Speech Study Guide

7.2 Speaking Appropriately A speaker needs to adapt to the needs, interests, knowledge, and attitudes of listeners while avoiding the use of language that might alienate anyone. This is referred to as speaking appropriately . Speaking appropriately entails making language choices that enhance a sense of connection between the speaker and audience. One way a speaker may strive towards appropriate speaking is through the use of verbal immediacy , which describes language used to reduce the psychological distance between a speaker and audience. When adapting a speech to a specific audience, a speaker will face the first challenge of helping the audience to see the relevance of the topic. Listeners tend to be more interested in topics that relate to them directly or personally. Topics that are relevant have some potential physical, economic, or psychological impact on the audience members. As mentioned previously, the use of personal pronouns helps to tailor a speech to a specific audience. Often forgotten, speakers need to demonstrate linguistic sensitivity , which includes choosing words that show respect of others and avoid potentially offensive language. By observing linguistic sensitivity, a speaker can enhance their verbal immediacy by avoiding generic language, non- parallelism, potentially offensive humor, and profanity or vulgarity. • Generic language uses words that apply to only one sex, race, or another group to represent a larger portion of everyone. In the past, English speakers used the masculine pronoun “he” to stand for all humans regardless of sex. The best way to avoid generic language is through the use of plural personal pronouns. Another common problem with generic language is the traditional use of “man.” Bias-free language is not only more appropriate, but more accurate to avoid confusion over words, such as manmade, mankind, or policeman. • Non-parallelism denotes when terms are changed due to the sex, race, or other group characteristics of the individual. Two common forms are marking and irrelevant association. Marking is the addition of sex, race, age, or other group designation to a description. It is inappropriate because it trivializes the person’s role by introducing an irrelevant characteristic. The second form of non-parallelism is irrelevant association , which is the emphasis of one person’s relationship to another when that relationship is irrelevant to the point. • Offensive humor includes, but is not limited to, dirty jokes and racist, sexist, or other “ist” remarks, and although the intention may not be to offend, if an audience is offended the speaker will lose their verbal immediacy. Humorous comments and jokes should be avoided. As a general rule, when in doubt leave it out. • Profanity and vulgarity include expressions that are not considered appropriate language. Despite casual swearing injected into regular conversation being commonplace in some communities, it is never acceptable to use in public speeches. If someone uses profanity or vulgarity they are often perceived as being abrasive and lacking character, maturity, intelligence, manners, and emotional control. Part of speaking appropriately is speaking accurately. Using accurate language means using words that convey the speaker’s meaning precisely. It may seem that speaking appropriately is easy,


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