How Can You Write A Speech So That It Can Be Spoken?

Speakers need to understand how to get from page to stage
Speakers need to understand how to get from page to stage
Image Credit: Fredrik Rubensson

I’m hoping that we can all agree that in this world in which we live in, there are three types of writers out there. There are the writers who are able to write for the spoken word, writers who are able to write for the written word, and writers who are just flat out bad writers. I’m hoping that none of you fall into that later category. However, when it comes to writing your next speech, are you going to be writing it to be read off of a page or spoken on the stage?


Differences Between Written And Spoken Words

Writers who are good at writing for the written word have a fundamental problem. The words that they write turn out to be quite difficult for a speaker to read aloud. This, of course, brings up the question as to why. It turns out that when these writers write, the words that they are putting down don’t flow. They don’t fully understand the importance of public speaking. When you try to read them aloud, what you discover is that they have no cadence. Your spoken words are going to end up with no regular beat.

What speakers need to understand is that there is a difference between the written and the spoken word. Where we can run into problems is when we discover that the rules that we’ve learned for writing don’t apply when we are speaking. One of the most important things that a speaker needs to realize is that the spoken word is much more like a song than an essay. The music that we listen to on the radio all comes with their own beat – this is a key reason why we will like a given song.

A good example of the contrast between written words and spoken words comes when we create lists of things. If your list consists of single words (“democracy, socialism, communism”) then you are going to have to be careful as to where the accent occurs in each of the words: is it on the first, second, or third syllable? Your goal has to be to have the accent on the same syllable in each word because that will provide your speech with a cadence when you speak it.


How To Write For The Spoken Word

In order to write speeches that can be spoken well, you are going to have to un-learn some of the rules that you’ve learned in order to write well. One of the most basic rules that we’ve all be taught is that we really should not repeat using words in the same sentence. Good news – when you are writing to be spoken you can throw this rule out the window. Feel free to repeat a word in a sentence if you need it for either clarity or cadence.

Another rule that works well for writing, but which can’t make the jump to when we are writing to be spoken is the rule about what words you can and cannot start a sentence with. Hopefully, we all know that there is a collection of words that are not permitted to be used to begin a sentence when we are writing: now, and, but and so. However, the good news here is that when you are writing a speech to be spoken, all limits are off on what you can use to start a sentence with. You are permitted to use these words because they are conjunctions that are being used as filler words to fill in any holes in the rhythm of your sentence.

When it comes to writing a speech that will be easy to speak, we need to understand that creating a cadence is really more of an art than a science. There will be times when you are able to create a phrase with a specific emphasis that you are focused on. However, more often than not, you will end up just having to go by feel – you’ll have to sense when something sounds right for you. To get your speech right, you’ll need to spend time listening to how it sounds when it rolls off of your tongue. Make your next speech flow.


What All Of This Means For You

Creating a speech is hard work. However, creating a speech that sounds good is even harder work. It turns out that many of us can write to be read, but writing to be heard is much harder to do correctly. When we do this wrong, it become hard to share the benefits of public speaking.

The problem with a lot of what we write is that it does not sound good when we speak it. What is missing is the cadence. Our words have no beat to them. We need to understand that the spoken word is much more like a song then a written essay. When we include a list of words in our speech, we need to take the time to make sure that the accent is on the same syllable for each word. Rules that apply to the written word, don’t necessarily apply to words that are to be spoken. For example, you can repeat the same word in a sentence if you’ll be speaking the sentence. There is a collection of words that we know that we are not supposed to start sentences with. However, when we are writing a speech to be heard, we can use these words to start sentences in order to keep our rhythm going. We can’t always get our written words correct the first time around. Instead we’ll have to take a look at it and shape it so that the speech will flow.

It is critically important that as you write your next speech you realize that the written word is different from the spoken word. When we are giving a speech, we want our words to roll and flow. This means that we need to take a look at the words that we’ve written and change them if they don’t flow. Take the time to craft a speech that can be easily spoken and you’ll have created a speech that you next audience will want to hear.


– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™


Question For You: Do you think that you need to work with someone else in order to determine how a speech sounds?


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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site www.Toastmasters.org. Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

So of course, the first question is do you know what a TED talk is? I would suspect that most of us do by now. TED is an acronym that stands for technology, entertainment, and design. There is one big TED event each year at which all sorts of famous people come and present to show off the importance of public speaking and then there are a host of other so called “TEDx” events that are held in cities all over the globe. What all of these have in common is a standard format (18 minutes of speaking time or less) and the videos from these events get posted for the rest of the world to see. Getting invited to speak at one of these events is a big honor; however, if you get invited will you be ready?

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