Lindsay Lewis

English/ ESL consultant: Word worker, writer, teacher, mentor and poet. Author of This Won’t Hurt a Bit! on writing clear content.

Speech: Your business suit

Posted by on Mar 1, 2016

A few years ago, I was in New York, returning from a Yankees vs Mariners baseball game. On the subway, fans were discussing the game. I was listening to one man speak and within 30 seconds, I had ascertained that he was from Seattle.

I said to him, “Oh, you are from Seattle!I’m from Victoria.”

Shocked, he asked, “How do you know?”

“I’m a linguist”, I replied.

“What else can you tell?” he asked.

“Pretty well everything “I said,” but you might not like what I tell you.”

After he swore that he wouldn’t get mad at me, I stated the following:

You live just outside Seattle, do not have a university degree, may not have completed high school, and you are a republican. You probably served in the army.”

My acquaintance was stupefied. I was correct on all points.

How did I know?

  • He dropped his final g’s which corresponds to a lack of formal education. Words like fishin’ an drinkin’ are a dead giveaway.
  • He had a distinctive Washington dialect (ruf not roof.)
  • He spoke a little too loudly.

Your speech is more important than your clothing. I repeat: You are your speech.

Why should you care, you might ask?

If you have a stellar resume, or a graduate degree, your job interview will not be successful if you are too loud, or have any negative markers in your speech.

Here are the red flags.

Your voice goes up at the end of a normal sentence, making you sound as if you are asking a question. It sounds silly.

Your speaking is full of the filler like, which sounds like, like , like Valley talk. We all use the word like occasionally, but if you are stuttering on it, you sound uneducated and lack credibility.

Last, but most important. Be discreet. If you are loud, your voice reflects badly on your upbringing, manners, and education.

How loud is too loud?

No one at the next table of a cafe should be able to hear your conversation. At work, no one past your cubicle should hear your voice. The word vulgar means common, and common is not a noble virtue. Yelling doesn’t make you stand out in a positive manner- it merely makes you look crass.

Will your employer want to hire you if he hears you braying across the room? He may wonder about your ability to be discreet about work information if he hears your mundane conversation at lunch from a table across the room.

The group which seems most vulnerable to these speech markers are women in their twenties. Yes, you. I overheard two women at the gym a few days ago (from the other side of the gym.) One of them could not find a co-op job placement. Yikes, I thought. It must be her presentation- not her looks, not her clothes, but her: Your voice represents your personality, intelligence and character. Make it soft and shiny, not hard and unpleasant!

I promise that doors will open after you apply my techniques! Photo: Lindsay, NY restaurant .IMG_1242