Effective Writing and Speaking
Many people can write, but few can write well. The same is true of speaking. Some people speak with authority
while others seem embarrassingly inept – whether they are nor not. The ability to write well and speak well makes a tremendous difference in how the rest of the world perceives you
and how well you will communicate throughout your life.
As far as speaking in public, most people of any age consider
this their number one fear. If you’re
nervous about turning in a paper or giving a presentation, you are far from being alone.
In almost every occupation we can think of, you will be expected to think, create, communicate, manage,
and lead. That means you will have to write and speak well.
PROPER COMMUNICTION IN WRITING AND SPEECH
Writing and speaking are direct representations of who we are. Experts suggest there’s no
single, universally accepted standard for how to speak or write American English.
Even so, school systems, professional communicators, and businesses all have standards and, not surprisingly, the rules
do not vary dramatically from place to place.
Free writing simply means writing that is temporarily unencumbered with mechanical processes, such
as punctuation, grammar, spelling, content and so forth. In other words, it’s
a way of writing without trying to write and edit at the same time.
A good exercise to experience what free-writing feel like would be to write for at least ten minutes,
nonstop, about whatever you want without giving any attention to organization, grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Remember, no one is going to read this. (Take a sheet of paper and
without thinking about grammar or punctuation write as much as you can concerning why you chose Langston University over other
Exploratory writing helps you first discover
what you want to say.
Explanatory writing then allows you to transmit
those ideas to others.
PREWRITING, WRITING, AND REWRITING PROCESS
Most writing teachers agree that the writing process consists of these three steps:
Prewriting or rehearsing. This step includes
preparing to write by filling your mind with information from other sources. It
is generally considered the first stage of exploratory writing.
Writing or drafting. This is when exploratory writing becomes a rough explanatory draft.
Rewriting or revision. This I when you polish your work until you consider
it ready for your public.
Reason many students turn in poorly written papers is that they skip the first and last steps and “make do” with the middle one.
Perhaps its lack of time or putting off things until the night before the paper is due.
Your Text discusses each of the above stages in more detail and it would be to your advantage to study
each as you prepare to write your paper.
ALLOCATING TIME FOR EACH WRITING STAGE
Donald Murray has outlined how much time a writer should spend on each of the three above listed writing
Prewriting: 85 percent (including research)
Writing: 1 percent
Rewriting: 14 percent (revising till it’s
SOME FINAL OBSERVATIONS ON BECOMING A BETTER WRITER AND THINKER
First and most important, you should start writing the day you get the assignment, even if it’s
only for ten or fifteen minutes. That way, you won’t be confronting
a blank paper later in the week. Dig for ideas. Reject nothing at first, then organize and narrow your thoughts later.
Professional writers/speakers never begin preparing an assignment the day or hours before its due. (So much for writing, let’s look at Speaking)
SIX STEPS TO SUCCESSFUL SPEAKING
Much of what we have stated about writing also applies to speaking in public. Successful speaking involves six fundamental steps:
- Clarify your objective (identify what you want to accomplish. What do you want
your listeners to know, believe, or do when you are finished)
Analyze your audience (what does you audience already know about your topic? If you are giving a presentation on the health risks of fast food, you’ll want to know how much they
already know about fast foods so you don’t bore your audience to death or waste their time.
Collect and organize your information (arrange your information so as to guide your listeners through the maze of
information they already have to new knowledge, ideas and attitudes you would like then to have.
Choose your visual aids (when visual aids are added to presentations, listeners can absorb 35 percent
more information and over time they can recall 55 percent more. Use charts, show
video clips, write on the board etc.)
Prepare your notes (for comfort most people want to have a complete written out copy of their presentation
to prevent forgetting. However, the best speaking aid is a minimal outline and
interact with your audience so you don’t come off as canned. You might
want to have written out your introduction and conclusion.
Practice your delivery (practice your delivery aloud, and make eye contact)
USING YOUR VOICE AND BODY LANGUAGE
Let your hands hang comfortably at your sides, reserving them for natural, spontaneous gestures. Leave your lectern and move around the room.
Don’t lean over or hide behind the lectern. Face your audience,
and move toward them periodically while you are speaking. Other helpful suggestions
Make eye contact
Smiling helps to warm up your listeners
Pay attention to the pitch of your voice,
rate of speech and volume
- Pronunciation and word choice is important (fillers such as “um”,
“ah”, “like”, and “you know” should be avoided
- Consider your appearance
THE GUIDE CHECKLIST
G Get your
U “You” – don’t forget yourself
I Ideas, ideas, ideas
D Develop an organizational Structure
E Exit gracefully and memorably
SPEAKING ON THE SPOT
Most of the speaking you will do in college and after will be on the spot. Your instructor might ask your opinion on a question, or you classmate might ask your opinion on an issue
and you are required to give an impromptu answer.
When speaking on the spot, one of the most popular ways to arrange your thoughts is through the PREP
Point of view: Provide an overview – give a clear direct statement or generalization such as “after listening to yesterday’s
lecture, I feel”
Reasons: Broadly state why you hold this point of view: “I feel this way because”.
Evidence of examples: Present specific facts or data supporting your point of view; “I feel this way because” according to”
Point of view restated: To make sure you are understood clearly; end with a restatement of your position: “so, yes, I feel this way because”
WHAT IF ALL ELSE FAILS?
What if you plan, organize, prepare, and rehearse, but calamity strikes anyway? What if your mind goes completely blank, you drop your notes cards, or you say something totally
Remember that people in your audience have been in your position and empathize with you. Accentuate the positive, rely on your wit, and move back into your speech.
Your recovery is what they are mostly likely to recognize; your success is what they are most likely to remember.