Real Words vs. Non-real Words.

There are some words people say that are rampant in our society that you want to make the effort to avoid saying when you are public speaking. Recently this was brought to my attention and I was shocked.  I’d never noticed, let alone thought about it before.  Then I began to hear them falling out of my mouth and out of the mouths of others. Words that we use regularly that aren’t “real” words. Not a problem if you’re out to brunch with your friends or spending time with your family, but when you are public speaking and in front of your audience, you’d do well to avoid them. 

Spoiler alert: Most of the following aren’t real words. Gonna, wanna, kinda, lemme, gotta, shoulda, woulda, coulda and stuff.  Stuff is a real word.    

Why avoid these “words?” Just the thought of using the original words seems to take so long!  The “real” words, of course, are – going to, want to, kind of, let me, got to, should have, would have and could have.  We’ll get back to “stuff” in a moment.  Why say “going to” when I can just say gonna?  Even when I say it out loud to myself, it seems to take forever.  And don’t even get me going on “got to”!  What’s up with that?  It’s actually “have to”. 

“Gonna” is considered a “real” word, grammatically speaking, but I still encourage you to use the original wording of “going to” and all the others – when you are in front of your audience.  If you tend to speak too quickly, it will help you slow down and make you easier to understand. You avoid sounding casual, will show up as more professional and be easier to understand. If you have people in your audience where English is not their first language (which is pretty safe to assume these days), it will make you a lot easier to understand. Do you hear a theme here? Easier to understand? Yes. If you are the speaker, you want to show up as a leader and be easy to understand.  You took the time to prepare yourself and someone has entrusted you to speak to their people in a way that makes a difference, so you might as well be sure that you are easy to understand. Yes, it will take longer. Add a few seconds to the timing of your talk. Just saying.

Now, back to stuff.  The reason I suggest you avoid the word stuff is because it is very non-specific.  Again, not a problem at brunch or with the family because they probably know what your stuff is.  When you are a public speaker in front of an audience, being specific is king.  If you want a corny thing to help you remember to be specific, think – specific is terrific.  It’s corny, but I’ll bet you you’ll remember it now.  You want to be specific because the audience is not inside your head (even though they sometimes seem like they are).  They can’t see what you are seeing in your mind’s eye and relate to what you are relating to as you speak. You have to draw word-pictures for them. If you want them to listen and pay attention, you have to invite them into your world in a way they can connect with.

The next time you get to speak to an audience, just say to yourself – I ain’t gonna!  (Yes, I see the ain’t.  We’re just not going to go there).

Here is a short, fun article on other “words” you might want to avoid when public speaking.