Air is the messenger of the spoken word. Air carries everything you say to one set of ears—or to many. But the airborne journey of the spoken word doesn’t start outside your lips. It starts deep inside you—as air leaves your lungs, passes through your vocal chords, and grabs hold of what you say before heading out your mouth for the ears ahead.
By picturing speech in this way, we see that we need to breathe right to speak right. Many stage actors, public speakers, and voice-over professionals take advantage of this insight. But others don’t give breathing much thought. Having done it every hour of every day of their lives, these people take breathing for granted. And they never imagine that they might be doing it wrong.
To speak well you need to breathe well—and that means doing what you did instinctively the day you were born. To practice, lie down on your back and relax. Let your stomach rise and fall as your diaphragm pulls air into you.
Finally, remember that speaking with deep, full breaths is not the same as shouting. Stage actors don’t shout when they perform a play. Public speakers don’t shout when they give a speech. And voice-over professionals don’t shout when they record in front of a microphone. The goal isn’t volume; the goal is resonance. If a weak and shallow chest breath grabs hold of your words, then your words will sound weak and shallow. If a strong and deep full-body breath grabs hold of your words, then your words will resonate inside every ear that hears them.
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Note from the author: I am going to continue my series on tongue-twisters next week. This article is a “sneak peak” at an article I have written for Speak Up this month. You can read and hear the full article in issue 266 of Speak Up, which reaches newsstands this week.