There was fascinating article written by Andrew Jacobs years ago for the New York Times entitled, “Novice Newscasters Get Voice Therapy.” In the article, Jacobs exposes the extensive training some broadcast journalists have to go through to get their delivery just right.
Jacobs writes, “…those new to the medium say that delivering words in a way that holds viewers is the most frustrating aspect of broadcast journalism. Cadence, inflection and projection are subtle skills, they say, ones that take years to get right.”
Like broadcast journalists, your ability to hold your viewer during your speech or presentation has a lot to do with how you speak when delivering your message.
When we’re writing, we use punctuation marks and typographic elements—like commas, italics, bold letters, exclamation points and question marks—to represent those rhythms on the page. It’s a consistent and sensible system. Every punctuation mark has one or more particular function, and we learn when and where to place those punctuation marks as we learn how to write.
Since listeners can’t see commas, question marks, or exclamation points, speakers have to express them in ways that make them care. You can’t be shy. You have to be intense, sincere, and passionate. Stories and speeches must come from within and make their way to an audience with power and conviction.
Anyone who listens to a speech with improper emphasis will describe the experience as negative – emphasis is crucial and must be mastered! When everything or nothing is emphasized, nothing sounds important. If you’re passionate about the subject matter, the audience will think it’s important, too. Punctuation makes that possible.
As Edie Magnus, a 30-year TV news veteran for three major networks so eloquently told me one day, “It’s passion that drives punctuation.” According to Magnus, the integration of speaking with punctuation and getting your audience to care has three key considerations:
No. 1: You are never just disseminating information.
No. 2: You tell a story you care about, which in turn drives how you tell it.
No. 3: You use punctuation to drive the meaning you want to convey.
In other words, great communicators speak with passion, intent…and punctuation.