To Sound Intelligent and Articulate, Enunciate as You Speak
When listening to a recorded presentation by a fellow named Victor, I was surprised by how difficult it was to understand what he was saying. I’d never heard him present before, but I knew from his reputation that he had solid material worth listening to—if only he enunciated so it wouldn’t be a struggle to follow him.
Note that there is a difference between pronunciation and enunciation. You can pronounce a word correctly, yet enunciate it so that listeners can’t make out what you’re saying. If you mispronounce misled as “miss-uhled,” listeners won’t understand you. But they also won’t understand you if you pronounce it properly but not clearly. Victor certainly knew his pronunciation, but enunciation, not so much.
Unfortunately, if people have to guess what you’re saying, they may discount even your best ideas. If you can’t tell whether you’re muffling your words, record your presentation practice sessions or read a few paragraphs from a book and review them to monitor the clarity of your speech.
Feedback from others about how well you enunciate can also be valuable. And if people regularly ask you to repeat what you said, take that as a clue.
A focus on enunciation applies not just to formal presentations, but also to all your discussions at work—and, for that matter, your everyday conversations. Be particularly careful with words we tend to be lazy about. If you want to be seen as intelligent and articulate, say:
- “Want to,” not “wanna”
- “Going to,” not “gonna”
- “Doing,” not “doin’” (distinctly enunciate those final g’s)
- To pronunced like “two,” not “tuh”
- “You,” not “ya” (as in, “ya know”)
Practicing tongue twisters can improve enunciation. So can writing out part of your presentation and reading it out loud as practice. Either approach can help you detect words or word combinations that listeners might misinterpret.
I remember a discussion in which the speaker referred to a particular customer as an apathetic person. Others in the group immediately came to the customer’s defense. It took some untangling to figure out that the speaker was actually referring to the customer as an empathic person.
Fortunately, even when people enunciate poorly, you often know the context of their material and can figure out what they’re saying. But it would be less taxing to be able to absorb what’s being said without having to translate the information into comprehensible English. When you’re the one speaking, strive to be empathetic—not apathetic—toward your listeners.