Ask any professional speaker or speechwriter, and they will tell you that language matters. In fact, some of the most important and memorable lines in American history came from speeches given by American presidents:
- It is true that you may fool all the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all the time; but you can’t fool all of the people all the time. 
- Abraham Lincoln
- Speak softly and carry a big stick. 
- Theodore Roosevelt
- The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. 
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt
- Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. 
- John F. Kennedy
- We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend. And we honor those ideals by upholding them not when it's easy, but when it is hard. 
- Barack Obama
You don’t have to be a president or a famous speaker to use language effectively. So in this chapter, we’re going to explore the importance of language. First, we will discuss the difference between oral and written language, then we will talk about some basic guidelines for using language, and lastly, we’ll look at six key elements of language.
Unless otherwise indicated images throughout this chapter are licensed by Pexels.
- 12.1: Oral versus Written Language
- When we are listening to information, we do not have the ability to “rewind” life and relisten to the information. Thus, this section emphasizes the differences between oral and written language.
- 12.2: Using Language Effectively
- When considering how to use language effectively in your speech, consider the degree to which the language is appropriate, vivid, inclusive, and familiar. In this section, we define each of these aspects of language and discuss why each is important in public speaking.
- 12.3: Six Elements of Language
- Language is a very important aspect of anyone’s public speaking performance. Whether a speaker uses lots of complicated words or words most people have in their vocabularies, language will determine how an audience experiences the speech. To help you think through your language choices, in this section, we are going to talk about six important elements of language and how they affect audience perceptions.