Diction and You in Public Speaking

The ability to pronounce words carefully and correctly is the hallmark of a skilled public speaker. The truth of the matter is that it is not just enough for you to be able to identify correctly the sounds in words, you must also be able to place the stress on the syllable correctly. Stress is an integral component of oral communication. It is very important as an ingredient in communication to the extent that you need to be very proficient in using stress patterns effectively in oral communication.

Stressed syllables are longer in duration, louder in volume and higher in pitch. In other words, they are the most noticeable to your listeners. The importance of correctly stressing words when pronouncing them cannot be overrated as words change in meaning when the stress patterns change. In words which have both noun and verb forms with different stress patterns it even becomes more important for you to know how to correctly stress syllables. When you possess good diction you will be able to appeal to an international audience thus widening your reach in the process.

There are some general rules on stress patterns and some of them are outlined below. It must be noted that they are general rules otherwise called guidelines and as with general rules exceptions exist. This does not mean that they should be discountenanced as the exceptions are really minute as opposed to the number of examples that conform to the rules as stated.

Words ending in -ion– In words that end with -ion, the convention is to have the penultimate syllable carry the stress which is usually the one before the -ion. For example, the words situation, intention, pronunciation, organisation, satisfaction, precaution, propitiation etc. all have the stress on the syllable just before the last one i.e. the penultimate syllable.

Words ending in -ic(s)– For words ending in –ic or –ics the usual pattern is to have their primary stress on the first syllable before the last in the word in question.

Words ending in -ate– The rule here is to place the primary stress on the syllable that is two syllables before the last syllable. Examples of words that comply with this rule include implicate, negotiate, insinuate, reiterate, and decorate.

Words ending in -ive– In words of this nature, it is usual to place the main stress on the syllable that is two syllables before the last syllable. Examples include words like positive, transitive, demonstrative. Without a doubt exceptions to this rule exist but they are fewer than the number of options that conform to it.

In addition to the above you may need to acquire a pronouncing dictionary as it will help you to identify commonly mispronounced words and their correct pronunciations. The ability to transcribe words correctly is also an asset that will help to stand you out in your quest for world class diction. If your preference is to buy and listen to audio materials that will aid your pronunciation then you may as well give it your best shot. Like anything that is worth its weight in gold, improving your diction requires constant practice.