Understanding Language

The Importance of Language

Language, from verbal to non-verbal communication, helps your audience understand your speech.

Learning Objectives

State the importance of carefully choosing language to use in your speech

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Carefully select each word to include in your speech. At the same time, consider the words that don’t make the cut: what are you not saying in your speech?
  • How you communicate your words, through phrasing, voice, gesture, and mannerism, is equally important as the words themselves.
  • Consider what you want your audience to do, think, or feel at the conclusion of your speech. Use this to guide how you word and deliver your speech.

Key Terms

  • inflection: A change in pitch or tone of voice.
  • meaning: The objects or concept that a word or phrase denotes, or that which a sentence says.
  • language: A form of communication using words either spoken or gestured with the hands and structured with grammar, often with a writing system.

The Importance of Language

Two men review a copy of a speech with notes written on it.

Why Language Matters: The words you choose and how you deliver the words are critical to get your message across in a speech.


From the words you speak to the points and topics you articulate, language is the vehicle that helps your audience understand and agree with your statement or argument.

Word Choice

Carefully select each individual word in your speech. Is it the best word you can use to convey your message or meaning? Is your phrasing easy to understand? Are you using descriptive language? Do you connect similar thoughts for your audience? Have you included points of contrast to illustrate broader points?

These are all important questions to consider as you select the words in your speech. Even more important are the words you choose to leave out: consider too, what you aren’t saying.


It’s not just a matter of the words you say, but how you deliver them. From gesture, force, and directness, to the pitch, tone and inflection of your voice, it’s important to consider the complete package that you’re delivering to your audience. Speech contains nonverbal elements known as paralanguage, including voice quality, rate, pitch, volume, and speaking style, as well as prosodic features such as rhythm, intonation, and stress. You should craft and practice these elements just as carefully as the words you include in your speech.

Takeaway Message

At the end of the speech, ask yourself: how do you want your audience to walk away feeling? What do you want them to remember? Is there a particular call-to-action you want them to perform? Or, do you want a particular point to resonate with them for some time? Thinking about the end result, or takeaway message, helps you choose how to word and deliver the speech for your audience.

Ways of Thinking About Language

It’s important to consider language from multiple contexts and factors when crafting your speech to be as effective as it can be.

Learning Objectives

Identify factors that should be considered when choosing language to be used in your speech

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Make sure that every word in your speech has a purpose for being in your speech. Don’t waste any words and commit to writing multiple drafts to refine and hone your speech.
  • Always think about your audience and venue: who are they and why are they there? Considering these factors will help inform what language is best to use in your speech.
  • What are the overall goals, objectives or purpose you have for speaking? Think about this so that you can work backwards to select the right language to achieve those goals, objectives or purpose.

Key Terms

  • venue: A place, especially the one where a given event is to happen.
  • Objective: not influenced by irrational emotions or prejudices; based on facts or evidence.

Ways of Thinking About Language

An audience reacts to a speech.

Thinking about LanguageĀ : What lasting impression do you want to leave with your audience? What are the goals and objectives of your speech?

Select the Best Wording

When writing your speech, it’s imperative that each and every word is carefully selected for inclusion in your speech. Each word should serve a purpose–to advance your logic and address your speech subject in some way. How you organize your speech, outline your thesis and supporting arguments, as well as the ways you describe those points are all essential to crafting the best speech you can. Devoting yourself to the creation of multiple drafts of your speech ensures that you are honing and refining your speech down to its most effective words and parts.

Consider Your Audience

Who will be listening and watching your speech? Why are they there and what do they want? You’ll want to not only fully understand your audience for who they are, as this may inform you of their experience with your subject, but you’ll also want to understand what has brought them to your speech in the first place. In thinking very specifically about the groups and types of people attending your speech, you can more finely tailor the language of your speech.

Consider Your Venue and Occasion

Understanding your speech venue and the occasion for your speech is just as important as getting to know your audience. Venue and occasion can often dictate both subject matter and formality of your speech. You want to make sure your languages both of those elements.

Your Overall Goals, Objectives and Purpose

Why are you giving a speech? What have you, from all the other people who could speak, been selected? What makes you the subject matter expert? Consider each of these questions as you prepare your speech. Knowing your purpose for speaking must be one of the guiding principles as you craft your thesis, supporting evidence and make your case to your audience. Thinking about what you want to achieve informs how you can establish a plan, that is, select the right language, to achieve that goal.