I was leafing through a book focusing on the link between deep breathing and overall health when I came upon a section featuring a Swami who had been practicing yoga and meditation for decades. He was offering advice on how to sit in meditation to become aware of one’s breath. Here’s the actual sentence: “Place the left heel at the perineum and the right heel at the pubic bone above the organ of generation.” Organ of generation? I’m guessing the writer was looking for a way to avoid potentially vulgar terms, so I’ll give him a pass. The problem is, speakers often use similarly obscure words and rarely does it improve delivery. In fact, it usually fails.
I mentioned this to one of my clients who had run for political office and made stump speeches every day for several months. He said that many politicians have this problem because they’re afraid to say anything that might offend and therefore dance around topics by using smart, fancy, or vague words.
Don’t let that happen to you. Spend time thinking about word choice. For example, once you have written out the speech, hand it to a trusted colleague and ask him or her to sift through it for jargon or places where a $1.50 word is used when a 25-cent version would do. In other words, eliminate your use of splendiferous terminology.
Mark Twain advised writers to “use the right word, not its second cousin.” The same advice applies to speakers. Your words represent who you are. Do you want to sound pompous or powerful? Eccentric or eloquent? The place to start is with word choice.
– Barbara Roche