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Directness in Speech and Writing

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

  • An Introduction to Punctuation
  • Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
  • M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester
  • B.A., English, State University of New York

In speech and writing , directness is the quality of being straightforward and concise : stating a main point early and clearly without embellishments or digressions . Directness contrasts with circumlocution , verbosity , and indirectness .

There are different degrees of directness, which are determined in part by social and cultural conventions. In order to communicate  effectively with a particular audience , a speaker or writer needs to maintain a balance between directness and politeness . 

Examples and Observations

  • "The whole world will tell you, if you care to ask, that your words should be simple & direct . Everybody likes the other fellow's prose plain . It has even been said that we should write as we speak. That is absurd. ... Most speaking is not plain or direct, but vague, clumsy, confused, and wordy. ... What is meant by the advice to write as we speak is to write as we might speak if we spoke extremely well. This means that good writing should not sound stuffy, pompous, highfalutin, totally unlike ourselves, but rather, well—'simple & direct.' "Now, the simple words in the language tend to be the short ones that we assume all speakers know; and if familiar, they are likely to be direct. I say 'tend to be' and 'likely' because there are exceptions. ... "Prefer the short word to the long; the concrete to the abstract; and the familiar to the unfamiliar. But: "Modify these guidelines in the light of the occasion, the full situation, which includes the likely audience for your words." (Jacques Barzun, Simple & Direct: A Rhetoric for Writers , 4th ed. Harper Perennial, 2001)
  • Revising for Directness "Academic audiences value directness and intensity. They do not want to struggle through overly wordy phrases and jumbled sentences. ... Examine your draft . Focus specifically on the following issues: 1. Delete the obvious: Consider statements or passages that argue for or detail what you and your peers already assume. ... 2. Intensify the least obvious: Think about your essay as a declaration of new ideas. What is the most uncommon or fresh idea? Even if it's a description of the problem or a slightly different take on solving it, develop it further. Draw more attention to it." (John Mauk and John Metz,  The Composition of Everyday Life: A Guide to Writing , 5th ed. Cengage, 2015)
  • Degrees of Directness "Statements may be strong and direct or they may be softer and less direct. For example, consider the range of sentences that might be used to direct a person to take out the garbage: Take out the garbage! Can you take out the garbage? Would you mind taking out the garbage? Let's take out the garbage. The garbage sure is piling up. Garbage day is tomorrow. "Each of these sentences may be used to accomplish the goal of getting the person to take out the garbage. However, the sentences show varying degrees of directness, ranging from the direct command at the top of the list to the indirect statement regarding the reason the activity needs to be undertaken at the bottom of the list. The sentences also differ in terms of relative politeness and situational appropriateness. ... "In matters of directness vs. indirectness, gender differences may play a more important role than factors such as ethnicity, social class, or region, although all these factors tend to intersect, often in quite complex ways, in the determination of the 'appropriate' degree of directness or indirectness for any given speech act ." (Walt Wolfram and Natalie Schilling-Estes, American English: Dialects and Variation . Wiley-Blackwell, 2006)
  • Directness and Gender "While some of us will think that without the skills of 'good' writing a student cannot truly be empowered, we must be equally aware that the qualities of 'good' writing as they are advocated in textbooks and rhetoric books —  directness , assertiveness and persuasiveness , precision and vigor—collide with what social conventions dictate proper femininity to be. Even should a woman succeed at being a 'good' writer she will have to contend with either being considered too masculine because she does not speak 'like a Lady,' or, paradoxically, too feminine and hysterical because she is, after all, a woman. The belief that the qualities that make good writing are somehow 'neutral' conceals the fact their meaning and evaluation changes depending on whether the writer is a man or woman." (Elisabeth Daumer and Sandra Runzo, "Transforming the Composition Classroom."  Teaching Writing: Pedagogy, Gender, and Equity , ed. by Cynthia L. Caywood and Gillian R. Overing. State University of New York Press, 1987)
  • Directness and Cultural Differences "The U.S. style of directness and forcefulness would be perceived as rude or unfair in, say, Japan, China, Malaysia, or Korea. A hard-sell letter to an Asian reader would be a sign of arrogance, and arrogance suggests inequality for the reader." (Philip C. Kolin, Successful Writing at Work . Cengage, 2009)

Pronunciation: de-REK-ness

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What is effective communication?

Effective communication skill 1: become an engaged listener, skill 2: pay attention to nonverbal signals, skill 3: keep stress in check, skill 4: assert yourself, effective communication.

Want to communicate better? These tips will help you avoid misunderstandings, grasp the real meaning of what’s being communicated, and greatly improve your work and personal relationships.

open honest and direct in speech or writing

Effective communication is about more than just exchanging information. It's about understanding the emotion and intentions behind the information. As well as being able to clearly convey a message, you need to also listen in a way that gains the full meaning of what's being said and makes the other person feel heard and understood.

Effective communication sounds like it should be instinctive. But all too often, when we try to communicate with others something goes astray. We say one thing, the other person hears something else, and misunderstandings, frustration, and conflicts ensue. This can cause problems in your home, school, and work relationships.

For many of us, communicating more clearly and effectively requires learning some important skills. Whether you’re trying to improve communication with your spouse, kids, boss, or coworkers, learning these skills can deepen your connections to others, build greater trust and respect, and improve teamwork, problem solving, and your overall social and emotional health.

What's stopping you from communicating effectively?

Common barriers to effective communication include:

Stress and out-of-control emotion.  When you're stressed or emotionally overwhelmed, you're more likely to misread other people, send confusing or off-putting nonverbal signals, and lapse into unhealthy knee-jerk patterns of behavior. To avoid conflict and misunderstandings, you can learn how to quickly calm down before continuing a conversation.

Lack of focus.  You can't communicate effectively when you're multitasking. If you're checking your phone , planning what you're going to say next, or daydreaming, you're almost certain to miss nonverbal cues in the conversation. To communicate effectively, you need to avoid distractions and stay focused.

Inconsistent body language.  Nonverbal communication should reinforce what is being said, not contradict it. If you say one thing, but your body language says something else, your listener will likely feel that you're being dishonest. For example, you can't say “yes” while shaking your head no.

[Read: Nonverbal Communication and Body Language]

Negative body language.  If you disagree with or dislike what's being said, you might use negative body language to rebuff the other person's message, such as crossing your arms, avoiding eye contact, or tapping your feet. You don't have to agree with, or even like what's being said, but to communicate effectively and not put the other person on the defensive, it's important to avoid sending negative signals.

When communicating with others, we often focus on what we should say. However, effective communication is less about talking and more about listening. Listening well means not just understanding the words or the information being communicated, but also understanding the emotions the speaker is trying to convey.

There's a big difference between engaged listening and simply hearing. When you really listen—when you're engaged with what's being said—you'll hear the subtle intonations in someone's voice that tell you how that person is feeling and the emotions they're trying to communicate. When you're an engaged listener, not only will you better understand the other person, you'll also make that person feel heard and understood, which can help build a stronger, deeper connection between you.

By communicating in this way, you'll also experience a process that  lowers stress and supports physical and emotional well-being. If the person you're talking to is calm, for example, listening in an engaged way will help to calm you, too. Similarly, if the person is agitated, you can help calm them by listening in an attentive way and making the person feel understood.

If your goal is to fully understand and connect with the other person, listening in an engaged way will often come naturally. If it doesn't, try the following tips. The more you practice them, the more satisfying and rewarding your interactions with others will become.

Tips for becoming an engaged listener

Focus fully on the speaker.  You can't listen in an engaged way if you're  constantly checking your phone or thinking about something else. You need to stay focused on the moment-to-moment experience in order to pick up the subtle nuances and important nonverbal cues in a conversation. If you find it hard to concentrate on some speakers, try repeating their words over in your head—it'll reinforce their message and help you stay focused.

Favor your right ear.  As strange as it sounds, the left side of the brain contains the primary processing centers for both speech comprehension and emotions. Since the left side of the brain is connected to the right side of the body, favoring your right ear can help you better detect the emotional nuances of what someone is saying.

Avoid interrupting or trying to redirect the conversation to your concerns.  By saying something like, “If you think that's bad, let me tell you what happened to me.” Listening is not the same as waiting for your turn to talk. You can't concentrate on what someone's saying if you're forming what you're going to say next. Often, the speaker can read your facial expressions and know that your mind's elsewhere.

Show your interest in what's being said.  Nod occasionally, smile at the person, and make sure your posture is open and inviting. Encourage the speaker to continue with small verbal comments like “yes” or “uh huh.”

Try to set aside judgment.  In order to communicate effectively with someone, you don't have to like them or agree with their ideas, values, or opinions. However, you do need to set aside your judgment and withhold blame and criticism in order to fully understand them. The most difficult communication, when successfully executed, can often lead to an unlikely connection with someone.

[Read: Improving Emotional Intelligence (EQ)]

Provide feedback. If there seems to be a disconnect, reflect what has been said by paraphrasing. “What I'm hearing is,” or “Sounds like you are saying,” are great ways to reflect back. Don't simply repeat what the speaker has said verbatim, though—you'll sound insincere or unintelligent. Instead, express what the speaker's words mean to you. Ask questions to clarify certain points: “What do you mean when you say…” or “Is this what you mean?”

Hear the emotion behind the words . It's the higher frequencies of human speech that impart emotion. You can become more attuned to these frequencies—and thus better able to understand what others are really saying—by exercising the tiny muscles of your middle ear (the smallest in the body). You can do this by singing, playing a wind instrument, or listening to certain types of high-frequency music (a Mozart symphony or violin concerto, for example, rather than low-frequency rock, pop, or hip-hop).

The way you look, listen, move, and react to another person tells them more about how you're feeling than words alone ever can. Nonverbal communication, or body language, includes facial expressions, body movement and gestures, eye contact, posture, the tone of your voice, and even your muscle tension and breathing.

Developing the ability to understand and use nonverbal communication can help you connect with others, express what you really mean, navigate challenging situations, and build better relationships at home and work.

  • You can enhance effective communication by using open body language—arms uncrossed, standing with an open stance or sitting on the edge of your seat, and maintaining eye contact with the person you're talking to.
  • You can also use body language to emphasize or enhance your verbal message—patting a friend on the back while complimenting him on his success, for example, or pounding your fists to underline your message.

Improve how you  read nonverbal communication

Be aware of individual differences. People from different countries and cultures tend to use different nonverbal communication gestures, so it's important to take age, culture, religion, gender, and emotional state into account when reading body language signals. An American teen, a grieving widow, and an Asian businessman, for example, are likely to use nonverbal signals differently.

Look at nonverbal communication signals as a group. Don't read too much into a single gesture or nonverbal cue. Consider all of the nonverbal signals you receive, from eye contact to tone of voice to body language. Anyone can slip up occasionally and let eye contact go, for example, or briefly cross their arms without meaning to. Consider the signals as a whole to get a better “read” on a person.

Improve how you  deliver nonverbal communication

Use nonverbal signals that match up with your words rather than contradict them. If you say one thing, but your body language says something else, your listener will feel confused or suspect that you're being dishonest. For example, sitting with your arms crossed and shaking your head doesn't match words telling the other person that you agree with what they're saying.

Adjust your nonverbal signals according to the context. The tone of your voice, for example, should be different when you're addressing a child than when you're addressing a group of adults. Similarly, take into account the emotional state and cultural background of the person you're interacting with.

Avoid negative body language. Instead, use body language to convey positive feelings, even when you're not actually experiencing them. If you're nervous about a situation—a job interview, important presentation, or first date, for example—you can use positive body language to signal confidence, even though you're not feeling it. Instead of tentatively entering a room with your head down, eyes averted, and sliding into a chair, try standing tall with your shoulders back, smiling and maintaining eye contact, and delivering a firm handshake. It will make you feel more self-confident and help to put the other person at ease.

How many times have you felt stressed during a disagreement with your spouse, kids, boss, friends, or coworkers and then said or done something you later regretted? If you can quickly relieve stress and return to a calm state, you'll not only avoid such regrets, but in many cases you'll also help to calm the other person as well. It's only when you're in a calm, relaxed state that you'll be able to know whether the situation requires a response, or whether the other person's signals indicate it would be better to remain silent.

In situations such as a job interview, business presentation, high-pressure meeting, or introduction to a loved one's family, for example, it's important to manage your emotions, think on your feet, and effectively communicate under pressure.

Communicate effectively by staying calm under pressure

Use stalling tactics to give yourself time to think. Ask for a question to be repeated or for clarification of a statement before you respond.

Pause to collect your thoughts. Silence isn't necessarily a bad thing—pausing can make you seem more in control than rushing your response.

Make one point and provide an example or supporting piece of information. If your response is too long or you waffle about a number of points, you risk losing the listener's interest. Follow one point with an example and then gauge the listener's reaction to tell if you should make a second point.

Deliver your words clearly. In many cases, how you say something can be as important as what you say. Speak clearly, maintain an even tone, and make eye contact. Keep your body language relaxed and open.

Wrap up with a summary and then stop. Summarize your response and then stop talking, even if it leaves a silence in the room. You don't have to fill the silence by continuing to talk.

Quick stress relief for effective communication

When a conversation starts to get heated, you need something quick and immediate to bring down the emotional intensity. By learning to quickly reduce stress in the moment, you can safely take stock of any strong emotions you're experiencing, regulate your feelings, and behave appropriately.

Recognize when you're becoming stressed. Your body will let you know if you're stressed as you communicate. Are your muscles or stomach tight? Are your hands clenched? Is your breath shallow? Are you “forgetting” to breathe?

Take a moment to calm down before deciding to continue a conversation or postpone it.

Bring your senses to the rescue. The best way to rapidly and reliably relieve stress is through the senses—sight, sound, touch, taste, smell—or movement. For example, you could pop a peppermint in your mouth, squeeze a stress ball in your pocket, take a few deep breaths, clench and relax your muscles, or simply recall a soothing, sensory-rich image. Each person responds differently to sensory input, so you need to find a coping mechanism that is soothing to you.

[Read: Quick Stress Relief]

Look for humor in the situation. When used appropriately, humor is a great way to relieve stress when communicating . When you or those around you start taking things too seriously, find a way to lighten the mood by sharing a joke or an amusing story.

Be willing to compromise. Sometimes, if you can both bend a little, you'll be able to find a happy middle ground that reduces the stress levels for everyone concerned. If you realize that the other person cares much more about an issue than you do, compromise may be easier for you and a good investment for the future of the relationship.

Agree to disagree, if necessary, and take time away from the situation so everyone can calm down. Go for a stroll outside if possible, or spend a few minutes meditating. Physical movement or finding a quiet place to regain your balance can quickly reduce stress.

Find your space for healing and growth

Regain is an online couples counseling service. Whether you're facing problems with communication, intimacy, or trust, Regain's licensed, accredited therapists can help you improve your relationship.

Direct, assertive expression makes for clear communication and can help boost your self-esteem and decision-making skills. Being assertive means expressing your thoughts, feelings, and needs in an open and honest way, while standing up for yourself and respecting others. It does NOT mean being hostile, aggressive, or demanding. Effective communication is always about understanding the other person, not about winning an argument or forcing your opinions on others.

To improve your assertiveness

Value yourself and your options. They are as important as anyone else's.

Know your needs and wants. Learn to express them without infringing on the rights of others.

Express negative thoughts in a positive way. It's  okay to be angry , but you must remain respectful as well.

Receive feedback positively. Accept compliments graciously, learn from your mistakes, ask for help when needed.

Learn to say “no.” Know your limits and don't let others take advantage of you. Look for alternatives so everyone feels good about the outcome.

Developing assertive communication techniques

Empathetic assertion conveys sensitivity to the other person. First, recognize the other person's situation or feelings, then state your needs or opinion. “I know you've been very busy at work, but I want you to make time for us as well.”

Escalating assertion can be employed when your first attempts are not successful. You become increasingly firm as time progresses, which may include outlining consequences if your needs are not met. For example, “If you don't abide by the contract, I'll be forced to pursue legal action.”

Practice assertiveness in lower risk situations to help build up your confidence. Or ask friends or family if you can practice assertiveness techniques on them first.

More Information

  • Effective Communication: Improving Your Social Skills - Communicate more effectively, improve your conversation skills, and become more assertive. (AnxietyCanada)
  • Core Listening Skills - How to be a better listener. (SucceedSocially.com)
  • Effective Communication - How to communicate in groups using nonverbal communication and active listening techniques. (University of Maine)
  • Some Common Communication Mistakes - And how to avoid them. (SucceedSocially.com)
  • 3aPPa3 – When cognitive demand increases, does the right ear have an advantage? – Danielle Sacchinell | Acoustics.org . (n.d.). Retrieved May 22, 2022, from Link
  • How to Behave More Assertively . (n.d.). 10. Weger, H., Castle Bell, G., Minei, E. M., & Robinson, M. C. (2014). The Relative Effectiveness of Active Listening in Initial Interactions.  International Journal of Listening , 28(1), 13–31. Link

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How do you write direct speech in English? - Easy Learning Grammar

  • The comma comes inside the quotation marks, unless the reporting verb is positioned inside a reported sentence that itself does not require a comma.
  • Typical reporting verbs are: agree, answer, ask, inquire, explain, say, tell, and wonder.
  • The words spoken are enclosed in inverted commas (single or double quotation marks).
  • Single quotation marks are often used to draw attention to a word that is being mentioned for a particular purpose. 

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How to foster communication that is honest, clear and direct.

A man receives an honest message on smart phone

  • Pay attention to your communication for a few days, and listen for hedging with understatement, misdirection, or apology. If you hear these behaviors, you might be too soft. If you hear accusations, forceful tone or language, or lots of “you” messages, you might be too tough. To find and maintain that middle ground that is honest, direct, and clear (but short on aggression) consider the following before you speak.
  • Consider your intent. What is the purpose of this communication? Is it small talk with peers? Is it corrective in nature? Is it brainstorming? What do you want to get out of this communication? A disciplined but intimidated direct report? Or better understanding and cooperation within your team? Setting your intention ahead of the conversion is a powerful tool for driving your communication behavior.
  • Master your timing. If your direct report comes in late, or makes a mistake, you might be tempted to address it immediately. But should you? Who else—customers or coworkers—will overhear your criticism? Better wait for a private moment. Also, what about your emotions? If you are frustrated, that will impair your ability to speak in a fair, impartial way. However, if you tend to be “too nice” or postpone uncomfortable conversations, you might want to make a rule for yourself to deal with issues within the same business day.
  • Weigh your words. Words like “always” and “never” beg to be argued with. Critical words like “careless” or “incompetent” will raise defensiveness. Consider searching for wording that is truthful yet neutral. And if you tend to be too nice and indirect, consider—and rehearse if needed—direct words such as, “this report needs to be corrected today.”
  • Be aware of your body language. Watch for incongruent body language. If you are a person who smiles all the time, people may find it hard to take you seriously. Conversely, if your face or body language often looks angry or disapproving, your words may be taken as more negative than you mean them to. Strive for a neutral tone, face and body language.
  • Tune into listening skills. If you want to build communication rather than just bark out orders, it would be helpful to hone and employ your best listening skills. Ask open-ended questions to hear the other person’s point of view. Listen to what they have to say, how they say it, and what they don’t say.
  • Maintain consistency. If you want your communication brand to be “honest and direct,” you will need to continually think before you speak, choose direct words, and tell the truth. Doing these things now and then won’t build your brand, but may just confuse those you deal with, since they don’t know from day to day what to expect from you.

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What this handout is about

This handout will help you create an effective speech by establishing the purpose of your speech and making it easily understandable. It will also help you to analyze your audience and keep the audience interested.

What’s different about a speech?

Writing for public speaking isn’t so different from other types of writing. You want to engage your audience’s attention, convey your ideas in a logical manner and use reliable evidence to support your point. But the conditions for public speaking favor some writing qualities over others. When you write a speech, your audience is made up of listeners. They have only one chance to comprehend the information as you read it, so your speech must be well-organized and easily understood. In addition, the content of the speech and your delivery must fit the audience.

What’s your purpose?

People have gathered to hear you speak on a specific issue, and they expect to get something out of it immediately. And you, the speaker, hope to have an immediate effect on your audience. The purpose of your speech is to get the response you want. Most speeches invite audiences to react in one of three ways: feeling, thinking, or acting. For example, eulogies encourage emotional response from the audience; college lectures stimulate listeners to think about a topic from a different perspective; protest speeches in the Pit recommend actions the audience can take.

As you establish your purpose, ask yourself these questions:

  • What do you want the audience to learn or do?
  • If you are making an argument, why do you want them to agree with you?
  • If they already agree with you, why are you giving the speech?
  • How can your audience benefit from what you have to say?

Audience analysis

If your purpose is to get a certain response from your audience, you must consider who they are (or who you’re pretending they are). If you can identify ways to connect with your listeners, you can make your speech interesting and useful.

As you think of ways to appeal to your audience, ask yourself:

  • What do they have in common? Age? Interests? Ethnicity? Gender?
  • Do they know as much about your topic as you, or will you be introducing them to new ideas?
  • Why are these people listening to you? What are they looking for?
  • What level of detail will be effective for them?
  • What tone will be most effective in conveying your message?
  • What might offend or alienate them?

For more help, see our handout on audience .

Creating an effective introduction

Get their attention, otherwise known as “the hook”.

Think about how you can relate to these listeners and get them to relate to you or your topic. Appealing to your audience on a personal level captures their attention and concern, increasing the chances of a successful speech. Speakers often begin with anecdotes to hook their audience’s attention. Other methods include presenting shocking statistics, asking direct questions of the audience, or enlisting audience participation.

Establish context and/or motive

Explain why your topic is important. Consider your purpose and how you came to speak to this audience. You may also want to connect the material to related or larger issues as well, especially those that may be important to your audience.

Get to the point

Tell your listeners your thesis right away and explain how you will support it. Don’t spend as much time developing your introductory paragraph and leading up to the thesis statement as you would in a research paper for a course. Moving from the intro into the body of the speech quickly will help keep your audience interested. You may be tempted to create suspense by keeping the audience guessing about your thesis until the end, then springing the implications of your discussion on them. But if you do so, they will most likely become bored or confused.

For more help, see our handout on introductions .

Making your speech easy to understand

Repeat crucial points and buzzwords.

Especially in longer speeches, it’s a good idea to keep reminding your audience of the main points you’ve made. For example, you could link an earlier main point or key term as you transition into or wrap up a new point. You could also address the relationship between earlier points and new points through discussion within a body paragraph. Using buzzwords or key terms throughout your paper is also a good idea. If your thesis says you’re going to expose unethical behavior of medical insurance companies, make sure the use of “ethics” recurs instead of switching to “immoral” or simply “wrong.” Repetition of key terms makes it easier for your audience to take in and connect information.

Incorporate previews and summaries into the speech

For example:

“I’m here today to talk to you about three issues that threaten our educational system: First, … Second, … Third,”

“I’ve talked to you today about such and such.”

These kinds of verbal cues permit the people in the audience to put together the pieces of your speech without thinking too hard, so they can spend more time paying attention to its content.

Use especially strong transitions

This will help your listeners see how new information relates to what they’ve heard so far. If you set up a counterargument in one paragraph so you can demolish it in the next, begin the demolition by saying something like,

“But this argument makes no sense when you consider that . . . .”

If you’re providing additional information to support your main point, you could say,

“Another fact that supports my main point is . . . .”

Helping your audience listen

Rely on shorter, simpler sentence structures.

Don’t get too complicated when you’re asking an audience to remember everything you say. Avoid using too many subordinate clauses, and place subjects and verbs close together.

Too complicated:

The product, which was invented in 1908 by Orville Z. McGillicuddy in Des Moines, Iowa, and which was on store shelves approximately one year later, still sells well.

Easier to understand:

Orville Z. McGillicuddy invented the product in 1908 and introduced it into stores shortly afterward. Almost a century later, the product still sells well.

Limit pronoun use

Listeners may have a hard time remembering or figuring out what “it,” “they,” or “this” refers to. Be specific by using a key noun instead of unclear pronouns.

Pronoun problem:

The U.S. government has failed to protect us from the scourge of so-called reality television, which exploits sex, violence, and petty conflict, and calls it human nature. This cannot continue.

Why the last sentence is unclear: “This” what? The government’s failure? Reality TV? Human nature?

More specific:

The U.S. government has failed to protect us from the scourge of so-called reality television, which exploits sex, violence, and petty conflict, and calls it human nature. This failure cannot continue.

Keeping audience interest

Incorporate the rhetorical strategies of ethos, pathos, and logos.

When arguing a point, using ethos, pathos, and logos can help convince your audience to believe you and make your argument stronger. Ethos refers to an appeal to your audience by establishing your authenticity and trustworthiness as a speaker. If you employ pathos, you appeal to your audience’s emotions. Using logos includes the support of hard facts, statistics, and logical argumentation. The most effective speeches usually present a combination these rhetorical strategies.

Use statistics and quotations sparingly

Include only the most striking factual material to support your perspective, things that would likely stick in the listeners’ minds long after you’ve finished speaking. Otherwise, you run the risk of overwhelming your listeners with too much information.

Watch your tone

Be careful not to talk over the heads of your audience. On the other hand, don’t be condescending either. And as for grabbing their attention, yelling, cursing, using inappropriate humor, or brandishing a potentially offensive prop (say, autopsy photos) will only make the audience tune you out.

Creating an effective conclusion

Restate your main points, but don’t repeat them.

“I asked earlier why we should care about the rain forest. Now I hope it’s clear that . . .” “Remember how Mrs. Smith couldn’t afford her prescriptions? Under our plan, . . .”

Call to action

Speeches often close with an appeal to the audience to take action based on their new knowledge or understanding. If you do this, be sure the action you recommend is specific and realistic. For example, although your audience may not be able to affect foreign policy directly, they can vote or work for candidates whose foreign policy views they support. Relating the purpose of your speech to their lives not only creates a connection with your audience, but also reiterates the importance of your topic to them in particular or “the bigger picture.”

Practicing for effective presentation

Once you’ve completed a draft, read your speech to a friend or in front of a mirror. When you’ve finished reading, ask the following questions:

  • Which pieces of information are clearest?
  • Where did I connect with the audience?
  • Where might listeners lose the thread of my argument or description?
  • Where might listeners become bored?
  • Where did I have trouble speaking clearly and/or emphatically?
  • Did I stay within my time limit?

Other resources

  • Toastmasters International is a nonprofit group that provides communication and leadership training.
  • Allyn & Bacon Publishing’s Essence of Public Speaking Series is an extensive treatment of speech writing and delivery, including books on using humor, motivating your audience, word choice and presentation.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Boone, Louis E., David L. Kurtz, and Judy R. Block. 1997. Contemporary Business Communication . Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Ehrlich, Henry. 1994. Writing Effective Speeches . New York: Marlowe.

Lamb, Sandra E. 1998. How to Write It: A Complete Guide to Everything You’ll Ever Write . Berkeley: Ten Speed Press.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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How to structure and punctuate direct speech in fiction

Who said what?

Match the famous lines from these books with the character it belongs to:

  • “The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.”
  • “Titchy little snapperwhippers like you should not be higgling around with an old sage and onions who is hundreds of years more than you.”
  • “My armour is like tenfold shields, my teeth are swords, my claws spears, the shock of my tail is a thunderbolt, my wings a hurricane, and my breath death!”

Show answer Hide answer

  • Smaug – The Hobbit


In fiction writing, it is really important for readers to understand which character is saying what. In order to make this clear, writers use direct speech:

Direct speech is any word spoken by a character. It can be used to help develop the characters and plot

Direct speech should sit inside speech marks

Direct speech must be carefully structured and punctuated to clearly separate it from the rest of the text

Video about how to structure and punctuate direct speech

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Learn how to correctly structure and punctuate direct speech when writing fiction

Speech marks

Punctuation is used in direct speech to separate spoken words, or dialogue, from the rest of a story. The words spoken by a character sit inside speech marks:

“Did you hear that noise?” whispered Sam.

Speech marks are sometimes known as inverted commas or quotation marks.

Some writers use double speech marks and some use single speech marks. You can use either type as long as you are consistent - it’s important not to swap between the two.

Remember to open - and close - the speech marks at the start - and end - of the direct speech:

“I think there is something moving in the bushes,” George said.

Write out these sentences with the speech marks in the correct place

  • I can’t wait for my birthday party! exclaimed Matthew.
  • What time does the film start? asked Amelia.
  • To get to the art gallery, you need to take the next left and then turn right, the tour guide explained.
  • “ I can’t wait for my birthday party! ” exclaimed Matthew.
  • “ What time does the film start? ” asked Amelia.
  • “ To get to the art gallery, you need to take the next left and then turn right, ” the tour guide explained.

New speaker, new line

Direct speech is carefully structured to help the reader follow the conversation. Every time there is a new speaker in the conversation, a new line is used.

Each new section of dialogue is like beginning a new paragraph, so in a printed novel you will see that each new line is also indented - this is when a line starts further in from the margin. Each new line of direct speech should also start with a capital letter:

“I think there is something moving in the bushes,” George said, looking carefully in the direction from which the sound came.

“I can’t see anything,” said Molly.

“Perhaps we should turn our torches on,” whispered George.

“Okay, but let’s be really quiet.”

A reporting clause after the direct speech tells the reader who is speaking. The last line above misses the reporting clause because the reader can see that the character Molly is replying to George. Once a conversation gets started, it’s fine to drop the reporting clauses.

A group of students with mixed emotions of smiling, concentration and confusion. The caption reads 'test yourself!'

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  • 19.7 Spotlight on … Delivery/Public Speaking
  • 1 Unit Introduction
  • Introduction
  • 1.1 "Reading" to Understand and Respond
  • 1.2 Social Media Trailblazer: Selena Gomez
  • 1.3 Glance at Critical Response: Rhetoric and Critical Thinking
  • 1.4 Annotated Student Sample: Social Media Post and Responses on Voter Suppression
  • 1.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About a “Text”
  • 1.6 Evaluation: Intention vs. Execution
  • 1.7 Spotlight on … Academia
  • 1.8 Portfolio: Tracing Writing Development
  • Further Reading
  • Works Cited
  • 2.1 Seeds of Self
  • 2.2 Identity Trailblazer: Cathy Park Hong
  • 2.3 Glance at the Issues: Oppression and Reclamation
  • 2.4 Annotated Sample Reading from The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. Du Bois
  • 2.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically about How Identity Is Constructed Through Writing
  • 2.6 Evaluation: Antiracism and Inclusivity
  • 2.7 Spotlight on … Variations of English
  • 2.8 Portfolio: Decolonizing Self
  • 3.1 Identity and Expression
  • 3.2 Literacy Narrative Trailblazer: Tara Westover
  • 3.3 Glance at Genre: The Literacy Narrative
  • 3.4 Annotated Sample Reading: from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
  • 3.5 Writing Process: Tracing the Beginnings of Literacy
  • 3.6 Editing Focus: Sentence Structure
  • 3.7 Evaluation: Self-Evaluating
  • 3.8 Spotlight on … The Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives (DALN)
  • 3.9 Portfolio: A Literacy Artifact
  • Works Consulted
  • 2 Unit Introduction
  • 4.1 Exploring the Past to Understand the Present
  • 4.2 Memoir Trailblazer: Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • 4.3 Glance at Genre: Conflict, Detail, and Revelation
  • 4.4 Annotated Sample Reading: from Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain
  • 4.5 Writing Process: Making the Personal Public
  • 4.6 Editing Focus: More on Characterization and Point of View
  • 4.7 Evaluation: Structure and Organization
  • 4.8 Spotlight on … Multilingual Writers
  • 4.9 Portfolio: Filtered Memories
  • 5.1 Profiles as Inspiration
  • 5.2 Profile Trailblazer: Veronica Chambers
  • 5.3 Glance at Genre: Subject, Angle, Background, and Description
  • 5.4 Annotated Sample Reading: “Remembering John Lewis” by Carla D. Hayden
  • 5.5 Writing Process: Focusing on the Angle of Your Subject
  • 5.6 Editing Focus: Verb Tense Consistency
  • 5.7 Evaluation: Text as Personal Introduction
  • 5.8 Spotlight on … Profiling a Cultural Artifact
  • 5.9 Portfolio: Subject as a Reflection of Self
  • 6.1 Proposing Change: Thinking Critically About Problems and Solutions
  • 6.2 Proposal Trailblazer: Atul Gawande
  • 6.3 Glance at Genre: Features of Proposals
  • 6.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Slowing Climate Change” by Shawn Krukowski
  • 6.5 Writing Process: Creating a Proposal
  • 6.6 Editing Focus: Subject-Verb Agreement
  • 6.7 Evaluation: Conventions, Clarity, and Coherence
  • 6.8 Spotlight on … Technical Writing as a Career
  • 6.9 Portfolio: Reflecting on Problems and Solutions
  • 7.1 Thumbs Up or Down?
  • 7.2 Review Trailblazer: Michiko Kakutani
  • 7.3 Glance at Genre: Criteria, Evidence, Evaluation
  • 7.4 Annotated Student Sample: "Black Representation in Film" by Caelia Marshall
  • 7.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About Entertainment
  • 7.6 Editing Focus: Quotations
  • 7.7 Evaluation: Effect on Audience
  • 7.8 Spotlight on … Language and Culture
  • 7.9 Portfolio: What the Arts Say About You
  • 8.1 Information and Critical Thinking
  • 8.2 Analytical Report Trailblazer: Barbara Ehrenreich
  • 8.3 Glance at Genre: Informal and Formal Analytical Reports
  • 8.4 Annotated Student Sample: "U.S. Response to COVID-19" by Trevor Garcia
  • 8.5 Writing Process: Creating an Analytical Report
  • 8.6 Editing Focus: Commas with Nonessential and Essential Information
  • 8.7 Evaluation: Reviewing the Final Draft
  • 8.8 Spotlight on … Discipline-Specific and Technical Language
  • 8.9 Portfolio: Evidence and Objectivity
  • 9.1 Breaking the Whole into Its Parts
  • 9.2 Rhetorical Analysis Trailblazer: Jamil Smith
  • 9.3 Glance at Genre: Rhetorical Strategies
  • 9.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Rhetorical Analysis: Evicted by Matthew Desmond” by Eliana Evans
  • 9.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically about Rhetoric
  • 9.6 Editing Focus: Mixed Sentence Constructions
  • 9.7 Evaluation: Rhetorical Analysis
  • 9.8 Spotlight on … Business and Law
  • 9.9 Portfolio: How Thinking Critically about Rhetoric Affects Intellectual Growth
  • 10.1 Making a Case: Defining a Position Argument
  • 10.2 Position Argument Trailblazer: Charles Blow
  • 10.3 Glance at Genre: Thesis, Reasoning, and Evidence
  • 10.4 Annotated Sample Reading: "Remarks at the University of Michigan" by Lyndon B. Johnson
  • 10.5 Writing Process: Creating a Position Argument
  • 10.6 Editing Focus: Paragraphs and Transitions
  • 10.7 Evaluation: Varied Appeals
  • 10.8 Spotlight on … Citation
  • 10.9 Portfolio: Growth in the Development of Argument
  • 11.1 Developing Your Sense of Logic
  • 11.2 Reasoning Trailblazer: Paul D. N. Hebert
  • 11.3 Glance at Genre: Reasoning Strategies and Signal Words
  • 11.4 Annotated Sample Reading: from Book VII of The Republic by Plato
  • 11.5 Writing Process: Reasoning Supported by Evidence
  • 12.1 Introducing Research and Research Evidence
  • 12.2 Argumentative Research Trailblazer: Samin Nosrat
  • 12.3 Glance at Genre: Introducing Research as Evidence
  • 12.4 Annotated Student Sample: "Healthy Diets from Sustainable Sources Can Save the Earth" by Lily Tran
  • 12.5 Writing Process: Integrating Research
  • 12.6 Editing Focus: Integrating Sources and Quotations
  • 12.7 Evaluation: Effectiveness of Research Paper
  • 12.8 Spotlight on … Bias in Language and Research
  • 12.9 Portfolio: Why Facts Matter in Research Argumentation
  • 13.1 The Research Process: Where to Look for Existing Sources
  • 13.2 The Research Process: How to Create Sources
  • 13.3 Glance at the Research Process: Key Skills
  • 13.4 Annotated Student Sample: Research Log
  • 13.5 Research Process: Making Notes, Synthesizing Information, and Keeping a Research Log
  • 13.6 Spotlight on … Ethical Research
  • 14.1 Compiling Sources for an Annotated Bibliography
  • 14.2 Glance at Form: Citation Style, Purpose, and Formatting
  • 14.3 Annotated Student Sample: “Healthy Diets from Sustainable Sources Can Save the Earth” by Lily Tran
  • 14.4 Writing Process: Informing and Analyzing
  • 15.1 Tracing a Broad Issue in the Individual
  • 15.2 Case Study Trailblazer: Vilayanur S. Ramachandran
  • 15.3 Glance at Genre: Observation, Description, and Analysis
  • 15.4 Annotated Sample Reading: Case Study on Louis Victor "Tan" Leborgne
  • 15.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About How People and Language Interact
  • 15.6 Editing Focus: Words Often Confused
  • 15.7 Evaluation: Presentation and Analysis of Case Study
  • 15.8 Spotlight on … Applied Linguistics
  • 15.9 Portfolio: Your Own Uses of Language
  • 3 Unit Introduction
  • 16.1 An Author’s Choices: What Text Says and How It Says It
  • 16.2 Textual Analysis Trailblazer: bell hooks
  • 16.3 Glance at Genre: Print or Textual Analysis
  • 16.4 Annotated Student Sample: "Artists at Work" by Gwyn Garrison
  • 16.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically About Text
  • 16.6 Editing Focus: Literary Works Live in the Present
  • 16.7 Evaluation: Self-Directed Assessment
  • 16.8 Spotlight on … Humanities
  • 16.9 Portfolio: The Academic and the Personal
  • 17.1 “Reading” Images
  • 17.2 Image Trailblazer: Sara Ludy
  • 17.3 Glance at Genre: Relationship Between Image and Rhetoric
  • 17.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Hints of the Homoerotic” by Leo Davis
  • 17.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically and Writing Persuasively About Images
  • 17.6 Editing Focus: Descriptive Diction
  • 17.7 Evaluation: Relationship Between Analysis and Image
  • 17.8 Spotlight on … Video and Film
  • 17.9 Portfolio: Interplay Between Text and Image
  • 18.1 Mixing Genres and Modes
  • 18.2 Multimodal Trailblazer: Torika Bolatagici
  • 18.3 Glance at Genre: Genre, Audience, Purpose, Organization
  • 18.4 Annotated Sample Reading: “Celebrating a Win-Win” by Alexandra Dapolito Dunn
  • 18.5 Writing Process: Create a Multimodal Advocacy Project
  • 18.6 Evaluation: Transitions
  • 18.7 Spotlight on . . . Technology
  • 18.8 Portfolio: Multimodalism
  • 19.1 Writing, Speaking, and Activism
  • 19.2 Podcast Trailblazer: Alice Wong
  • 19.3 Glance at Genre: Language Performance and Visuals
  • 19.4 Annotated Student Sample: “Are New DOT Regulations Discriminatory?” by Zain A. Kumar
  • 19.5 Writing Process: Writing to Speak
  • 19.6 Evaluation: Bridging Writing and Speaking
  • 19.8 Portfolio: Everyday Rhetoric, Rhetoric Every Day
  • 20.1 Thinking Critically about Your Semester
  • 20.2 Reflection Trailblazer: Sandra Cisneros
  • 20.3 Glance at Genre: Purpose and Structure
  • 20.4 Annotated Sample Reading: “Don’t Expect Congrats” by Dale Trumbore
  • 20.5 Writing Process: Looking Back, Looking Forward
  • 20.6 Editing Focus: Pronouns
  • 20.7 Evaluation: Evaluating Self-Reflection
  • 20.8 Spotlight on … Pronouns in Context

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Implement various technologies effectively to address an audience, matching the capacities of each to the rhetorical situation.
  • Apply conventions of speech delivery, such as voice control, gestures, and posture.
  • Identify and show awareness of cultural considerations.

Think of a speech you have seen or heard, either in person, on television, or online. Was the speech delivered well, or was it poorly executed? What aspects of the performance make you say that? Both good and poor delivery of a speech can affect the audience’s opinion of the speaker and the topic. Poor delivery may be so distracting that even the message of a well-organized script with strong information is lost to the audience.

Speaking Genres: Spoken Word, Pulpit, YouTube, Podcast, Social Media

The world today offers many new (and old) delivery methods for script writing. While the traditional presidential address or commencement speech on a stage in front of a crowd of people is unlikely to disappear, newer script delivery methods are now available, including many that involve technology. From YouTube , which allows anyone to upload videos, to podcasts, which provide a platform for anyone, celebrities and noncelebrities alike, to produce a radio-like program, it seems that people are finding new ways to use technology to enhance communication. Free resources such as YouTube Studio and the extension TubeBuddy can be a good starting place to learn to create these types of media.

Voice Control

Whether the method is old or new, delivering communication in the speaking genre relies not only on words but also on the way those words are delivered. Remember that voice and tone are important in establishing a bond with your audience, helping them feel connected to your message, creating engagement, and facilitating comprehension. Vocal delivery includes these aspects of speech:

  • Rate of speech refers to how fast or slow you speak. You must speak slowly enough to be understood but not so slowly that you sound unnatural and bore your audience. In addition, you can vary your rate, speeding up or slowing down to increase tension, emphasize a point, or create a dramatic effect.
  • Volume refers to how loudly or softly you speak. As with rate, you do not want to be too loud or too soft. Too soft, and your speech will be difficult or impossible to hear, even with amplification; too loud, and it will be distracting or even painful for the audience. Ideally, you should project your voice, speaking from the diaphragm, according to the size and location of the audience and the acoustics of the room. You can also use volume for effect; you might use a softer voice to describe a tender moment between mother and child or a louder voice to emphatically discuss an injustice.
  • Pitch refers to how high or low a speaker’s voice is to listeners. A person’s vocal pitch is unique to that person, and unlike the control a speaker has over rate and volume, some physical limitations exist on the extent to which individuals can vary pitch. Although men generally have lower-pitched voices than women, speakers can vary their pitch for emphasis. For example, you probably raise your pitch naturally at the end of a question. Changing pitch can also communicate enthusiasm or indicate transition or closure.
  • Articulation refers to how clearly a person produces sounds. Clarity of voice is important in speech; it determines how well your audience understands what you are saying. Poor articulation can hamper the effect of your script and even cause your audience to feel disconnected from both you and your message. In general, articulation during a presentation before an audience tends to be more pronounced and dramatic than everyday communication with individuals or small groups. When presenting a script, avoid slurring and mumbling. While these may be acceptable in informal communication, in presented speech they can obscure your message.
  • Fluency refers to the flow of speech. Speaking with fluency is similar to reading with fluency. It’s not about how fast you can speak, but how fluid and meaningful your speech is. While inserting pauses for dramatic effect is perfectly acceptable, these are noticeably different from awkward pauses that result from forgetting a point, losing your place, or becoming distracted. Practicing your speech can greatly reduce fluency issues. A word on verbal fillers , those pesky words or sounds used to fill a gap or fluency glitch: utterances such as um , ah , and like detract from the fluency of your speech, distract the audience from your point, and can even reduce your credibility. Again, practice can help reduce their occurrence, and self-awareness can help you speak with more fluency.

Gestures and Expressions

Beyond vocal delivery, consider also physical delivery variables such as gestures and facial expressions . While not all speech affords audiences the ability to see the speaker, in-person, online, and other forms of speech do. Gestures and facial expressions can both add to and detract from effective script delivery, as they can help demonstrate emotion and enthusiasm for the topic. Both have the ability to emphasize points, enhance tone, and engage audiences.

Eye contact is another form of nonverbal, physical communication that builds community, communicates comfort, and establishes credibility. Eye contact also can help hold an audience’s attention during a speech. It is advisable to begin your speech by establishing eye contact with the audience. One idea is to memorize your opening and closing statements to allow you to maintain consistent eye contact during these important sections of the script and strengthen your connection with the audience.

Although natural engagement through gestures, facial expressions, and eye contact can help an audience relate to a presenter and even help establish community and trust, these actions also can distract audiences from the content of the script if not used purposefully. In general, as with most delivery elements, variation and a happy medium between “too much” and “too little” are key to an effective presentation. Some presenters naturally have more expressive faces, but all people can learn to control and use facial expressions and gestures consciously to become more effective speakers. Practicing your speech in front of a mirror will allow you to monitor, plan, and practice these aspects of physical delivery.

Posture and Movement

Other physical delivery considerations include posture and movement. Posture is the position of the body. If you have ever been pestered to “stand up straight,” you were being instructed on your posture. The most important consideration for posture during a speech is that you look relaxed and natural. You don’t want to be slumped over and leaning on the podium or lectern, but you also don’t want a stiff, unnatural posture that makes you look stilted or uncomfortable. In many speeches, the speaker’s posture is upright as they stand behind a podium or at a microphone, but this is not always the case. Less formal occasions and audiences may call for movement of the whole body. If this informality fits your speech, you will need to balance movement with the other delivery variables. This kind of balance can be challenging. You won’t want to wander aimlessly around the stage or pace back and forth on the same path. Nor will you want to shuffle your feet, rock, or shift your weight back and forth. Instead, as with every other aspect of delivery, you will want your movements to be purposeful, with the intention of connecting with or influencing your audience. Time your movements to occur at key points or transitions in the script.

Cultural Considerations

Don’t forget to reflect on cultural considerations that relate to your topic and/or audience. Cultural awareness is important in any aspect of writing, but it can have an immediate impact on a speech, as the audience will react to your words, gestures, vocal techniques, and topic in real time. Elements that speakers don’t always think about—including gestures, glances, and changes in tone and inflection—can vary in effectiveness and even politeness in many cultures. Consideration for cultural cues may include the following:

  • Paralanguage : voiced cultural considerations, including tone, language, and even accent.
  • Kinesics : body movements and gestures that may include facial expressions. Often part of a person’s subconscious, kinesics can be interpreted in various ways by members of different cultures. Body language can include posture, facial expressions (smiling or frowning), and even displays of affection.
  • Proxemics : interpersonal space that regulates intimacy. Proxemics might indicate how close to an audience a speaker is located, whether the speaker moves around, and even how the speaker greets the audience.
  • Chronemics : use of time. Chronemics refers to the duration of a script.
  • Appearance : clothing and physical appearance. The presentation of appearance is a subtle form of communication that can indicate the speaker’s identity and can be specific to cultures.

Stage Directions

You can think proactively about ways to enhance the delivery of your script, including vocal techniques, body awareness, and cultural considerations. Within the draft of your script, create stage directions . An integral part of performances such as plays and films, stage directions can be as simple as writing in a pause for dramatic effect or as complicated as describing where and how to walk, what facial expressions to make, or how to react to audience feedback.

Look at this example from the beginning of the student sample. Stage directions are enclosed in parentheses and bolded.

student sample text Several years ago, I sat in the waiting area of a major airport, trying to ignore the constant yapping of a small dog cuddled on the lap of a fellow passenger. An airline rep approached the woman and asked the only two questions allowed by law. (high-pitched voice with a formal tone) “Is that a service animal? (pause) What service does it provide for you?” end student sample text

student sample text (bold, defiant, self-righteous tone) “Yes. It keeps me from having panic attacks,” the woman said defiantly, and the airline employee retreated. (move two steps to the left for emphasis) end student sample text

student sample text Shortly after that, another passenger arrived at the gate. (spoken with authority) She gripped the high, stiff handle on the harness of a Labrador retriever that wore a vest emblazoned with the words “The Seeing Eye.” (speed up speech and dynamic of voice for dramatic effect) Without warning, the smaller dog launched itself from its owner’s lap, snarling and snapping at the guide dog. (move two steps back to indicate transition) end student sample text

Now it’s your turn. Using the principle illustrated above, create stage directions for your script. Then, practice using them by presenting your script to a peer reviewer, such as a friend, family member, or classmate. Also consider recording yourself practicing your script. Listen to the recording to evaluate it for delivery, fluency, and vocal fillers. Remember that writing is recursive: you can make changes based on what works and what doesn’t after you implement your stage directions. You can even ask your audience for feedback to improve your delivery.

Podcast Publication

If possible, work with your instructor and classmates to put together a single podcast or a series of podcasts according to the subject areas of the presentations. The purpose of these podcasts should be to invite and encourage other students to get involved in important causes. Work with relevant student organizations on campus to produce and publicize the podcasts for maximum impact. There are many free resources for creating podcasts, including Apple’s GarageBand and Audacity .

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Want to cite, share, or modify this book? This book uses the Creative Commons Attribution License and you must attribute OpenStax.

Access for free at https://openstax.org/books/writing-guide/pages/1-unit-introduction
  • Authors: Michelle Bachelor Robinson, Maria Jerskey, featuring Toby Fulwiler
  • Publisher/website: OpenStax
  • Book title: Writing Guide with Handbook
  • Publication date: Dec 21, 2021
  • Location: Houston, Texas
  • Book URL: https://openstax.org/books/writing-guide/pages/1-unit-introduction
  • Section URL: https://openstax.org/books/writing-guide/pages/19-7-spotlight-on-delivery-public-speaking

© Dec 19, 2023 OpenStax. Textbook content produced by OpenStax is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License . The OpenStax name, OpenStax logo, OpenStax book covers, OpenStax CNX name, and OpenStax CNX logo are not subject to the Creative Commons license and may not be reproduced without the prior and express written consent of Rice University.

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Crown Academy of English

English lessons and resources

Direct speech writing rules in English

7th January 2019 by Andrew 12 Comments

direct speech

In the above picture, Mark is talking to Jane. The words inside the blue box are the exact words that he speaks.

Here is how we express this:

direct speech example

This is direct speech. Direct speech is when we report the exact words that somebody says.

In this English lesson, you will learn:

  • The rules for writing direct speech.
  • The correct punctuation.
  • Vocabulary to report direct speech.

Reporting clause before the direct speech

The reporting clause of direct speech is the short clause that indicates who is talking. It is the clause that is outside of the inverted commas. It is therefore not the words being spoken.

We can write the reporting clause either before or after the direct speech. If the reporting clause is before the direct speech, we write it as follows:

Direct speech example

Grammar rules – If the reporting clause is before the direct speech:

We write a comma (,) before the direct speech. We write the exact words inside the inverted commas. The first letter is a capital letter. We write a full stop (.) before the closing inverted commas.

Reporting clause before a question or exclamation

Direct speech example

If the reporting clause is before a question or exclamation:

We write a comma (,) before the direct speech. We write the exact words inside the inverted commas. The first letter is a capital letter. We write a question mark (?) before the closing inverted commas. or We write an exclamation mark (!) before the closing inverted commas.

Reporting clause after the direct speech

Direct speech example

If the reporting clause is after the direct speech:

We write the exact words inside the inverted commas. The first letter is a capital letter. We write a comma (,) before the closing inverted commas. We write a full stop (.) at the end of the reporting clause.

Reporting clause after a question or exclamation

Direct speech example

If the reporting clause is after a question or exclamation:

We write the exact words inside the inverted commas. The first letter is a capital letter. We write a question mark (?) before the closing inverted commas. or We write an exclamation mark (!) before the closing inverted commas. We write a full stop (.) at the end of the reporting clause.

Advanced rules for direct speech

Sometimes we break up the direct speech into 2 parts:

Direct speech example

The second part of the direct speech starts with a small letter if it is the same sentence as the first part of the direct speech.

Direct speech example

The second part of the direct speech starts with a capital letter if it is a new sentence.

Vocabulary of direct speech

open honest and direct in speech or writing

We have several names for the above punctuation marks:

Inverted commas Speech marks Quotation marks Quotes

Other reporting verbs

Here are some other useful reporting verbs:

reply (replied) ask (asked) shout (shouted) agree (agreed) comment (commented) admit (admitted)

They are often used for writing direct speech in books, newspapers and reports. It is more common to use them in reporting clauses after the direct speech.

“I really don’t like her dress,” she commented . “I don’t love you anymore,” he admitted .

Other English lessons

Private online English lessons How to pass the IELTS with a band 8 Adverbs of frequency Indefinite article “a” and “an” The prepositions FOR and SINCE All of our lessons

Direct speech video lesson

Reader Interactions

Matěj Formánek says

3rd November 2019 at 5:54 pm

How about this sentence: I know the satnav is wrong!” exclaimed Zena. – Why the subject and predicate are swapped? It’s sentence from textbook so I’m confused.

17th June 2020 at 4:07 pm

Can we write multiple sentences in direct speech that comes before reporting clause? In case if this is allowed, what punctuation mark should be used after the last sentence?

Example: “I entered the class room. As I did not find anybody there, I left the class room and went to buy a coffee.” explained the student to the teacher for his delay to come to the class.

Should the punctuation mark after the word coffee be comma instead of full stop?

Joaquim Barretto says

14th September 2020 at 1:25 pm

No full stop, but comma after the word coffee.

19th January 2021 at 2:34 pm


courtney says

27th January 2021 at 12:07 pm

Clare Hatcher says

12th March 2021 at 9:55 am

Hello I like the layout of this – very clear. Just wondering if it is correct to use a comma in between two separate sentences in direct speech. I think that now in published material you find this instead. ‘I’m tired,’ she said. ‘Let’s stay at home.’ Would appreciate your thoughts Thanks

27th March 2021 at 8:54 am

If I wrote something with a comma at the end to continue speech like this:

“Hello,” he waved to the new student, “what’s you’re name?”

Do I have to use a capital letter even if I’m continuing with a comma or is it lowercase?

Sylvia Edouard says

30th September 2023 at 9:17 am

Yes, you need to use a capital letter as speech from someone has to start with a capital letter. Always.

15th April 2022 at 12:12 pm

which of the following is correct?

1. Should the status go missing when the metadata states, “Sign & return document?”

2. Should the status go missing when the metadata states, “Sign & return document,”? (comma inside)

3. Should the status go missing when the metadata states, “Sign & return document.”? (full stop inside)

Jan Švanda says

7th September 2023 at 1:31 pm

I presume the quotation is there to specify the exact phrase (for the metadata entry). I also encounter this from time to time, when writing technical documentation. I believe in that case you should write the phrase as it is, proper grammar be damned; beautifully looking documentation is useless if it leads to incorrect results.

In this case, I don’t even think this is “direct speech”, the metadata entry isn’t walking around and saying things, the quotation mark is there to indicate precise phrase – similar to marking strings in programming languages. Because of this, I don’t think direct speech rules apply, or at least, they should take back seat. If the expected status includes full stop at the end, the sentence would be:

4. Should the status go missing when the metadata states “Sign & return document.”? (no comma before, since it is not a direct speech; full stop inside, as it is part of the quoted status)

From grammatical perspective the end looks a bit ugly, but again, if this should be technical documentation, that is less important than precision.

A person says

15th August 2022 at 7:16 pm


no joke, it’s actually discouraged and even close to banned at my school

7th September 2023 at 1:49 pm

This is stupid. You shouldn’t use it in _every_ sentence, there should be variety, but outright banning it doesn’t make sense.

Case in point:

Book: ‘Pride and Prejudice’. Phrase to search: ‘,” said’ (comma, followed by quotation mark, followed by space, followed by word ‘said’). Number of occurrences: 211. Total number of ‘,”‘ (comma, followed by quotation mark) strings is 436, so “said” is used in almost 50% cases of direct speech of this type.

I don’t think it would be right for your school to ban Jane Austin, do you?

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How to write with honesty in the plain style

It’s a middle ground between an ornate high style and a low style that gravitates toward slang. write in it when you want your audience to comprehend..

open honest and direct in speech or writing

I know how to tell you the truth in a sentence so dense and complicated and filled with jargon that you will not be able to comprehend. I also know — using my clearest and most engaging prose — how to tell you a vicious lie.

This dual reality — that seemingly virtuous plainness can be used for ill intent — lies at the heart of the ethics and practice of public writing.

The author who revealed this problem most persuasively was a scholar named Hugh Kenner, and he introduced it most cogently in an essay entitled “The Politics of the Plain Style.” Originally published in The New York Times Book Review in 1985, Kenner included it with 63 other essays in a book called “Mazes.”

When I began reading the essay, I thought it would confirm my longstanding bias that in a democracy, the plain style is most worthy, especially when used by public writers in the public interest.

A good case can be made for the civic virtues of the plain style, but Kenner, in a sophisticated argument, has persuaded me that some fleas, big fleas, come with the dog.

A disappointing truth is that an undecorated, straightforward writing style is a favorite of liars, including liars in high places. Make that liars, propagandists and conspiracy theorists. We have had enough of those in the 21st century to make citing examples unnecessary. And the last thing I would want to do is to republish pernicious texts, even for the purpose of condemning them.

When rank and file citizens receive messages written in the high style — full of abstractions, fancy effects, and abstractions — their BS detector tends to kick in. That nice term, often attributed to Ernest Hemingway, describes a form of skepticism that many of us need to sense when we are being fooled or lied to. So alerted, you can then dismiss me as a blowhard or a pointy-headed intellectual who works at the Poynter Institute!

If I tell it to you straight, you will look me in the eye and pat me on the back, a person of the people, one of you.

Literary styles and standards shift with the centuries, including the lines between fiction and nonfiction. Among the so-called liars cited by Kenner are famous authors such as Daniel Defoe and George Orwell. Both, he argues, wrote fiction that posed as nonfiction. The way they persuaded us that Robinson Crusoe actually lived or that Orwell actually shot an elephant or witnessed a hanging was to write it straight. That is, to make it sound truthful.

If public writers are to embrace a plain style in an honest way, they must understand what makes it work. Kenner argues:

  • That the plain style is a style, even though it reads as plain, undecorated.
  • That it is rarely mastered and expressed as literature, except by the likes of Jonathan Swift, H.L. Mencken and Orwell.
  • That it is a contrivance, an artifice, something made up to create a particular effect.
  • That it exists in ambiguity, being the perfect form of transmission for democratic practices, but also for fictions, fabrications and hoaxes.
  • That it makes the writer sound truthful, even when he or she is not.

If you aspire to write in an honest plain style, what are its central components? Let’s give Kenner the floor:

Plain style is a populist style. … Homely diction (common language) is its hallmark, also one-two-three syntax (subject, verb, object), the show of candor and the artifice of seeming to be grounded outside language in what is called fact — the domain where a condemned man can be observed as he silently avoids a puddle and your prose will report the observation and no one will doubt it.

Kenner alludes here to Orwell’s essay in which he observes a hanging and watched the oddity of the condemned man not wanting to get his feet wet as he prepares to climb the steps to the gallows. “Such prose simulates the words anyone who was there and awake might later have spoken spontaneously. On a written page, as we’ve seen, the spontaneous can only be a contrivance.”

The plain style feigns a candid observer. Such is its great advantage for persuading. From behind its mask of calm candor, the writer with political intentions can appeal, in seeming disinterest, to people whose pride is their no-nonsense connoisseurship of fact. And such is the trickiness of language that he may find he must deceive them to enlighten them. Whether Orwell ever witnessed a hanging or not, we’re in no doubt what he means us to think of the custom.

Orwell has been a literary hero of mine from the time I read “Animal Farm” as a child. I jumped from his overt fiction, such as “1984,” to his essays on politics and language, paying only occasional attention to his nonfiction books and narrative essays. I always assumed that Orwell shot an elephant and that he witnessed a hanging, because, well, I wanted to believe it, and assumed a social contract between writer and reader, that if a writer of nonfiction writes a scene where two brothers are arguing in a restaurant, then it was not two sisters laughing in a discotheque.

As to whether Orwell wrote from experience in these cases, I can’t be sure, but he always admitted that he wrote from a political motive, through which he might justify what is sometimes called poetic license.

Writing to reach a “higher truth,” of course, is part of a literary and religious tradition that goes back centuries. When Christian authors of an earlier age wrote the life and death stories of the saints — hagiography — they cared less about the literal truth of the story than a kind of allegorical truth: That the martyrdom of St. Agnes of Rome was an echo of the suffering of Jesus on the cross, and, therefore, a pathway to eternal life.

I write this as a lifelong Catholic without disrespect or irony. Such writing was a form of propaganda and is where we get the word: a propagation of the faith.

Orwell’s faith was in democratic institutions, threatened in the 20th century by tyrannies of the right and the left — fascism and communism. Seeing British imperialism as a corruption, he felt a moral obligation to tell stories in which that system looked bad, including one where, as a member of the imperial police in Burma, he found himself having to kill an elephant, an act he came to regret. Using the plain style, Orwell makes his essay so real that I believe it. In my professional life, I have argued against this idea of the “higher truth,” which does not respect fact, knowing how slippery that fact can be. But Orwell knew whether he shot that elephant or not, so there is no equivocating.

By the onset of the digital age, a writer’s fabrications — even those made with good intent — are often easily exposed, leading to a loss of authority and credibility that can injure a worthy cause. With Holocaust deniers abounding, why would you fabricate a story about the Holocaust when there are still so many factual stories to tell?

There is a powerful lesson here for all public writers: That if I can imagine a powerful plot and compelling characters, I do not have to fabricate a story and sell it as nonfiction. I can write it as a novel and sell it as a screenplay! I have yet to hear an argument that “Sophie’s Choice” is unworthy because it was imagined rather than reported.

I am saying that all forms of writing and communication fall potentially under the rubric of public writing. That includes, fiction, poetry, film, even the music lyrics, labeled as such: “Tell it like it is,” says the song, “Don’t be afraid. Let your conscience be your guide.”

In the end, we need reports we can trust, and even in the age of disinformation and fake news, those are best delivered in the plain style — with honesty as its backbone. Writing in the plain style is a strategy; civic clarity and credibility are the effects.

Here are the lessons:

  • When you are writing reports, when you want your audience to comprehend, write in the plain style — a kind of middle ground between an ornate high style and a low style that gravitates toward slang
  • The plain style requires exacting work. Plain does not mean simple. Prefer the straightforward over the technical: shorter words, sentences, paragraphs at the points of greatest complexity.
  • Keep subjects and verbs in the main clause together. Put the main clause first.
  • More common words work better.
  • Easy on the literary effects; use only the most transparent metaphors, nothing that stops the reader and calls attention to itself.
  • Remember 1-2-3 syntax, subject/verb/object: “Public writers prefer the plain style.”

Want to read more about public writing? Check out Roy Peter Clark’s latest book, “ Tell It Like It Is: A Guide to Clear and Honest Writing ,” available April 11 from Little, Brown.

open honest and direct in speech or writing

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Skepticism of the media is driving Republican campaigns away from the press. New data suggests that strategy is working for them.

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Old telephone allowing for honest communication. Credit Annie Spratt

Developing Direct, Open & Honest Communication

A long-time colleague of mine and fellow Project Adventure trainer, Gary Nussbaum, shares this wonderful tool for assisting groups to manage gossip, triangular and indirect communication.

Or in other words, developing the norm of direct, open and honest communication… to agree and commit to communicating directly, respectfully and in a timely manner with the person or persons involved in an issue or behaviour.

Gary asks his group to join the A-Team:

  • Awareness – notice and become mindful of indirect communication, particularly patterns of indirect communication;
  • Appreciation – challenge yourself to finds ways of appreciating and understanding your colleagues rather than judging, blaming and/or criticizing them;
  • Apply the Brakes – initiate self-inquiry;
  • Allow – give the benefit of the doubt;
  • Authenticity – be honest and direct in communicating what is true for you while taking care to communicate that information respectfully;
  • Accountability – identify and own the goals, values, needs and preferences that are true for you as well as the feelings that arise when those goals, values, needs and preferences are unmet;
  • Assumptions – investigate and test your assumptions!

Gary asks his groups before they initiate or engage in conversation about someone, to consider applying the following filters and ask:

  • Why am I sharing this? What are my purpose and intended outcomes?
  • Is it useful? Is it helpful? Am I saying this for a constructive purpose? Does it solve a problem?
  • Is it necessary? Will it improve on the silence? Do people really need to know this?
  • Is what I am about to say coming from a place of care and respect?
  • Is it hurtful? If the person I am speaking about hears what I have said, would s/he feel hurt?
  • Is it true? How do I know it is true?

A few more words about the value of this tool…

The focus of this norm is direct, open and non-triangular communication. If someone asks for information or makes comments about an issue or person in which you are not directly involved, encourage or direct him/her to go to the appropriate person or source.

This norm includes not carrying messages between people in an attempt to ease tensions around an issue or problem. It also includes communicating constructive feedback (whether positive or negative) in a direct and in a timely manner to the persons or persons involved.

Thanks for sharing Gary, have fun!

Contributor Mark

sharing / team skills / traingular / communication / conversation / gossip / open honest direct

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The Best Ways to Encourage Open Communication in the Workplace

Woman leading a training on communication in the workplace

Open and honest communication in the workplace is a non-negotiable for high-performing teams. Without open communication, tasks can go uncompleted, team members can become disengaged, and company culture can get lost.

Does your team know how to communicate openly in the workplace?

Do you know how to encourage communication with your team members?

Many businesses list “communication” as a company value, yet they often don’t know how to encourage open and honest communication in the workplace.

If you’re wondering about the importance of open communication and how to improve communication within a team, you’re in the right place.

In this article, we’re sharing the benefits of open communication and tips on how to encourage communication in your teams.

Ready to start communicating like a pro?

The Importance of Open Communication in Teams

We’ll talk about creating an open communication culture, but first, let’s kick-off the conversation with the benefits of open and honest communication.

1. Fosters Inclusion

Open communication helps to foster inclusion within your team and makes employees feel like they belong .

When you communicate with your employees, you’re telling them that you think they’re valuable and deserve to hear the information. Staying in the loop with company conversations gives employees the impression that they’re part of the bigger picture.

By informing them, you may receive constructive feedback to improve the company; employees have insights you may be too close to see. Bottom line: your employees will be more invested when you intentionally communicate with them and ask for their opinions.

2. Engages Employees

Employee engagement is the level of commitment, and connection employees feel toward your company. Highly engaged employees will perform at a higher level and stay with organizations longer.

Communicating regularly with your employees is an easy and personal way to engage them. Here are a few examples of how to engage employees in communication:

  • Greet them by name when you see them.
  • Ask them questions about their personal life.
  • Encourage them on something they did well.

Don’t let employees go unnoticed, sliding in and out of the office door (or on- and offline). Engage your team members in meaningful ways, communicating that you value their presence and contributions to the company.

3. Creates Unity

In the workplace, you’re trying to keep everyone on the same page. Working towards undefined or different goals isn’t a great way to foster team unity. The more effectively you communicate, the easier it is for everyone on the team to work together to reach a shared goal.

Creating unity can also lead to greater accountability. When employees are given clear expectations, they can help each other stay the course.

The above list isn’t exhaustive, but it should give you a small taste of what to expect when you communicate openly in the workplace.

How to Improve Communication Within a Team

If you want to encourage communication and reap its benefits, you need to know how to be a better communicator.

Below we’ve listed some of the top ways to walk the talk when it comes to open communication.

Start at the Top

Open communication from leadership is the starting point for honest communication in the workplace. If you want a workplace practice to become routine, it needs to start at the top. When managers and other top-level executives model communication best practices, it helps employees see communication in action and internalize it as a value.

You can start building better, more open communication in the workplace through leadership training . Managers and leaders may not inherently know how to encourage open and honest communication in the workplace. A leadership training program can help your workplace leaders understand the importance of open communication.

One of the topics in our Management and Leadership Training Program is “Communication and Interpersonal Skills.”Give managers the tools and training they need to model open and honest communication among their teams.

Conduct Anonymous Surveys

Conducting anonymous surveys is an excellent way to encourage open and honest communication in the workplace. Anonymity allows employees to freely share thoughts and opinions that otherwise they’d keep secret.

You should view anonymous surveys as a tool to gather information and help pinpoint issues that need addressing. But be warned, anonymous surveys can be a double-edged sword as they can bring out some serious accusations and harsh criticism.

However, private surveys keep managers from retaliating quickly and saying things openly that would otherwise hinder future employee honesty. Weigh the pros and cons to determine whether anonymous surveys will be beneficial to your work environment and company culture.

Provide Employee Training

Employee training alone will openly communicate that you value people’s careers and professional development . Employee training further opens the door for personal communication between you and your employees as you support their learning journey .

You could even consider offering employee training specific to professional communication.

Once the training starts, try to convey to your employees that you welcome their questions and feedback. If you use a learning management system to house the training, you can:

  • Ask employees frequent questions about the training through assessments.
  • Answer employee training questions quickly on the platform.
  • Offer “office hours” where employees can meet with you.
  • Request feedback when employees finish a course.

Employee training creates a shared space of learning and communication between managers and employees.

Coach Your Employees

Coaching employees is similar to training, only with more intentionality. Training is usually geared toward a large group of people , while coaching focuses on a single person (or a select few people).

When you coach an employee, you can ask more specific questions about their role, what they’re thinking, and identify personal areas of improvement. Personal communication builds profound relationships and trust between you and the employees you coach. They’ll begin to feel more comfortable asking questions or sharing thoughts with you.

Coaching provides an excellent opportunity to encourage communication on a one-to-one level. It’s a powerful way to develop team influencers who understand the importance of communication in teams.

Request and Acknowledge Employee Input

Asking for and acknowledging employee input is one of the best ways to understand how to improve communication within a team.

Not every idea or solution an employee has will be a winner, but it’s still valuable to ask them what they think about a problem or particular issue.

Asking for employee input will accomplish three things:

  • Shows that you care about your employees’ thoughts.
  • Models open communication from the top down.
  • Makes employees more comfortable and inclined to come to you on their own.

After you ask for an employee’s input, you need to acknowledge it even if you don’t implement it. Acknowledgment can be as simple as repeating their idea back to them to ensure you understand what they’re communicating. Or, it can be as impactful as telling top-level management about their idea to take into serious consideration.

Need Help Promoting Honest Communication in the Workplace?

From fostering inclusion to engaging employees and creating unity, the benefits of open communication in the workplace abound.

By starting with leadership, conducting surveys, and engaging with employees through training and coaching, you can effectively teach and model open communication at work. As you encourage honest communication in your employees, it will become a more prominent part of your teams.

Still unsure of how to encourage open and honest communication in the workplace?

At Unboxed Training & Technology , we can help you improve your employees’ soft skills like communication and hard skills like selling. When you invest in and encourage communication internally, you may be surprised at the improvements in your customers’ experience, too.

Our custom training solutions provide your managers and employees with company-specific content; nothing generic or boring about it.

Contact our Consulting Team to get the ball rolling on creative ways to start encouraging open communication in your organization today.


  • Employee Training


  • Leadership Training
  • Sales Training
  • Turn Key Training

Frantically Speaking

50 Speech Opening Lines (& How to Create Your Own) l The Ultimate Guide

Hrideep barot.

  • Public Speaking , Speech Writing

best speech opening line

Ask a million people how to start a speech with a bang and you will get a million different answers.

While some prefer to start their speech with the good old charm of a quote, others prefer to put on their hats of creativity to discover new ways to capture the attention of their audience.

So, yes! There’s not just one best way to start your speech with a bang but you have a whole spectrum of ways- each unique on its own!

Sit back, grab a cup of coffee, and relax as I highlight 50 Powerful Speech Opening Lines from some of the World’s Most Influential Speeches along with guidance on how to use each of these techniques in your next speech/presentation.

Alright, let’s dive in!

How to Start your Speech/Presentation?

office presentation

The attention span of your audience is at its peak at the very beginning of your speech. Shouldn’t you use this to your advantage? Of course, yes!

A strong opening remark captures the attention of your audience, sets the theme of your speech, and most importantly, instills curiosity for the remainder of your speech in the minds of your audience.

Before we analyze each of these speech opening lines, let me provide you with a quick list of techniques (all of which we are going to discuss in great depth!) for you to start your speech/presentation:

  • 1. Don't just "Say!" Sing A Song

2. Uniqueness of An Unpopular Opinion

3. the power of a prop, 4. quest of a question, 5. hint of humor, 6. share a story, 7. surprise, surprise, surprise, 8. foster interest with facts.

  • 9. Let's Visualize with "Visuals"

10. Capture Interest with your Clothes

11. activity for the audience, 12. element of fear, 13. invite them into your imagination, 14. quintessential quality of a quote, 100 best speech opening lines (the ultimate resource), 1. don’t just “say” sing a song.

Singing song on stage

Now, you must be thinking that I’m crazy to even suggest this but hear me out.

Doing something entirely different on stage just makes you stand out from the usual crowd. Because let’s admit it, we expect the speaker to simply start talking and when the speaker does something different, it surprises us and makes us intrigued for the remainder of the talk.

Having said that, singing is any day a safer bet since we all love to swing by the music.

But, if you are not at all confident about your singing skills, don’t go for it! Instead, you can try channeling the power of poetry, something very similar to singing but still light on your vocal cords. Don’t be confused! We’ve written an entire article on Getting Your ‘Wordsworth’: Poetry in Public Speaking , just for you! Do check it out.

How to Use A Song as your Speech Opening?

Step 1: Pick a relevant yet famous song related to the theme of your speech/presentation

Step 2: Choose how you wish to use the song to present your point. Do you wish to agree with the lyrics? Or disagree with the lyrics?

Step 3: Pick a few lines (not more than 2-3 lines) that suits your theme the best

Step 4: Craft a statement to explain the connection of the song with the topic of your speech/presentation

Step 5: What are you waiting for? Go ahead, warm up your vocal cords, and start singing

Examples of Speeches that Used Songs as Speech Openings

1. it is okay not to have a plan by mithila palkar.

(Sings the Song) “Some of you must have seen the video of this song online, and I’ll tell you the story of how I made it.” Mithila Palkar

Budding Indian Actress and Singer, Mithila Palkar started her TED Talk by singing a Marathi Song, a song that went viral on the internet and made her famous.

Instead of simply talking about how she marked the transition from a viral singing star to a renowned actress, she made her audience live her journey by singing the exact same song.

Two things happened here:

  • Most of the audience members were able to recognize the song, which in turn, established her credibility as a speaker
  • The song hooked the audience from the very beginning of her talk

No matter how much we deny it, humans are judgemental beings!

We have expectations for every single thing on this planet and when someone challenges these expectations, we’re left shocked.

And as a result, they’ve all our attention. That is exactly my mantra here, “Shock the audience to get their attention!”

shocked face

How to Use An Unpopular Opinion as your Speech Opening?

Step 1 : Ask yourself, “Who is my audience?” Look for the basic information on their average age, level of education, pre-conceived notions, and cultural background. Still confusing, right? The Importance of Knowing Your Audience When Delivering a Speech is an article that carries the step-by-step guide, just for you.

Step 2 : Based upon this audience analysis, figure out their set expectation regarding the topic you are about to deliver your speech on.

Step 3 : Shred that expectation by challenging that set expectation in your opening remark. Remember not to be offensive and play by the rule of your moral compass

Examples of Speeches that Used Unpopular Opinions As Opening Remarks

1. grit: the power of passion and perseverance by angela lee duckworth.

“ When I was 27 years old, I left a very demanding job in management consulting for a job that was even more demanding: teaching “ Angela Lee Duckworth

When using this strategy in your speech, it’s critical that you do your research so that you can come up with an unpopular viewpoint on the subject.

Present that unpopular viewpoint as your introductory words, and then gradually (it must be a progressive process) lead your audience to the realization, which is your speech’s main goal. Just like this speaker did!

props and placards

Visuals overpower our auditory senses! Why not use it to the best of our advantage?

As our immediate reflex, we first see and then, listen. Bringing a unique prop/placard onto the stage would intrigue the audience even before you “actually” start speaking.

Without any further delay, let’s discuss the steps to use props/placards the right way.

How to Use A Prop/Placard as your Opening Remark?

Step 1: Prepare a list of props/placards that resonate the best with the theme of your speech/presentation. Don’t just bring anything on the stage!

Step 2: From this list, remove the generic options. For instance, if you are delivering a speech on environmental conservation, bringing a plastic bag on stage is too generic and won’t instill curiosity in the audience’s minds

Step 3: Now, out of all the relevant props/placards, which one do you think is the most convenient and affordable to bring on the stage? And, you have your answer!

Step 4: Once you have decided on the prop, craft a statement to establish the connection between the prop and the theme of your speech

Examples of Speeches that Used Props As Opening Remarks

1. why i live a zero waste life by lauren singer.

(brings a jar filled with waste and speaks) “This is all of the trash that I’ve produced in the past 3 years!” Lauren Singer

When you witness the speaker, Lauren, showcasing a jar filled with all of the trash that she has produced in the past three years, you can’t help wonder, “Is this for real?”

Because even the packaging of all the junk food items that we consume every week can easily overflood this jar.

Taking advantage of this embedded curiosity, Lauren structured the rest of her talk talking about all of the steps that she takes to lead a zero-waste life.

2. Plus-size? More Like My Size By Ashley Graham

(stands in front of a mirror and speaks) “You are bold, you are brilliant and you are beautiful. There is no other woman like you. You are capable…” Ashley Graham

Breaking the norms of a traditional speech, Ashley Graham, instead of staring at the audience, stares at a mirror and speaks a few lines on self-affirmation.

Let’s admit it, most of us are critical of our own bodies, and standing in front of a mirror, we tend to focus upon all the possible flaws.

To set an example of positive self-affirmation, Ashley Graham takes upon herself to set an example with the help of a live exercise.

3. 25 Chemistry Experiments in 15 Minutes By Andrew Szydlo

*does chemistry experiments* Andrew Szydlo

Watch this TED Talk and I’m sure you’ll find all the presence, of all those chemical equipment on stage, fascinating!

When the audience witnesses the efforts you are taking to deliver your talk, they are impressed and trust me, you are halfway there at capturing the attention of your audience.

Now, of course, it doesn’t mean that you put all your heart and soul into getting that perfect prop on stage.

If it’s not feasible, don’t! But if you can, that’s a great way to win your audience!

4. I See Something By Dananjaya Hettiarachchi

*smells flower* Dananjaya Hettiarachchi

In the previous example, we saw how bringing a grand prop captures the attention of our audience.

But the power of a prop goes WAY beyond this!

When a simple prop is connected with a meaningful yet unique message, the impact manifolds.

In this TED Talk, the speaker uses a rose to explain how each individual is unique in terms of his personality. A powerful message is delivered with the use of a simple prop.

A tried and tested trick that psychologists swear by to awaken the distracted minds is to “shoot a question”.

You could do that too in your next speech/presentation.

asking questions

How to Use A Question As An Opening Remark?

Step 1: Think of all the questions that can help you to set the theme of your speech

Step 2: Make a point to not include close-ended questions and questions that are simply TOO GENERIC

Step 3: The last element that your question must include is the element of curiosity. The purpose is to make the audience curious enough to listen to your entire speech looking for answers to that question. But while you are at it, make sure you don’t overpromise and your speech does have the answers to that question.

Examples of Speeches that used Questions as Opening Remarks

1. every argument against veganism by ed winters.

“So, when I say the word ‘Vegan’ to you, what do you think of?” Ed Winters

Just by hearing this question, our first thought is to run all the possible definitions of veganism and the audience of this speech did the same.

This question is very clever and I’ll tell you why. So, every time a definition would come into the mind of any audience member, the speaker would be presenting his arguments against veganism forcing the audience to align their thoughts with his thought process.

Without any possible digression, the speaker Ed Winters presents his thoughts on Veganism in a convincing manner with the help of the rhetoric of questions.

Now, this type of question sends the audience on a possible quest for answers but that’s not the only purpose that this technique serves. Next in order, let’s look at how questions set the theme of a speech.

2. Why Do We Ask Questions? By Michael “Vsauce” Stevens

“What is the best type of cheese to use to catch a bear?” Michael “Vsauce” Stevens

In this TED Talk, the speaker uses this technique as a rhetorical question and answers this question with the help of a cheese pun.

Moving ahead, he goes on unearthing the science behind asking questions. So, it only made sense for him to begin his speech with a question too to set the overall vibe and theme of the topic.

3. Marriage Material By Nina Donovan

“So from a glance, do I look like marriage material?” Nina Donovan

In this TED Talk, we shall discover the strength of an interrogative remark in generating curiosity regarding the theme of your speech.

Since time immemorial, society has been setting “so-called” norms to determine if an individual is a potential marriage material (mostly, in the case of women).

To fit under this category of “marriage material”, one has to behave as per the so-called expectations of the society, and anything that defies the norm fails to fit in.

With the help of her powerful voice, the speaker here challenges the notion of this concept of “Marriage Material” and highlights the importance of individuality.

And by asking if the audience perceives her as marriage material, she surprises the audience while cultivating a sense of curiosity in them.

4. After watching this, your brain will not be the same By Lara Boyd

“So how do we learn? And why do some of us learn things more easily than others?” Lara Boyd

Admit it or not- we’ve always wondered why some people learn things better than us. What exactly is their secret?

And when you throw this question at the audience, they become intrigued to know this very secret with the help of your talk.

Curiosity is what makes us stick to the remainder of any talk. So, it’s high time we channelize it!

5. The Value of Asking Questions By Karen Maeyens

“Do you know the people that are asked the most questions? Have A Guess!” Karen Maeyens

An open-ended thought-provoking question like this forces the audience to activate their minds in the search for answers.

As they become more active, they listen better and focuses better on what you have to offer.

When Karen asked her audience who are the people that are asked the most questions, different minds pondered different answers and when she herself answered the question, those who thought of different answers were intrigued to listen to her justification and as a result of this, they stuck by!

6. Two Easily Remembered Questions that Silence Negative Thoughts By Anthony Metivier

“How would you like to completely silence your mind?” Anthony Metivier

We, humans, have restless minds- always pondering over something or the other.

So, what’s likely to happen when someone asks us if we would like to silence our minds? Ironically, we’ll be restless to know the answer. That’s what the speaker did through his TED Talk.

The next time you are giving a speech, you can consider opening it with a question that would result in a similar effect of restlessness in the minds of the audience.

For this to truly happen, make sure that your question is not generic. Otherwise, all your efforts will be in vain.

laughing faces

Ain’t we tired of listening to the phrase, “Laughter is the best medicine”?

I’m sure we all are but the reason why it’s still so prevalent is because of its universality.

Of course, laughter is the best medicine to an opening remark too. It makes your audience laugh and who doesn’t love a good laugh? We all do!

Humor puts the minds at ease and makes you sound more human, because of which, the audience perceives you as a credible speaker.

How to Use Humor In An Opening Remark?

Step 1: Know your audience well. Your joke must resonate with them so as to make the desired impact. For instance, if you are addressing a school crowd and you make a joke about workplace communication mistakes. It won’t make the audience chuckle, would it?

Step 2: Puns? Self-deprecating humor? Or Funny Anecdotes? Identify the types of humor and figure out which one suits your personality in the best way. If you are not sure what types of humor are there and wish to seek a step-by-step guide on including humor in your presentation, make sure you read A Guide To Using Humor In Your Speech . Remember to choose the type of humor in alignment with your personality otherwise, it will look forced and won’t result in the impact you desired

Step 3: Step out and do a pilot survey! Try out the opener on a few folks who are similar to your target audience. Examine their reaction and, if required, adjust the joke

Step 4: Keep in mind that once you begin your speech with a pinch of humor, your audience will be expecting a few moments of laughter throughout the rest of your speech too. So, make sure you save 2-3 jokes (not more than that) for the remainder of your speech to meet those expectations

Examples of Speeches that used Humor in Opening Remarks

1. thoughts on humanity, fame and love by shah rukh khan.

“I’m a movie star. I’m 51 years of age. And I don’t use Botox as of yet.” Shah Rukh Khan

This TED Talk right here is the perfect case in point for you to witness all the four steps to humor (as discussed in the previous section) in action.

Known for his great performance in doing justice to a number of family roles in Bollywood films, the actor Shah Rukh Khan, in his TED Talk used the power of humor to make himself sound more human to align his talk with his perceived personality.

A humorous take on the drug, Botox, not only relates to the speaker’s professional credibility but also established the relatability quotient.

2. Ellen DeGeneres’ 86th Oscars Opening

“It’s been a tough couple of days for us. It has been raining. We’re fine. Thank you for your prayers.” Ellen DeGeneres

Two lessons on humor can be perfectly drawn from this talk:

  • Make sure you include humor when the event calls for it in its truest sense.

Since Ellen DeGeneres was hosting the Oscars Opening Ceremony, nobody expected her to be all serious in terms of her talk. The audience is expecting a more relaxed and chill vibe from the speaker.

So, starting her talk with a piece of humor not only sounded like a safer bet but also the most effective one.

  • Humor must align with the personality of the orator

What’s the thought that comes to your mind when you listen to the name, “Ellen DeGeneres”? I’m sure for most of us, it’s someone who’s great at presenting her opinions in a convincing manner with the help of comedy.

And that’s what you expect from her personality: Humor!

3. How Indian Parents Make You Tougher By Hasan Minhaj

“Do you know when brown kids get slapped? Every brown birthday party.” Hasan Minhaj

The element of surprise won’t work if your audience is familiar with what you are about to tell them.

So, make sure that you are addressing the right element of surprise to the right audience to make them chuckle. And Hasan Minhaj did it absolutely right!

In this TED Talk, Hasan Minhaj told a piece of surprising cultural information about Indian teens to the American Audience and not the Indian Audience (because they will be familiar with it and it won’t be a shock).

4. The Clues to A Great Story By Andrew Stanton

“A tourist is backpacking through the highlands of Scotland, and he stops at a pub to get a drink. And the only people in there is a bartender and an old man nursing a beer. And he orders a pint, and they sit in silence for a while. And suddenly, the old man turns to him and goes, “You see this bar? I built this bar with my bare hands from the finest wood in the county, gave it more care and love than my own child. But do they call me McGregor the Bar Builder? No.” Points out the window. “You see that stone wall out there? I built that stone wall with my bare hands. Found every stone, placed them just so through the rain and the cold. But do they call me McGregor the Stone Wall Builder? No” Points out the other window. “You see that pier on the lake out there? I built that pier with my bare hands, drove the pilings against the tide of the sand, plank by plank. But do they call me McGregor the pier builder? No. But you fuck one goat…” Andrew Stanton

When humor is combined with effective storytelling, a great laugh is expected from the intrigued minds sitting in the audience.

Remember how we used to tell small anecdotes as kids while telling any joke? That’s what needs to be done here.

Build up the curiosity with the help of a story and end that story by bringing in an element of surprise to make your audience chuckle. Unexpected humor is always welcome!

We’ve all grown up listening to bedtime stories.

As we approached our teenage years and adulthood, we switched to narrating anecdotes from our lives to our friends, family, and colleagues.

In a nutshell, it’s the stories that connect us and will continue to serve this very purpose.

Hence, it’s only fair for us to channel this magic of storytelling into our public speaking events as well.

How to Narrate A Story in An Opening Remark?

Step 1: Pick a story from your life or narrate something that happened to someone you know or simply form a gripping story. Whatever it might be, just make sure you are not exaggerating to come off as a relatable speaker. Most importantly, the story you choose has to be related to the theme of your speech

Step 2: Now that you have the story in mind, pick a narrative to design the structure of your story. Wait, don’t know what storytelling narrative structures are? Read 9 Storytelling Approaches For Your Next Speech or Presentation to know different ways to effectively narrate a story

Step 3: Use simple language while writing your story and be descriptive enough to help them imagine. Keep in mind that your audience should relate and it’s possible only when they can understand your story in its truest sense

Examples of Speeches that used Stories As Opening Remarks

1. life begins at the end of your comfort zone by yubing zhang.

“It’s a cold and foggy winter morning and I’m standing on the world’s tallest bungee platform. The platform I’m standing on is so tiny that I’ve to stand on my toes and balance myself against the wind…” Yubing Zhang

While highlighting how stepping out of one’s comfort zone is crucial, the speaker narrates a personal anecdote of her bungee-jumping experience.

To form a connection with the overall theme, she goes on to narrate how one bungee cord leap taught her the biggest lesson of her life.

Through the remainder of her talk, she then focuses upon sharing her lessons and guidance on how one can step out of his/her comfort zone to facilitate personal growth.

2. How to Figure Out What You Really Want By Ashley Stahl

“It was 2:45 pm on a rainy friday in Los Angeles. My dad was just brewing a cup of coffee in the kitchen when he answered a call from an unknown number…” Ashley Stahl

While the previous example on storytelling taught us to build a connection with the overall theme of our speech, this TED Talk by Ashley Stahl teaches the significance of body language and voice modulation in effective storytelling.

Observe how she narrates this story with effective pauses and uses inflection to create a sense of drama and suspense.

That’s something we all should keep in consideration while narrating any story.

Storytelling is only effective when conveyed properly with the help of facial expressions, body language, and vocal tonality. This is all done to appeal to the sentiments of the audience because eventually, it is what will make our talk all the more persuasive.

3. How “SHE” became an IAS Officer By Surabhi Gautam

“My story starts from a small, sleepy village of Madhya Pradesh with a population of barely a thousand people…” Surabhi Gautam

You don’t necessarily have to focus all your energy on writing your story with a proper build-up.

If you are using a story to build your credibility as a speaker as well as intrigue your audience, one simple way could be to just begin your speech with something as simple as, “My story starts from…”

Just like this speaker did!

Nothing fancy, nothing over the board but still manages to captivates the interest of the audience because of the following reasons:

  • She communicates in the language of people by using simple words
  • Starting with something like, “My story starts from…” sent an indication that she’s about to narrate the story of her life and as a matter of fact, we all are intrigued naturally to listen to different people’s life stories

4. Speaking Up Without Freaking Out By Matt Abrahams

“Panic. Embarassed. Exposed. No, that’s not how I’m feeling right now. Those are the feelings I had when I was a fourteen year old boy…” Matt Abrahams

Let’s be honest for a moment- we all have been through the feeling of “Panic, Embarrassed, Exposed” (just how Matt puts it) when asked to speak on stage.

By narrating a story that most of the audience members can relate to, Matt won the hearts of a majority of his audience members and established his credibility as a speaker.

5. The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything By Josh Kaufman

“Two years ago my life changed forever. My wife and I welcomed our daughter Lela in the world…” Josh Kaufman

“This has been the turning point of my life”

How do you feel when someone says something like this to you? Intrigued to know more?

This is the power that the speaker used here. He narrated a story of how being a parent changed his life and eventually, relates this experience to the topic of his speech, which to be honest, is fascinating to witness!

6. The Happy Secret to Better Work By Shawn Achor

“When I was seven years old and my sister was just five years old, we were playing on top of a bunk bed. I was two years older than my sister at the time — I mean, I’m two years older than her now — but at the time it meant she had to do everything that I wanted to do, and I wanted to play war. So we were up on top of our bunk beds. And on one side of the bunk bed, I had put out all of my G.I. Joe soldiers and weaponry. And on the other side were all my sister’s My Little Ponies ready for a cavalry charge. There are differing accounts of what actually happened that afternoon, but since my sister is not here with us today, let me tell you the true story –“ Shawn Achor

A descriptive story narrated using stylistic language has the strength to move the audience and immerse them into a fictional world.

In terms of storytelling, this technique is by far the most effective yet simplest way.

It’s commonly used while giving out persuasive speeches as it helps the speaker to align the audience’s thoughts with the speaker’s point of view. That’s what Shawn did through the help of his childhood story.

Of course, we all love surprises. Who doesn’t, right?

So, here’s a crazy idea! Why not surprise your audience with your opening remark?

Here’s how you can do so.

How to Surprise your Audience through your Opening Remark?

Option 1: Go up on that stage, say something totally unexpected and blow the minds! Now, your job doesn’t end here. Once you are done speaking your opening remark, provide your audience as to why you said what you said and what more are you going to offer through the rest of your content. Look at the first example in the next section to see its application.

Option 2: Another thing that you can do is to tell your audience something completely unknown related to the topic of your speech. Something that would make them go like, “Wait, what?” You can either present a shocking piece of information, an unknown taboo of that culture, or even a shocking habit of that cultural population.

Option 3: Tell something unknown not about the culture you are talking about but about yourself. We as humans are always attracted to gossip about other people’s lives. Of course, the audience would be interested in knowing something shocking about your life. But through the content of your speech, do remember to build that connection with your speech.

Examples of Speeches that Surprises its Audience through its Opening Remarks

1. how to start a speech by simon lancaster.

“Who wants to get high? Yeah, you up for some? Should we really get this party started?” Simon Lancaster

Who comes up on stage and asks the audience, “Who wants to get high?”

It’s purely unexpected and shocking!

But in this TED Talk, as the speaker focuses upon highlighting the steps to crafting a strong opening remark (just like we are discussing at this moment), he took it upon himself to use this very element of surprise to capture the audience’s attention.

2. Why I Don’t Use A Smart Phone By Ann Makosinski

“The last time I used a flip phone was 3 hours and 24 minutes ago.” Ann Makosinski

Now, after listening to her opening remark, do you want to know why is she still using a flip phone in the 21st Century? (At least, I do)

And that is the strength of a strong opening remark.

After generating this needed curiosity in the minds of her audience, the speaker focused the remainder of her talk telling these reasons to the audience, one by one.

So, yes! We can safely say that starting our speech with an unpopular opinion is an elegant yet simple way to kick-start our speech.

3. How to Control Emotion and Influence Behavior By Dawn Goldworm

“I can control your emotions and influence your behaviour without showing you anything, without touching you and without saying a word to you.” Dawn Goldworm

Hearing this opening remark is not just shocking but scary too!

I’m sure, just like me, you wish to unearth this secret to control and influence behavior so that you can control minds too.

It’s natural for you to listen to the remainder of the talk for this sole reason.

This way, capturing the attention of her audience was made easy for the speaker, Dawn Goldworm.

4. Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable By Luvvie Ajayi Jones

“I’m a professional troublemaker!” Luvvie Ajayi Jones

Listening to this opening remark, “what is your reaction?”

Are you thinking how exactly is she a troublemaker just like me? If yes, then the speaker has successfully inculcated this curiosity in us.

But what we all are also wondering is what does that have to do with the theme and the speaker does establish this connection in her follow-up statement right after her opening remark.

So, make sure the next time you are out there presenting a shocking remark, do follow it up with context, always.

5. How to Spot A Liar By Pamela Meyer

“Okay now, I don’t want to alarm anybody in this room, but it’s just come to my attention that the person to your right is a liar. Also, the person to your left is a liar.” Pamela Meyer

While delivering a TED Talk on “How to Spot A Liar”, Pamela begins by spotting a few liars from the audience itself making everyone think, “How did she do that?”

And naturally, with minimum efforts, she lured her audience in to listen to her entire talk as she unfolds different ways in which we all can spot a liar.

6. The Art of Being Yourself By Caroline McHugh

“So, the chances are you have looked in at least one mirror today. You’ve had a shave or you combed your hair or maybe you checked your teeth for spinach after lunch, but what you didn’t know is the face that you’re looking at is not the face that everyone sees.” Caroline McHugh

A shocking way to surprise your audience is to simply begin with some obvious observations and follow them up with a unique observation about the very same things- leaving them surprised by catching them completely off-guard.

To get better at this technique, draw some inspiration from this TED Talk by Caroline McHugh as she does a similar thing.

It is so far the easiest way to start your speech with a bang!

Present a fact to elicit the shock value in the minds- be it positive or negative.

But incorporating the right fact in the right way is an art in itself. Let’s dive right into it!

How to Use Facts as your Opening Remark?

First things first, make sure that your fact is not too generic. It has to be shocking in one way or the other to grip the audience’s attention.

Step 1: Present the fact using simple language. Avoid using technical terms here.

Step 2: Take a pause, give the audience a moment to ponder over it (But don’t wait for TOO LONG!). Next, present an extension of that fact, if you have any, or simply break down the fact by telling the audience how does this fact affects them. Give them the reasons.

Examples of Speeches that used Facts as its Opening Remarks

1. can we not let our breakups break us by tasha jackson.

“I want you all to know that you are loved because today we can be surrounded by so many people but feel profoundly alone. 68% of Gen Z feels like nobody knows them. An average American has only one close friend and one in four feels like no one.” Tasha Jackson

While presenting facts, it’s important that we go from covering a larger umbrella to the smaller one

This way, the audience knows the exact way in which they are getting affected by this piece of information.

That’s exactly how the speaker, Tasha, rolled her TED Talk.

Once the audience was aware of the intensity of how breakups are affecting each one of them, they were all the more intrigued to know how they can not let breakups affect them to such a drastic extent.

It is this incentive that made the listeners pay attention to her talk as she unfolded all the solutions to this, one by one.

2. How to Increase Love in Your Relationship By Jonathan Ljungqvist

“In Sweden, where I come from, we have 40 thousand marriages a year and each year we have around 20 thousand divorces.” Jonathan Ljungqvist

Create the illusion of an audience poll with your piece of fact, just like this speaker did in his TED Talk.

After highlighting the drastic extent of failed marriages in Sweden, Jonathan took a pause to let that information sink in and in his follow-up statement, he started shooting a few questions at the audience.

After waiting for a few seconds (2-3 seconds is the ideal time duration to wait), Jonathan answered and highlighted the problem at hand.

This made the audience respect and agree with his fact, all the way more.

Through the remainder of his talk, he then went on highlighting the steps to increase love in any relationship.

3. I See Dead People: Dreams and Visions of the Dying By Dr. Christopher Kerr

“I read a recent survey, and what Americans fear most is public speaking and dying.” Dr. Christopher Kerr

How do we perceive death as an individual? It’s a question that most of us have a unique answer to.

In an attempt to establish the relevance of his topic, the speaker uses a fact that highlights how feared death is.

It’s what capitalized the attention of the audience and forced them to listen to what different perspectives he had to offer on the topic from a medical standpoint.

4. Saudi Arabia: Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj

“Saudi Arabia has been engulfed in a massive diplomatic crisis over the gruesome killing of Washingto Post Journalist Jamal Khashoggi” Hasan Minhaj

Now, stating facts doesn’t mean that you just go on telling statistical figures. It also includes different pieces of information, particularly news events!

In this talk, Hasan Minhaj recalls one such news event to set the theme of his talk.

Recalling news events makes our talk relevant while establishing the context. It signifies that as a speaker you are up-to-date with the information that you have to offer. So, the audience looks forward to hearing a talk devoid of redundancies.

5. Can We Not Let Our Breakups Break Us By Tasha Jackson

We live in a world where dating is the equivalent of buying a new pair of shoes.

Very often, with each dating experience comes the trauma of heartbreaks. As the speaker in this TED Talk rightly said, “breakups break us”.

But how to overcome it has always been a flaming question, particularly among the teens.

But to bring to light the intensity and ever-increasing prevalence of the situation, the speaker took the help of the statistics.

6. Teach Every Child About Food By Jamie Oliver

“ Sadly, in the next 18 minutes when I do our chat, four Americans that are alive will be dead from the food that they eat. “ Jamie Oliver

Here, while throwing light upon an alarming issue (hunger), the speaker considered presenting harrowing stats to get that desired ‘concerned mood’.

Similarly, when you wish to highlight an opportunity (say, the positive side of social media), present positive stats showcasing the success of people through social media.

9. Let’s Visualize with “Visuals”

Visuals are always gripping and easy on our minds.

Show respect towards your audience by giving them a needed break from the monotony of “just listening”.

Be a respite and engage them through the power of visuals for a change. Here’s exactly how you can do this.

How to Connect Visuals with your Opening Remark?

Step 1: Get in touch with the tech team of your public speaking event and see if the needed technical support is there to facilitate the screening of an image/video.

Step 2: Now, find a visual interesting enough to arise the curiosity but not too generic to make it too predictable for the audience- all related to your theme.

Step 3: Craft a short, concise, and to-the-point follow-up statement to explain the relevance of that visual using simple language.

Examples of Speeches that used Visuals as Opening Remarks

1. don’t believe everything you think by lauren weinstein.

*shows picture of an elephant.* Lauren Weinstein

In this TED Talk, Lauren draws a beautiful comparison between elephants and the nature of humans by showcasing a few visuals.

She does this through the use of storytelling. Narrating how despite all the strength an elephant has, it doesn’t attempt to break its chains of captivity.

After establishing this, she goes on to connect this act with the thesis of her speech, that is, how one should not always believe everything they think.

What we can take away from this TED Talk is, when visuals are effectively supported by storytelling and the rhetoric of drawing comparison, the impact increases manifold.

2. The History of Our World in 18 Minutes By David Christian

*plays a video about scrambled eggs* David Christian

In this unique TED Talk, David Christian explains the origin of the history of our world through the video of a scrambled egg. Unique, isn’t it?

That is exactly what we need to learn here.

We don’t necessarily need to find a visual that directly relates to the theme of our speech. Instead, we can go for a visual that we can use as an aid to explain a similar topic, that is, the theme of our speech.

3. How Breathing and Metabolism are Interconnected By Ruben Meerman

*shows image of himself in the sea* Ruben Meerman

This TED Talk right here is an example of how you can establish a direct correlation between the visual and your topic- all through the use of storytelling.

Ruben Meerman began his speech by showing a few pictures of himself to talk about his health transformation.

When the audience witnessed the transformation right in front of their eyes, they were curious to know the secret behind it so that they can apply it to their respective lives.

That’s the power of a gripping visual!

YES! You read it right.

No matter how shallow it sounds but the outfit is the first thing we notice every time a speaker walks up that stage.

And if you are dressed differently than the rest of the speakers, you naturally capture the eyes of your audience.

By this, I don’t mean that you go to a branded store and buy the most expensive outfit from there and wear it for your event. What I mean is to put serious thought into deciding what to wear for your event.

Ideally, one should go for an outfit that is unique yet related to the theme of your speech but doesn’t hurt the dress code of the event too. Here’s how.

How to Connect Clothes with your Opening Remark?

Step 1: The most basic step is to check with the admin if there is any particular dress code that the speakers need to adhere to. If not, feel free to put on your hat of creativity by following the next steps

Step 2: Pick an outfit that connects with the theme of your speech but is still unique enough for the audience to go like, “Wait, what outfit is this?”

Step 3: Go on the stage wearing that outfit, take a pause, let the audience wonder. After a meaningful silence of 2-3 seconds, start speaking. Open up by telling the audience the significance of the outfit that you are wearing

Examples of Speeches that Connect Clothes with Opening Remarks

1. we are all different- and that’s awesome by cole blakeway.

(comes on stage weaing two different pair of socks and shoes) “Hi, my name is Cole and over the next few minutes, I’m going to teach you that it’s okay to be different. Since a young age, I’ve worn different colored socks and two different shoes.” Cole Blakeway

Fascinating opening remark, isn’t it?

Something as simple as wearing different pairs of socks can instill curiosity and help the speaker make his point, “we all are different”.

Since biblical times, we as humans try to fit in different situations. Be it a workplace, college, or even a social gathering for that matter.

In this TED Talk, Cole attempts to shed light on the lesson of embracing our true selves and how there’s nothing wrong with being different.

The tone of such a powerful talk was set just by wearing different pairs of socks.

2. Looks aren’t Everything. Believe me, I’m a Model By Cameron Russell

(switches to a different outfit and speaks) “This is the first outfit change on the TED Stage, so you guys are pretty lucky to witness it, I think.” Cameron Russell

Of course, the traditional way to pull this technique off is to come on stage wearing a unique outfit.

But Cameron Russell finds her very own unique way of a live outfit change wherein she brings a wrap-around skirt and wears over her dress to make a simple point that appearance is not everything, it goes way beyond that.

Seeing a model by profession mark this unlikely outfit transition made the audience trust her thesis all the way more.

They say that communication is a two-way street.

Yet, more often than not, we forget to keep this in mind during all the public speaking events.

We tend o go on speaking and speaking. While sometimes we manage to keep the audience interested, the rest of the time we simply bore the audience to sleep.

To save you here, an easy bet is to organize an activity for your audience towards the very beginning of your speech.

How to Connect An Audience Activity with your Opening Remark?

Step 1: Familiarize with your audience. What’s the average age of your audience? What’s their educational and work background? Getting these basic details will help you structure an activity that would ensure maximum participation from them. For instance, if you are addressing a bunch of school students, your activity can involve more physical exercises and less mental exercise. Also, ask yourself, “What is the size of my audience?” This will help you decide on the extent of interactivity.

Step 2: Find an activity that is not too basic. Your activity should make the audience curious about your content. Something that makes the audience wonder, “What does this activity have to do with the theme?” But then they are left amazed as soon as you begin to connect the relevance of the activity with your speech.

Step 3: Don’t make it TOO LONG! Keep it short and sweet.

Step 4: Write a vivid description of the steps involved in the activity so that the audience is not left confused about what to do.

Examples of Speeches that Used Audience Activities as Opening Remarks

1. are you a giver or a taker by adam grant.

“I want you to look around the room for a minute and try to find the most paranoid person here and then I want you to point that person out for me. (waits and then says) Okay, don’t actually do it.” Adam Grant

Given that Adam’s audience was comprised of more adults, he made them perform a mental exercise as it’s most likely for them to participate in a mental exercise rather than expecting them to move up their seats to do something.

And that’s what happened. The audience participated! Because all they had to do was simply move their heads around to find out a paranoid person.

Most importantly, the activity wasn’t too generic for the audience for them to predict its relevance. So, it made them curious enough to listen to the remainder of Adam’s TED Talk to witness him unravel its relevance.

2. Girl Up: The Secrets to an Extraordinary Life By Courtney Ferrell

“Okay, I need a favor. I need all the girls who are between the age of 17 and 24 to stand up.” Courtney Ferrell

Audience Matters! I know, I’ve been saying this A LOT but it’s the key to a great speech opening.

Even in this TED Talk, the speaker made all the girls between the age group of 17 to 24 stand up since she knew that more than 50% of her audience would stand up.

It’s a win-win situation, I’ll tell you how.

When Courtney confessed that she’s about to tell the secret to channel the creative spirit of women and how to empower them.

Those who stood up felt directly connected to the theme and the rest were curious enough to know the secret to see if it can benefit them or someone they know.

3. What It’s Like To Grow Up Desi in 2019 By Hasan Minhaj

“Alright, real quick- say your full name and then say the way white people say your name. So, my name is Hasan Minhaj. I would get a Ha-sen Min-haj-a” Hasan Minhaj

Two important lessons here, my friends!

  • Interactivity is Influential

Since Hasan was addressing a comparatively smaller crowd of around 7 teens, he could incorporate an interactive activity, giving each of his audience members an opportunity to speak.

  • Lead the Activity Ladder

Before asking each of his audience members to speakers, Hasan himself initiated the act of participation from his end.

This way, the audience was all the more thrilled to speak.

Because when you participate, your audience sees it as an incentive and feels more confident to participate seeing that you as a speaker are making an effort too.

4. How to Triple your Memory By Using This Trick By Ricardo Lieuw On

“So, I have a little test for you. Don’t panic, I’m not here to judge you…” Ricardo Lieuw On

“Awaken the competitive nature of your audience members!” This should be your motto here.

But first, make sure that you are clear with the explanation of the rules so that it’s easier for everyone to follow.

Look how the speaker has introduced a competitive activity here to awaken the minds.

This serves two purposes:

  • Your audience is intrigued to listen to the rest of your talk
  • Even if a few members are distracted, you can win them back

Do you remember all the times when your mom used to make you eat green vegetables by instilling some sort of fear?

Be it the fear of dull skin or even poor eyesight for that matter, it eventually made you take that action.

Isn’t this aim of public speeches too? To persuade the audience to take some action after your speech ends? A hundred percent, yes!

So, let’s jump into how we can incorporate fear in our speech opening to make our audience listen to us.

How to Use Fear as your Opening Remark?

Step 1: At the fear of reiterating myself, “Begin with analyzing your audience”. The Best Guide to Audience Analysis is an article for you to help you do just that.

Step 2: Done with analyzing your audience after reading the article? Now, make a list of their potential fears related to the theme of your speech.

Step 3: Figure out that one fear that is not too triggering. Here, ask yourself, “If I were to listen to this, would I be triggered to a huge extent?” If the answer is yes, leave that fear and choose one that is slightly less triggering but

Examples of Speeches that used Fear as its Opening Remarks

1. why the secret to sucess is setting the right goals by john doerr.

“We’re at a critical moment Our leaders, some of our great institutions are failing us.” John Doerr

While highlighting how important it is to set the right goals for development, John Doerr begins his speech by pointing at how the institutions are failing their citizens by setting the wrong objectives.

When you are told that someone is failing you, you feel a sense of disappointment, and you are naturally drawn to know the reason behind it to figure out if there’s something you can do to improve the situation.

This is the exact feeling that we are going for here!

In this technique, we are looking forward to getting our audience to daydream without boring them.

This art of imagination works the best for persuasive speeches. Here’s how!

While delivering a persuasive speech, our aim is to align the audience’s thoughts with our thought process but there needs to be a bridge, right? A bridge that the audience can take to step into your thought process.

This bridge is the art of imagination.

How to Use Imagination as your Opening Remark?

Step 1: Decide the emotion that you want your audience to feel. Do you wish to go for a negative emotion or a positive one? My suggestion for you would be to go for a negative one since negative emotions overpower the positive ones, psychologically speaking.

Step 2: Once you have decided on the type of emotion, craft a descriptive outline for the piece of imagination that is related to the theme of your speech.

Step 3: Using simple yet descriptive language, write down your piece of imagination. Remember to write in a chronological order detailing each and every step otherwise your audience won’t truly immerse in that imaginary world. To explain to you in simpler terms, if a few steps are missing from the bridge, you cannot walk to reach the other side, can you?

Step 4: Focus the rest of your speech telling the audience what to do to avoid the situation (in case of a negative imagination) and what to do to reach the situation (in case of a positive imagination).

Examples of Speeches that used Imagination as Opening Remarks

1. the barrier between us by tvisha bandhu.

“Picture this. You’re in the MRT, you’re scrolling through your phone, and you take notice of this lady walking through the cabin saying ‘hello, hello.'” Tvisha Bandhu

This speech is the perfect example of how one can kick start his speech through the power of closed imagination (one wherein you provided step-by-step details on what to imagine).

Look how the speaker, Tvisha Bandhu, uses her body posture and gestures to emote every sense of feeling encompassed within that imagination.

It works perfectly in sync with her descriptive writing. It’s so descriptive that she has even written the exact dialogues for the characters involved in her imagination such as “Hello, Hello” for the lady who walked through the cabin.

Descriptive writing backed by powerful body language and vocal tonality can increase the impact manifold.

2. Why Do We Fear Speaking On Stage? By Pratik Uppal

“If I ask you to come on the stage right now & deliver a speech, think what kind of excuses would you come up with.” Pratik Uppal

The second example is of an open imagination.

You don’t necessarily need to provide step-by-step details for the audience to make them imagine a situation

One easy way is to simply tell them to ponder over their reaction to a particular situation and then, go on providing a brief of what exact situation they are put in.

In this TED Talk, the speaker asked the audience to imagine all the excuses that they can come up with to dread a public speaking event. Now, pause! Even you think! I’m sure you too can come up with many without anyone telling you what to imagine exactly.

This is what we call open imagination. Widespread usage of this technique can be seen in movies with open endings wherein the end is treated as possibly the beginning.

3. The Surprising Secret that Solves your Problems Quickly By Collins Key

“Imagine if you could take your brain and turn it inside out and then have access to the information to be able to virtually solve any problem. It sounds pretty cool, right?” Collins Key

In the previous sections, we discussed the examples for two commonly-used types of imagination- open and closed.

Here, we shall discuss an example of how you can ask the audience to imagine something out of the world.

If you are a Potter-head, you know the strength that this technique entails. The entire series is based upon fiction encompassing a world where everything goes larger than life, even life itself but you still can’t seem to snap out of it because you are that engrossed.

In this TED Talk, Collins opened up his talk with one such piece of imagination wherein he asked the audience to imagine how would they feel if they could simply take their brain out and turn it inside out to find a solution in the blink of an eye instead of spending hours overthinking for it.

Fascinating, right? This intrigued the audience to listen to the rest of his speech in the search of a secret to solve their problems in the quickest way possible.

4. How to Present to Keep your Audience’s Attention By Mark Robinson

“Imagine it’s Wednesday 28th of August, 1963 & we’re in the United States Of American, specifically Washington DC.” Mark Robinson

Imagination is only effective if you catering the right piece of imagination to the right audience.

Now, take the example of this TED Talk. Had this TED Talk been delivered to an audience who is not aware of the significance of the person being spoken about, Martin Luther King Jr, his speech would have been totally ineffective.

So, make sure that whatever piece of imagination you have to offer is within the understanding of your audience.

This technique doesn’t require any fancy introduction.

For the longest time, great orators have been starting their respective speeches with one quote or the other to persuade their audience through the art of rhythm.

But the inclusion of this technique as an opening remark is easier said than done. Make sure you follow the steps in the next section.

How to Use A Quote as an Opening Remark?

Before we begin, remember not to use a quote that is too common. Use a quote that is less heard of!

Option 1: The easiest and safest bet is to use a famous quote related to the context of your speech. If the propounder of that quote is associated with the topic of your speech in one way or the other, it’s even better since it establishes the credibility of the quote.

Option 2: The other effective way is to make a quote of your own instead of relying upon someone else’s quote. It’s simpler than it sounds. An easier hack is to use alliteration (occurrence of similar sound at the beginning of adjacent words in a phrase) in the phrase you wish to highlight as your opening remark. For instance, even the title of this section, “Quintessential Quality of A Quote” uses this technique. Read Getting Your ‘Wordsworth’: Poetry in Public Speaking to know how exactly you can write a quote using alliteration and similar techniques.

Examples of Speeches that Used Quotes as Opening Remarks

1. increase your self-awareness with one simple fix by tasha eurich.

Tennessee Williams once told us, “There comes a time when you look into the mirror and you realize that what you see is what you’ll ever be. And then you accept it. Or you kill yourself. Or you stop looking in mirrors.” Tasha Eurich

To see the application of the first alternative in action, watch this TED Talk by Tasha Eurich.

While using someone else’s quote, attribution to the speaker is necessary. You can do so by simply saying something like, “As NAME OF THE SPEAKER rightly said…” Nothing too fancy, simplicity works the best.

Talking about the credibility of the original speaker of the quote, since this TED Talk is focused upon “Self-awareness”, it made Tennessee Williams who was a great playwright in Hollywood, a credible speaker to trust.

2. Mistakes Make the Man By Mathew George

“Man makes mistakes & mistakes make the man.” Mathew George

Now, let’s talk about making a quote on our own. Shall we?

The most basic step we discussed under the “how-to” section was alliteration and that’s what the speaker, Mathew George, used in the creation of his opening remark too.

Alliteration provides a rhythm to your speech opening line and makes you sound persuasive naturally.

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We hope that you have found some value here in your journey as a public speaker!

If you wish to know about more such amazing speech opening lines, make sure you check out 15 Powerful Speech Opening Lines (& How to Create Your Own) .

Not just that! We’ve written a similar article on 50 Speech Closing Lines (& How to Create Your Own) l The Ultimate Guide . Make sure you read that to END YOUR SPEECH WITH A BANG!

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  22. What's a word for someone dedicated to the truth? [closed]

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