to provide further practice eliminating or correcting the speech problem that you’re working with that particular week. To get the most out of this course, you need to follow the program, working on only one lesson each week and completing all the exercises and homework assignments.

Ready? Of course you are! First up: learning how to speak clearly by learning how to enunciate.

The Speech Problem: Poor Enunciation

For listeners, one of the most irritating speech habits is a speaker that doesn’t enunciate clearly. When you don’t bother to pronounce each syllable of each word properly and words get slurred together, you sound uneducated. Worse, your listener has a hard time hearing you – especially if there’s other noise around you or when you’re speaking on the phone.

Dropping “g”s is one of the most common examples of poor enunciation. Say this list of words out loud:

  • Going
  • Walking
  • Jogging
  • Thinking
  • Striking
  • Selling

Did you say “go-ing” or did you say “go-in”? If you said “go-in” (or “walk-in”, “jog-gin”, etc.), you’re a G-dropper.

Be warned; this was not a fair test. Pronouncing words in isolation is very different than what we normally do when we speak. Most of us, have a tendency towards vocal laziness and not moving the parts of our lips, mouth, throat and jaw to fully pronounce our words. Also, the faster we speak, the less distinct our enunciation; we tend to slur syllables, words and even whole phrases together. For instance, "What are you doing?" becomes "What'cha doin?"

Say these sentences out loud:

  • I’m going to have to rethink that bid.
  • When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
  • Waiting to hear back from the bank is very nerve-wracking and stressful.
  • Before starting my business, I looked at a lot of different business opportunities.
  • There’s more to learning than just reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Did you drop any Gs? Did you enunciate each syllable of each word?

Learning How to Enunciate: Exercises

Speech Exercise: The Mirror Face Test

A mirror is a great aid when you’re working on your enunciation. I call this the face test. When you’re enunciating properly, your mouth, tongue, lips and jaw move.

Stand in front of a mirror and watch yourself while you say, “I’m going to have to rethink that bid”. See how your lips purse and retract when you say “go-ing”? See how your lips jut out to pronounce the “b” in “bid”? This one sentence is a real face workout.

Say the rest of the sentences out loud, watching yourself speak in the mirror. Now say them all again, slowing down your rate of speech and exaggerating the facial movements.

This week, you should have a mirror session of five minutes every day. You’ll immediately notice that this practice will carry over into your “normal” speaking life, causing you to be more conscious of the way you speak and speak more clearly.

Speech Exercise: Enlist a Speech Monitor

Because it’s so hard to perform naturally when we’re focusing on speaking well, the best way to determine whether or not we’re enunciating properly when we speak and stop slurring and mumbling is to enlist a speech monitor.

It’s a lot easier for someone else to pick up on our sloppy speech habits than to hear ourselves. For convenience, choose someone that lives with you (spouse, child, or roommate), explain that you’re working on your enunciation, and ask him or her to tell you whenever you drop a G or don’t speak clearly. Keep track of how often your speech monitor tells you you’ve committed this speech offense.

What you should see, as you continue to practice speaking clearly, is the number of times your speech monitor hears you speaking sloppily decrease.

Ready for the pressure situation? Ask someone who works with you regularly to be a speech monitor.

The Benefits of Learning How to Speak Clearly

As your enunciation improves, your listeners will:

Speech Lesson 1 Homework Assignment

To get the most out of this course, as I said, it’s important that you do the exercises. Your speech won’t improve unless you work at it regularly.

This week, you have two tasks;

  1. Set aside five minutes a day where you can work with a mirror in a quiet place and practice the enunciation exercises above;
  2. Enlist at least one speech monitor to help you catch your speech errors.

Next week, you’ll tackle the speech problem of fillers.

More Speech Lessons