Help me stop sounding like a valley girl!
December 14, 2009 10:20 PM   Subscribe

What are some tips in having better speech?

I'm an adult woman, who sometimes sounds like a child! I notice when I speak my statements come out as questions and I sound like (yuck that word too) a total valley chick. In business settings I'm proper and I realize I want to sound like that all the time but I don't. What are techniques I can use to improve upon my speaking voice and grammar efficiency when I'm in a relaxed chatty mode? 'Cause it only makes me sound dumb, when I'm far from it.
posted by InterestedInKnowing to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I always recommend Toastmasters or some other group where you'll speak in front of others and they'll give you feedback. It forces you to identify your weaknesses and to work on them. Even if your goal is to improve your conversational speech, public speaking can help.
posted by decathecting at 10:42 PM on December 14, 2009

InterestedInKnowing -- Are you me? I grew up in the valley (in the 80's no less) and have had to work hard to not sound like I'm asking a question all the time? It can be challenging, especially right after I get off the phone with my sister?

The way I handled it was to flee L.A. as soon as it was legal for me to get the heck out of dodge. I spent the next 10 years or so in Boston (with a little West Africa sprinkled in for good measure). Worked like ah chaaahm.

When I hear myself doing this now though, I consciously take a deep breath and bring my voice a little lower and a little quieter. The serious breathing and the low voice always make people sound less dumb. And it helps me ensure that I don't suddenly let something truly horrifying, like "OMG TOTALLY!) burst out of my unsuspecting mouth.

Another thing I do is pay more attention to consonants. I try to focus on smoothing them out so they don't sound like rocks in my mouth.

Ugh. The horror. You can do this. I know you can!
posted by ohyouknow at 10:52 PM on December 14, 2009

It sounds like you use rising intonation! I know, right? If it helps you to know, this uptalk isn't just indexed with valley girls, but all sorts of various social groups, regional groups, and other ways of categorizing humans. Even George Bush has been known to do it!

But I get it, it's not for you. What I would do is start noticing when you're using it. And possibly correcting yourself when you say a statement with that high rising terminal. Maybe even repeating the phrase with a flatter intonation pattern. Just being conscious of it, when you're doing it, and how to do it differently, will go a long way. Good luck! Er, good luck.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:28 PM on December 14, 2009

The biggest thing almost anyone can do to sound more serious is slow the hell down.

Pause more often. Think before you say something. Breathe.
posted by rokusan at 12:45 AM on December 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Use specific nouns and verbs.

Use proper nouns when you begin to talk about a new subject. We're not in your head and don't know what subject just came into it.
posted by meadowlark lime at 2:23 AM on December 15, 2009

If you record yourself talking with a digital recorder (sometimes cell phones have them built in!) and then play it back later on for yourself, you'll discover somethings you might want to refine that way too.
posted by No New Diamonds Please at 3:33 AM on December 15, 2009

rokusan is right, slowing down is the most important thing in public speaking.

As for rising intonation, while I may not particularly like it, it does appear to be the wave of the future these days.
posted by ovvl at 5:01 AM on December 15, 2009

I'm sure it's been utilized before for other purposes, but I recently read the book A Complaint Free World, and it recommended a simple method for achieving more mindful speech (with respect to bitching, but I think you could probably use it for other speech patterns). Put a rubber band around your wrist. Or a hair tie, or whatever. Every time you hear yourself do the "?" at the end of a sentence that isn't a question, switch the rubber band to the other wrist. The book basically says this will transition you from being unconscious about your undesired speech, to conscious of it, to actively able to speak correctly. (And it did help me to complain less!)
posted by hegemone at 5:21 AM on December 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

In addition to working on your intonation, start consciously using slightly larger words in a workable context. Use "facilitates" instead of "makes it easier," "garish" or "lurid" instead of "tacky/ugly," etc. Some people worry this sounds pretentious, and it will to a certain person who fears anything beyond the 500 he or she abuses on a daily basis, but as long as you can discern the difference between a more specific, interesting word and a patently pretentious one, you're golden.

I use sites like Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day and then catalog the good ones on (which is now Wordnik?)
posted by zoomorphic at 8:20 AM on December 15, 2009

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