How to Enunciate: Speak for Success Lesson 1

Stop Dropping Your G's: Learn How to Enunciate

Image shows three women of varying ethnicities chatting by a water cooler in a plant-filled office. Text reads:

Image by Catherine Song © The Balance 2019

This speech lesson 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, just follow the program, working on only one lesson each week and completing all the exercises and homework assignments.

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 make an effort to pronounce each syllable of each word properly and words get slurred together, it can be hard for listeners, audiences, interviewers, etc., to decipher what you're saying.

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 you would normally do when you speak. Most people have a tendency towards vocal laziness and not moving the parts of their lips, mouth, throat, and jaw to fully pronounce their words. Also, the faster you speak, the less distinct your enunciation; people 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

The following exercises are designed to help you learn to speak with better enunciation and clarity over time.

Speech Exercise: The Mirror Face Test

A mirror is a great aid when you’re working on your enunciation. This is called 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

It’s more difficult to perform naturally when you’re focusing on speaking well. The best way to determine whether or not you’re enunciating properly when you speak, and to stop slurring and mumbling, is to enlist a speech monitor.

It’s a lot easier for someone else to pick up on your sloppy speech habits than to hear it yourself. For convenience, choose someone that lives with you (spouse, child, or roommate), explain that you’re working on your enunciation, and ask them 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.

If you want to turn up the pressure, 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:

  • Form a better impression of you as you speak, thinking of you as calculated and thoughtful in your diction
  • Be better able to focus on the message you’re communicating, rather than being distracted by the way you’re expressing yourself

Speech Lesson 1 Homework Assignment

To get the most out of this course, 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.

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