The difference between an ordinary English speaker and one that inspires crowds and wins the hearts and minds of millions, is not in what you say, but in how you say it. You can read Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech in front of an audience all you want, but no one is going to be even slightly interested unless you say it the way MLK did.
So let’s take a look at how we can make ourselves more effective communicators by learning to emphasize the important parts of what we say.
First of all, in written communication,
it’s often more difficult to place emphasis without coming off as overly amateurish and brazen. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible — it’s definitely worth the effort.
Whether we’re in casual correspondence or a serious hit-piece intended to leave a mark, our main tool we can use is structure. This comes in two forms: sentence structure and paragraph structure. One of the most powerful ways to add emphasis is by creating a build-up and a punchline.
Instead of directly stating something in a boring way, tease the reader along by leaving the important revelation until the very end of the sentence. Simply put, it’s much more tense to read “Trembling with fear, she slowly creaked open the door, only to find behind it none other than her worst nightmares in human form — her sister,” rather than “Her sister, who scared her greatly, was hiding behind the door.”
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Paragraph structure is much simpler.
All it takes is some tactful use of punctuation and spacing to add pace to a piece of writing. If you want the last sentence of a paragraph to have that added impact, simply place it in its own paragraph and you’re done!
Now, when it comes to verbal communication,
emphasis is both essential and takes a lot more practice.
As always, with great power comes great responsibility
At the most fundamental level, we have speed of delivery. Something as simple as slowing down can immediately make others take us more seriously, compared to a rapid flurry of words that pass them by with no effect.
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Second, we can stress individual syllables
of words we want to have a lasting impression. Just consider the simple sentence, “I don’t like you.” Depending on where you stress the syllables, the sentence itself has very different meanings!
“I don’t like you” implies that you don’t like them, but someone else does. “I don’t like you” implies that you might still tolerate them. “I don’t like you” indicates that it’s something about that person in particular that really troubles you.
All in all, if you slow down, make tactical use of stressing syllables, and most important of all, really believe in what you’re saying, you’ll find your words are no longer just a series of sounds. Rather, they slowly transform into precision instruments and deadly weapons, captivating admirers and striking fear into the hearts of your enemies.
As always, with great power comes great responsibility — use your words carefully!
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