We’ll start the Word Emphasis series with the DOT: a firm, crisply stated word spoken in a short, staccato manner.
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Adding Emphasis to Words and Phrases. The Word Emphasis chart uses a symbol to describe movements and gestures that draw unique focus to a word or phrase. These include a dot, caret up, caret down, wiggle, stretch, parenthetical, dip down, singsong, hook, arrow up, arrow down, shifts, and transitions.
Real Talking Tips episode 27 begins the second half of Elaine Clark’s top 52 public speaking lessons and voice-over tips. This podcast kicks off with a min-series of 11 ways to add Word Emphasis to speech, presentations, and voiceover recordings. We’ll be using the Word Emphasis chart found in my books, There’s Money Where Your Mouth Is and Voice-Overs for Podcasting, and explored further in the video and interactive practice areas of my app, Adding Melody To Your Voice.
We’ll start with the Word Emphasis dot: a firm, crisply stated word spoken in a short, staccato manner.
Put a Dot on it and Get to the Point!
We’ve already established that speech is musical. When a specific word is spoken in a quick staccato manner, it changes the tempo and tune of the speaking voice and therefore adds emphasis and focus. Typically, short words that contain a t, k, p, b, and d articulator like that, kick, put, but, and do. The • dot can also be applied to longer words like exceptional, hippopotamus, revolutionary, breakfast, and fabulous. Rapping the articulators with a specific gesture or body movement helps those multi-syllable words achieve that quick, staccato sound.
Here are 4 ways to add brevity and focus to a word. Follow the examples and say the word ‘that’ four different ways. 1. Finger Flick: The index finger snaps down and up. ‘That’ 2. Three Finger Flick: With the index, middle finger, and thumb touching and finger combination snaps down and up. ‘That’ 3. Knuckle: Politicians and public speakers often prefer to point with the knuckle of the bent index finger. ‘That’ 4. Nod: Not all gestures have to be with the hands. A quick affirmative head nod can achieve the same crisp and emphatic emphasis. ‘That’ When adding brevity and crispness to a specific word, it’s important that the corresponding action starts on the very first letter of the word and ends on the final letter sound. Once again, that’s where speech and movements must be coordinated.
Coordinate Your Voice and Gestures.
It takes practice for a speaker to become dynamically ‘wired for sound.’ So, now it’s your time to practice using the following sentence: “You need to go to the store.” Notice how the tempo and message changes depending on the word that’s emphasized.
5 Exercises to add Quick Emphasis to a Word.
1. Finger Flick: Snap the index finger down and up on the word ‘go’. “You need to go to the store.” The focus is on the action of going.
2. Three-Finger Flick: With the index, middle finger, and thumb touching snap the hand down and up on the word ‘you’. “You need to go to the store.” By emphasizing the word ‘you,’ the focus shifts to the person.
3. Knuckle: With the knuckle of the bent index finger, quickly snap the knuckle on the word ‘need’. “You need to go to the store.” The key word ‘need’ defines WHY it’s important to make a trip to the store.
4. Head Nod: Give a quick affirmative nod on the word ‘store’. “You need to go to the store.” By nodding on the final word ‘store,’ the speaker not only defines the location but implies agreement with the listener.
5. Combination: A combo read is needed when almost everything in the sentence is important and can be a bit of a challenge to execute effectively. You’ll need to use both your hands and your head. Like the other four examples, the tempo will change dramatically especially when you enunciate and add the final sound to each word. Based on the previously described examples, do a 3-finger flick on YOU, knuckle point on NEED, index finger point on GO, and nod on STORE. Read it slowly the first time, speed up and repeat it until you feel the movements and words are connected: “You need to go to the store.”
If you kept your hands in one of the power box shapes we practiced in the last four episodes and trusted the actions, the words would have been smooth and connected. If you stopped to think and dropped out of the power box, the sentence would sound choppy. So, record yourself using these quick gestures, listen back, and evaluate your performance.
For those of you who read speeches, newscasts, or scripts, you can mark the quick focus word with a DOT above that word. Choose the best word to add emphasis that matches the message’s intent. Then practice the movements until the words and actions are effortless.
There are so many ways to use the Real Talking Tips micro-learning lessons to get a better understanding of the speaking voice and how to change and improve speech dynamics, melody, and styles. If you’re just now tuning in to Real Talking Tips, I suggest that you start with the first episode and work progressively through the series. For those of you following this podcast, it would be great if you would help spread the word and subscribe, download, share, and add comments. I love hearing from you. You can also reach out to me here on this website, ElaineClarkVO.com, if you need personal, business, group, podcast, or voice-over coaching.
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Tune in to Real Talking Tips Episode 28 where we’ll continue exploring the Word Emphasis variations.