Public Speaking Tips: How to Learn to Articulate Clearly

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Public Speaking Tips: How to Learn to Articulate Clearly

You have a raging passion for your subject. Or you have a strong financial motive to speak on your subject. Or maybe you simply want everybody to like you!

Whatever your Cause, people must be able to understand your speech–your physical speech–before they are able to give you the response you’re working for.

Consonants and vowels are the building blocks of intelligible speech. It’s the breath that supports and carries these consonants and vowels to our listeners. If we focus on these three elements of speech–consonants, vowels, breath–we’ll have an excellent basis for making clear, understandable presentations.

Here are some pointers: Consonants must be well-articulated and crisp. To achieve this, say each of the words below by itself, slowly. Use your tongue and lips to shape each consonant clearly. Exaggerate! Speak every syllable.


  • wash
  • washing
  • Washington
  • definitely
  • (all 4 syllables)

  • accessible (ak sess i buhl)
  • Antarctic (ant ark tik)
  • residing (Make the “s” a definite “Z” sound.)
  • treatise
  • not
  • non-native

Now speak the sentence below, breaking it up into smaller segments, if you like, until you can say the entire sentence very clearly at a normal pace.

“The treatise on the Antarctic was definitely not accessible to the non-native speakers residing in Washington.”

You may notice that you run out of breath before you can get the whole sentence said. If not, congratulations! If so, mark a place or two where you can sneak a breath without interrupting the flow. Try this:

“The treatise on the Antarctic (breath) was definitely not accessible to the non-native speakers (breath) residing in Washington.” Vowels should be given the true vowel sounds. We Americans are becoming increasingly lax in differentiating between the vowel sounds–so much so that “uh” has become the vowel of choice for A, E, I, O and U! I believe it’s a blend of pure laziness and a cultural deficit of actual listening to sounds. We’re so cruelly bombarded with noise of all sorts that we take refuge in turning off our active hearing.

Breath! Ah, the breath!–the fundament for all speaking. This is not the place to give you exercises to strengthen and lengthen your breath; that must go in other articles. However, this will help:

Think of your breath as being released on a steady, constant stream. That stream continues steadily during the tiny silences between words, smoothly connecting one word to the following word. Think On-going and Easy.

Avoid giving a little burst of breath for a few words, then letting the breath drop before the next little explosion of breath. You lose a great deal of breath by breathing too frequently and too shallowly.


Carole McMichaels, Speaker, Coach, Author: “Fearless Public Speaking: How to Get Rid of Your Stage Fright and Prepare and Deliver a Winning Presentation”, invites you to join her free newsletter on speaking in public. You may also get your free report, “7 Valuable Tips on Writing a Mind-Gripping Speech”.

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