Effective Use of Silent Pauses in Public Speaking by David Kow and Alfred Pua

This article addresses two main points pertaining to the use of silent pauses in public speaking. These are:

Firstly, the Importance of Silent Pauses; and secondly, When to Use Silent Pauses.

Importance of Silent Pauses

To ensure our speeches are effective, and that we come across as confident speakers, we need to project our voice and speak

clearly.  We should speak at a reasonable pace that is not too fast for the audience to absorb our message, but at the same time, not too slowly as to bore our audience, and cause them to do a mental exit.  More importantly, we need to vary our pace, and pause often during our speeches.  There are many advantages of silent pauses in speeches.  Silent pauses: –




  1. Give us time to recollect our thoughts,



  2. Make us appear more confident and in control, and



  3. Allow our audience time to keep up with, and process our message.





When to Use Silent Pauses


The occasions when silent pauses are useful, or even essential, are: -:




  1. Just Before We Begin Our Speech


    When we are called upon to give our speech, we should walk up to the lectern confidently, arrange our notes, look up at the audience, and pause for a moment before speaking the first words.  We have all seen speakers uttering their first words while looking down and arranging their notes.  This does not come across very well to the audience, nor project an image of a confident speaker.

  2. When Moving from One Main Point of Our Speech to Another


    When we move from one main point of our speech to another, we should pause to signal to our audience that we are moving to a new point.  This enhances the clarity of our speech structure and avoids possible confusion on the part of the audience. Here, a pause serves the same purpose as a new paragraph in written articles.



  3. When We Want to Provide Emphasis To a Specific Point


    Pausing after we have made an important point in our speech helps to provide emphasis to the point that we have just made.  It forces the audience to reflect on the importance of the point, instead of rushing to catch up with our speech if we had continued on.   As an illustration,


    “But, Ladies & Gentlemen, in today’s increasingly competitive economic environment, do you realize that one in every three of us in this room can expect to be retrenched within the next 5 years! … …


    Here, a pause after a startling statement has been made will add emphasis to the point, and allow the audience some time to reflect on the statement, and actually feel the significance of it.

  4. When Posing the Audience a Series of Rhetorical Questions  

    If we ask the audience a series of rhetorical questions during our speech, our intention must be for the audience to answer these questions internally to themselves to lead them to the point that we want to emphasize in our speech.  It is therefore important that when we posed the audience a series of rhetorical questions, we should pause after each question to allow the audience some time to reflect on the questions.  Not doing so will leave the audience frustrated or confused, and defeat the purpose of asking these rhetorical questions.  This mistake is common among some speakers who went on to ask a series of rhetorical questions in their speeches without pauses.  As an illustration,

    “What is most important to you in life? … … Suppose you were told by your doctor tomorrow that you have only three more months to live, is that project that you have been working on till late nights everyday for the past few months, while neglecting your family, still important to you? … … So, Ladies & Gentlemen, the next time your rush around, stop to ask yourself “What Am I Rushing For?” ……”

    Here, the silence pause after each question will allow the audience some time to reflect on the questions asked, and lead them to the main message in your speech, which in this instance, is about being clear on our goals in life.



Now that you have a better understanding of the importance of silent pauses, and when to use silent pauses, practice using them in your future speeches.  Make it a habit to speak slowly, and pause in silence frequently as you speak.




  • Pause to Gather your Thoughts


  • Pause to Allow your Audience Time to Digest your Message


  • Pause for Transition between the Main Points in your Speech
  • Pause for Emphasis on your Critical Points


  • Pause to Allow the Audience to Reflect on your Rhetorical Questions, and finally,



  • Pause to Add to your Overall Effectiveness as a Speaker








Note: Reworded from a Speech of the Same Title by Alfred Pua, ATM-B





Never Use A Paragraph

I can hold my hands up and admit that I struggle to keep to this!
Time is the most important commodity in your life.
You wouldn’t purposely walk around the block just to go next door…so make sure that you don’t try to do the same
when you are communicating with other people.
Whether you like it or not…everyone prefers the sound of their own voice instead of yours. Don’t speak in single syllables…but just make sure that you GET TO THE POINT!
Action Point:
In what ways can you be more economical with your
We are bombarded with more messages than ever before…and people are becoming more and more aware that they should filter out the non-essential ones…in whatever form they are.
Make sure that are concise, precise, and accurate…and you will stand much more chance of being heard (or read).
From http://www.oursuccesspartnership.com/
An E-Course for a Happy and Successful Future Lesson 73 – Never Use A Paragraph When A Sentence Will Do

George Orwell’s view on the English language.

Preamble:  More famously known as the author of a the two books “Animal Farm” and”  “1984”, George Orwell had also provided insightful–yet somewhat thought-provoking–views of the English language.


Below is his seminal article on the use of English Language ,written in 1946.  Although some of the issues he mentioned could be considered anachronistic and paranoiac (which I think is his signature style), this article is still a good-read to all (wannabes like me…hee) who want to sharpen their writing and speech-crafting skills.





Politics and the English Language


Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civilization is decadent and our language — so the argument runs — must inevitably share in the general collapse. It follows that any struggle against the abuse of language is a sentimental archaism, like preferring candles to electric light or hansom cabs to aeroplanes. Underneath this lies the half-conscious belief that language is a natural growth and not an instrument which we shape for our own purposes.

Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers. I will come back to this presently, and I hope that by that time the meaning of what I have said here will have become clearer. Meanwhile, here are five specimens of the English language as it is now habitually written.

These five passages have not been picked out because they are especially bad — I could have quoted far worse if I had chosen — but because they illustrate various of the mental vices from which we now suffer. They are a little below the average, but are fairly representative examples. I number them so that I can refer back to them when necessary:

  1. I am not, indeed, sure whether it is not true to say that the Milton who once seemed not unlike a seventeenth-century Shelley had not become, out of an experience ever more bitter in each year, more alien [sic] to the founder of that Jesuit sect which nothing could induce him to tolerate. 

    Professor Harold Laski
    (Essay in Freedom of Expression )

  2. Above all, we cannot play ducks and drakes with a native battery of idioms which prescribes egregious collocations of vocables as the Basic put up with for tolerate , or put at a loss forbewilder

    Professor Lancelot Hogben (Interglossia )

  3. On the one side we have the free personality: by definition it is not neurotic, for it has neither conflict nor dream. Its desires, such as they are, are transparent, for they are just what institutional approval keeps in the forefront of consciousness; another institutional pattern would alter their number and intensity; there is little in them that is natural, irreducible, or culturally dangerous. But on the other side ,the social bond itself is nothing but the mutual reflection of these self-secure integrities. Recall the definition of love. Is not this the very picture of a small academic? Where is there a place in this hall of mirrors for either personality or fraternity? 

    Essay on psychology in Politics (New York )

  4. All the “best people” from the gentlemen’s clubs, and all the frantic fascist captains, united in common hatred of Socialism and bestial horror at the rising tide of the mass revolutionary movement, have turned to acts of provocation, to foul incendiarism, to medieval legends of poisoned wells, to legalize their own destruction of proletarian organizations, and rouse the agitated petty-bourgeoise to chauvinistic fervor on behalf of the fight against the revolutionary way out of the crisis. 

    Communist pamphlet

  5. If a new spirit is to be infused into this old country, there is one thorny and contentious reform which must be tackled, and that is the humanization and galvanization of the B.B.C. Timidity here will bespeak canker and atrophy of the soul. The heart of Britain may be sound and of strong beat, for instance, but the British lion’s roar at present is like that of Bottom in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream — as gentle as any sucking dove. A virile new Britain cannot continue indefinitely to be traduced in the eyes or rather ears, of the world by the effete languors of Langham Place, brazenly masquerading as “standard English.” When the Voice of Britain is heard at nine o’clock, better far and infinitely less ludicrous to hear aitches honestly dropped than the present priggish, inflated, inhibited, school-ma’amish arch braying of blameless bashful mewing maidens! 

    Letter in Tribune

Each of these passages has faults of its own, but, quite apart from avoidable ugliness, two qualities are common to all of them. The first is staleness of imagery; the other is lack of precision. The writer either has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything or not. This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose, and especially of any kind of political writing. As soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed: prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated henhouse. I list below, with notes and examples, various of the tricks by means of which the work of prose construction is habitually dodged:

Dying metaphors. A newly invented metaphor assists thought by evoking a visual image, while on the other hand a metaphor which is technically “dead” (e.g. iron resolution ) has in effect reverted to being an ordinary word and can generally be used without loss of vividness. But in between these two classes there is a huge dump of worn-out metaphors which have lost all evocative power and are merely used because they save people the trouble of inventing phrases for themselves. Examples are: Ring the changes on, take up the cudgel for, toe the line, ride roughshod over, stand shoulder to shoulder with, play into the hands of, no axe to grind, grist to the mill, fishing in troubled waters, on the order of the day, Achilles’ heel, swan song, hotbed . Many of these are used without knowledge of their meaning (what is a “rift,” for instance?), and incompatible metaphors are frequently mixed, a sure sign that the writer is not interested in what he is saying. Some metaphors now current have been twisted out of their original meaning withouth those who use them even being aware of the fact. For example, toe the line is sometimes written as tow the line . Another example is the hammer and the anvil , now always used with the implication that the anvil gets the worst of it. In real life it is always the anvil that breaks the hammer, never the other way about: a writer who stopped to think what he was saying would avoid perverting the original phrase.

Operators or verbal false limbs. These save the trouble of picking out appropriate verbs and nouns, and at the same time pad each sentence with extra syllables which give it an appearance of symmetry. Characteristic phrases are render inoperative, militate against, make contact with, be subjected to, give rise to, give grounds for, have the effect of, play a leading part (role) in, make itself felt, take effect, exhibit a tendency to, serve the purpose of, etc.,etc . The keynote is the elimination of simple verbs. Instead of being a single word, such asbreak, stop, spoil, mend, kill , a verb becomes a phrase , made up of a noun or adjective tacked on to some general-purpose verb such asprove, serve, form, play, render . In addition, the passive voice is wherever possible used in preference to the active, and noun constructions are used instead of gerunds (by examination of instead of by examining ). The range of verbs is further cut down by means of the -ize and de- formations, and the banal statements are given an appearance of profundity by means of the not un- formation. Simple conjunctions and prepositions are replaced by such phrases as with respect to, having regard to, the fact that, by dint of, in view of, in the interests of, on the hypothesis that ; and the ends of sentences are saved by anticlimax by such resounding commonplaces as greatly to be desired, cannot be left out of account, a development to be expected in the near future, deserving of serious consideration, brought to a satisfactory conclusion , and so on and so forth.

Pretentious diction. Words like phenomenon, element, individual (as noun), objective, categorical, effective, virtual, basic, primary, promote, constitute, exhibit, exploit, utilize, eliminate, liquidate , are used to dress up a simple statement and give an aire of scientific impartiality to biased judgements. Adjectives like epoch-making, epic, historic, unforgettable, triumphant, age-old, inevitable, inexorable, veritable , are used to dignify the sordid process of international politics, while writing that aims at glorifying war usually takes on an archaic color, its characteristic words being: realm, throne, chariot, mailed fist, trident, sword, shield, buckler, banner, jackboot, clarion . Foreign words and expressions such as cul de sac, ancien r&eacutgime, deus ex machina, mutatis mutandis, status quo, gleichschaltung, weltanschauung , are used to give an air of culture and elegance. Except for the useful abbreviations i.e., e.g. , and etc. , there is no real need for any of the hundreds of foreign phrases now current in the English language. Bad writers, and especially scientific, political, and sociological writers, are nearly always haunted by the notion that Latin or Greek words are grander than Saxon ones, and unnecessary words like expedite, ameliorate, predict, extraneous, deracinated, clandestine, subaqueous , and hundreds of others constantly gain ground from their Anglo-Saxon numbers. The jargon peculiar to Marxist writing (hyena, hangman, cannibal, petty bourgeois, these gentry, lackey, flunkey, mad dog, White Guard , etc.) consists largely of words translated from Russian, German, or French; but the normal way of coining a new word is to use Latin or Greek root with the appropriate affix and, where necessary, the size formation. It is often easier to make up words of this kind (deregionalize, impermissible, extramarital, non-fragmentaryand so forth) than to think up the English words that will cover one’s meaning. The result, in general, is an increase in slovenliness and vagueness.

Meaningless words. In certain kinds of writing, particularly in art criticism and literary criticism, it is normal to come across long passages which are almost completely lacking in meaning. Words likeromantic, plastic, values, human, dead, sentimental, natural, vitality , as used in art criticism, are strictly meaningless, in the sense that they not only do not point to any discoverable object, but are hardly ever expected to do so by the reader. When one critic writes, “The outstanding feature of Mr. X’s work is its living quality,” while another writes, “The immediately striking thing about Mr. X’s work is its peculiar deadness,” the reader accepts this as a simple difference opinion. If words like black and white were involved, instead of the jargon words dead and living, he would see at once that language was being used in an improper way. Many political words are similarly abused. The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies “something not desirable.” The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice have each of them several different meanings which cannot be reconciled with one another. In the case of a word like democracy, not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using that word if it were tied down to any one meaning. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different. Statements like Marshal Petain was a true patriot, The Soviet press is the freest in the world, The Catholic Church is opposed to persecution, are almost always made with intent to deceive. Other words used in variable meanings, in most cases more or less dishonestly, are: class, totalitarian, science, progressive, reactionary, bourgeois, equality.

Now that I have made this catalogue of swindles and perversions, let me give another example of the kind of writing that they lead to. This time it must of its nature be an imaginary one. I am going to translate a passage of good English into modern English of the worst sort. Here is a well-known verse from Ecclesiastes:

I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

Here it is in modern English:

Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.

This is a parody, but not a very gross one. Exhibit (3) above, for instance, contains several patches of the same kind of English. It will be seen that I have not made a full translation. The beginning and ending of the sentence follow the original meaning fairly closely, but in the middle the concrete illustrations — race, battle, bread — dissolve into the vague phrases “success or failure in competitive activities.” This had to be so, because no modern writer of the kind I am discussing — no one capable of using phrases like “objective considerations of contemporary phenomena” — would ever tabulate his thoughts in that precise and detailed way. The whole tendency of modern prose is away from concreteness. Now analyze these two sentences a little more closely. The first contains forty-nine words but only sixty syllables, and all its words are those of everyday life. The second contains thirty-eight words of ninety syllables: eighteen of those words are from Latin roots, and one from Greek. The first sentence contains six vivid images, and only one phrase (“time and chance”) that could be called vague. The second contains not a single fresh, arresting phrase, and in spite of its ninety syllables it gives only a shortened version of the meaning contained in the first. Yet without a doubt it is the second kind of sentence that is gaining ground in modern English. I do not want to exaggerate. This kind of writing is not yet universal, and outcrops of simplicity will occur here and there in the worst-written page. Still, if you or I were told to write a few lines on the uncertainty of human fortunes, we should probably come much nearer to my imaginary sentence than to the one fromEcclesiastes. As I have tried to show, modern writing at its worst does not consist in picking out words for the sake of their meaning and inventing images in order to make the meaning clearer. It consists in gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug. The attraction of this way of writing is that it is easy. It is easier — even quicker, once you have the habit — to say In my opinion it is not an unjustifiable assumption that than to say I think. If you use ready-made phrases, you not only don’t have to hunt about for the words; you also don’t have to bother with the rhythms of your sentences since these phrases are generally so arranged as to be more or less euphonious. When you are composing in a hurry — when you are dictating to a stenographer, for instance, or making a public speech — it is natural to fall into a pretentious, Latinized style. Tags like a consideration which we should do well to bear in mind or a conclusion to which all of us would readily assent will save many a sentence from coming down with a bump. By using stale metaphors, similes, and idioms, you save much mental effort, at the cost of leaving your meaning vague, not only for your reader but for yourself. This is the significance of mixed metaphors. The sole aim of a metaphor is to call up a visual image. When these images clash — as in The Fascist octopus has sung its swan song, the jackboot is thrown into the melting pot — it can be taken as certain that the writer is not seeing a mental image of the objects he is naming; in other words he is not really thinking. Look again at the examples I gave at the beginning of this essay. Professor Laski (1) uses five negatives in fifty three words. One of these is superfluous, making nonsense of the whole passage, and in addition there is the slip — alien for akin — making further nonsense, and several avoidable pieces of clumsiness which increase the general vagueness. Professor Hogben (2) plays ducks and drakes with a battery which is able to write prescriptions, and, while disapproving of the everyday phrase put up with, is unwilling to look egregious up in the dictionary and see what it means; (3), if one takes an uncharitable attitude towards it, is simply meaningless: probably one could work out its intended meaning by reading the whole of the article in which it occurs. In (4), the writer knows more or less what he wants to say, but an ac*****ulation of stale phrases chokes him like tea leaves blocking a sink. In (5), words and meaning have almost parted company. People who write in this manner usually have a general emotional meaning — they dislike one thing and want to express solidarity with another — but they are not interested in the detail of what they are saying. A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus:

  1. What am I trying to say?
  2. What words will express it?
  3. What image or idiom will make it clearer?
  4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?

And he will probably ask himself two more:

  1. Could I put it more shortly?
  2. Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?

But you are not obliged to go to all this trouble. You can shirk it by simply throwing your mind open and letting the ready-made phrases come crowding in. The will construct your sentences for you — even think your thoughts for you, to a certain extent — and at need they will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning even from yourself. It is at this point that the special connection between politics and the debasement of language becomes clear.

In our time it is broadly true that political writing is bad writing. Where it is not true, it will generally be found that the writer is some kind of rebel, expressing his private opinions and not a “party line.” Orthodoxy, of whatever color, seems to demand a lifeless, imitative style. The political dialects to be found in pamphlets, leading articles, manifestoes, White papers and the speeches of undersecretaries do, of course, vary from party to party, but they are all alike in that one almost never finds in them a fresh, vivid, homemade turn of speech. When one watches some tired hack on the platform mechanically repeating the familiar phrases — bestial, atrocities, iron heel, bloodstained tyranny, free peoples of the world, stand shoulder to shoulder — one often has a curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy: a feeling which suddenly becomes stronger at moments when the light catches the speaker’s spectacles and turns them into blank discs which seem to have no eyes behind them. And this is not altogether fanciful. A speaker who uses that kind of phraseology has gone some distance toward turning himself into a machine. The appropriate noises are coming out of his larynx, but his brain is not involved as it would be if he were choosing his words for himself. If the speech he is making is one that he is accustomed to make over and over again, he may be almost unconscious of what he is saying, as one is when one utters the responses in church. And this reduced state of consciousness, if not indispensable, is at any rate favorable to political conformity.

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism., question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is calledpacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them. Consider for instance some comfortable English professor defending Russian totalitarianism. He cannot say outright, “I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so.” Probably, therefore, he will say something like this:

While freely conceding that the Soviet regime exhibits certain features which the humanitarian may be inclined to deplore, we must, I think, agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods, and that the rigors which the Russian people have been called upon to undergo have been amply justified in the sphere of concrete achievement.

The inflated style itself is a kind of euphemism. A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as “keeping out of politics.” All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer. I should expect to find — this is a guess which I have not sufficient knowledge to verify — that the German, Russian and Italian languages have all deteriorated in the last ten or fifteen years, as a result of dictatorship.

But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation even among people who should and do know better. The debased language that I have been discussing is in some ways very convenient. Phrases like a not unjustifiable assumption, leaves much to be desired, would serve no good purpose, a consideration which we should do well to bear in mind, are a continuous temptation, a packet of aspirins always at one’s elbow. Look back through this essay, and for certain you will find that I have again and again committed the very faults I am protesting against. By this morning’s post I have received a pamphlet dealing with conditions in Germany. The author tells me that he “felt impelled” to write it. I open it at random, and here is almost the first sentence I see: “[The Allies] have an opportunity not only of achieving a radical transformation of Germany’s social and political structure in such a way as to avoid a nationalistic reaction in Germany itself, but at the same time of laying the foundations of a co-operative and unified Europe.” You see, he “feels impelled” to write — feels, presumably, that he has something new to say — and yet his words, like cavalry horses answering the bugle, group themselves automatically into the familiar dreary pattern. This invasion of one’s mind by ready-made phrases ( lay the foundations, achieve a radical transformation ) can only be prevented if one is constantly on guard against them, and every such phrase anaesthetizes a portion of one’s brain.

I said earlier that the decadence of our language is probably curable. Those who deny this would argue, if they produced an argument at all, that language merely reflects existing social conditions, and that we cannot influence its development by any direct tinkering with words and constructions. So far as the general tone or spirit of a language goes, this may be true, but it is not true in detail. Silly words and expressions have often disappeared, not through any evolutionary process but owing to the conscious action of a minority. Two recent examples were explore every avenue and leave no stone unturned , which were killed by the jeers of a few journalists. There is a long list of flyblown metaphors which could similarly be got rid of if enough people would interest themselves in the job; and it should also be possible to laugh the not un- formation out of existence, to reduce the amount of Latin and Greek in the average sentence, to drive out foreign phrases and strayed scientific words, and, in general, to make pretentiousness unfashionable. But all these are minor points. The defense of the English language implies more than this, and perhaps it is best to start by saying what it does not imply.

To begin with it has nothing to do with archaism, with the salvaging of obsolete words and turns of speech, or with the setting up of a “standard English” which must never be departed from. On the contrary, it is especially concerned with the scrapping of every word or idiom which has outworn its usefulness. It has nothing to do with correct grammar and syntax, which are of no importance so long as one makes one’s meaning clear, or with the avoidance of Americanisms, or with having what is called a “good prose style.” On the other hand, it is not concerned with fake simplicity and the attempt to make written English colloquial. Nor does it even imply in every case preferring the Saxon word to the Latin one, though it does imply using the fewest and shortest words that will cover one’s meaning. What is above all needed is to let the meaning choose the word, and not the other way around. In prose, the worst thing one can do with words is surrender to them. When yo think of a concrete object, you think wordlessly, and then, if you want to describe the thing you have been visualizing you probably hunt about until you find the exact words that seem to fit it. When you think of something abstract you are more inclined to use words from the start, and unless you make a conscious effort to prevent it, the existing dialect will come rushing in and do the job for you, at the expense of blurring or even changing your meaning. Probably it is better to put off using words as long as possible and get one’s meaning as clear as one can through pictures and sensations. Afterward one can choose — not simplyaccept — the phrases that will best cover the meaning, and then switch round and decide what impressions one’s words are likely to mak on another person. This last effort of the mind cuts out all stale or mixed images, all prefabricated phrases, needless repetitions, and humbug and vagueness generally. But one can often be in doubt about the effect of a word or a phrase, and one needs rules that one can rely on when instinct fails. I think the following rules will cover most cases:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

These rules sound elementary, and so they are, but they demand a deep change of attitude in anyone who has grown used to writing in the style now fashionable. One could keep all of them and still write bad English, but one could not write the kind of stuff that I quoted in those five specimens at the beginning of this article.

I have not here been considering the literary use of language, but merely language as an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought. Stuart Chase and others have come near to claiming that all abstract words are meaningless, and have used this as a pretext for advocating a kind of political quietism. Since you don’t know what Fascism is, how can you struggle against Fascism? One need not swallow such absurdities as this, but one ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end. If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy. You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make a stupid remark its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself. Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one’s own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase — some jackboot, Achilles’ heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno, or other lump of verbal refuse — into the dustbin, where it belongs.




Pass It On


Good afternoon, fellow toastmasters and distinguished guests,


Once again, we are in good company today, listening to fabulous speeches, learning from one another, and striving to improve. We the toastmasters are truly unique. Never before, have I seen a more conducive climate for growth, where everyone mutually support one another along the road to excellence… mutual encouragement… mutual evaluation… mutual appreciation. This is the perfect place, laboratory with all the vitamins we need for growth.

When I first step into Tampines Regional Library Toastmasters Club, I have found myself in a welcoming environment. Chiun How and Tan Bin nudge me to try out the table topics. I tried and joined the club on my very first day. Eng Lye, my mentor, guided my on the do’s and don’ts of the club, gave me tips on speeches. She had also advised me to write evaluation notes for fellow members. I followed this advice diligently, not knowing the significance it holds, until only recently.


3 weeks ago, on 17 Oct, Friday, I took part in organising a charity campfire at Gracehaven with colleagues from my company UPS. Gracehaven is a home for homeless teens. Some of them abandoned by their parents, some victims of rape cases, some dimwits and problem child. It was truly a meaningful event, bringing them food and fun. At the same time, I also realized that how in need some of them are. Not only in material, but also in companionship, confidence, and communication skills. They have potential, but like us before we join toastmasters club, need a mean to draw out their potential.


How many others out there are in need of development, in communication, in leadership? I do not know, but there are many. As a person who stammer since young, from primary school to college, I know how it feels when one is not able to express …. Frustration.. and fearful.  But fortunately, given the opportunity, courage and knowledge, anyone can acquire the ability to express.


One thing I understand about knowledge is that its free. It just take one to freely give and the other to freely receive. Knowledge is in abundance and does not deplete, but gain in depth with sharing. I am honored to know of toastmasters who selflessly share their knowledge and gives their time and effort to help others without asking anything in return. Richard Sng – he helped to setup and mentor several toastmasters clubs in Singapore; Tony Phee- Serve as coordinator during the speechcraft program, share his experience, and now serving all of us as Area S2 governor. The true spirit of giving and sharing, is around us.


Agent Smith, the anti-hero in the movie “Matrix”, said “Man is a virus in this world. He only keeps consuming and destroying”.  He is right. But he failed to see that man has the same capacity to give and to share. We have the choice to exercise this capacity. By taking experience and knowledge, we learn and grow; But assuming a strength is itself meaningless, unless we apply it to a worthy cause. By sharing our gifts, or applying them in meaningful service (e.g. story telling, persuasion, inspiring others), we manifest our humanity and strengthen our spirituality… We make a difference to those whom accept our gifts, to our community. We become principled leaders and adds meanings to our living.


The habit of giving can starts small, and it needs practice. There is no better time to start than now. Less experienced members can share voice of encouragement and sincere evaluations with fellow members, write down in notes and pass to them, it will be appreciated;  experienced members can help to mentor new members and coach the less experienced ones; Accomplished members can help to start new clubs, or take on projects to bring development to our community. Speechcrafts, workshops, gavel clubs,… these are ways which we can contribute, as toastmasters.


I dream that with sincerity, conviction and righteousness, toastmasters make a difference to many others who are in needs

I dream that with selfless desire to serve, toastmasters contribute to the development of our community, and ask nothing more in return.

I dream that all of us here in this room will become virtuous leaders of tomorrow, the stars of the future.


Join me, and share this dream.


Wonder Woman

I’m a wonder woman. Let me show you how a wonder woman looks like.

“Hold it. Better not.”


Actually I bought a beautiful and sexy “wonder woman” suit. When I showed it to my husband, Tony and my club president, Ivan, they liked it. Especially Ivan, he was crazy about it. I wondered he was crazy for me, or for that suit. 

They both strongly advised me not to wear it. They were afraid that some men in our club would not be able to take it.

By the way, that sexy suit is kept with Ivan now. He loved it so much. I wondered why.

So, what is a wonder woman? A wonder woman is a woman wondering around, doing nothing.

Today, I’m sharing with you the TWO wonderful things happening in my wondering life.

First – my wonderful magic stone

When I was taking my driving test, my grandmother advised me to pick the first stone I saw on the floor, and put it in my pocket for good luck. My grandmother didn’t have a driving license. I wonder how she knew it.

On that day, when I stepped out of my house heading for the driving center… AHLAMA, the first stone I saw was so big, so rough and so ugly. I couldn’t even put it into my pocket. I had no choice, but to put it into a plastic bag and carried it with me.

When I was ready to take the test, I put the stone on my lap. The driving test instructor sitting next to me was looking very nervous. More nervous than I was. I wondered why.

There were many mistakes I made during the test. But, I passed with no point deducted.

It must be this wonderful magic stone! And … I kept it with me.

On my wedding day, I carried it in a plastic bag with me to my new home. When Tony saw it, his face turned pale. I wondered why. From that day onward, he becomes a very obedient husband. And I become a happy wonder woman.

Second – the wonderful tips of making baby

Let me go to the second wonderful thing – that is the wonderful tips of making baby.

When I became a Toastmaster, I fell in love with a silly looking, stupid face, and skinny Toastmaster. Oops, I think that was too harsh. Let me rephrase it, ‘I fell in love with a sweet looking, smooth face, and stunning Toastmaster. I wondered why I liked him. I wondered why he proposed to me. And, I wondered why I married to him.

Anyhow, whatever was done couldn’t be undone. Mistakes that I’ve made couldn’t be reversed. So, I decided to bear a baby for him. After many months of trying, still no luck. I had even tried the magic stone, but it couldn’t help.

A new member of our club shared with me a tip of making baby. Let’s not mention name… sensitive. Let’ just call him IVAN. He told me that to make a baby successfully, the temperature must be right – the temperature must be at higher than 37 deg. C. He didn’t even have a girl friend. I wondered how he knew it.

Without asking further, I quickly bought a thermometer. And, I used the thermometer everyday – to measure Tony’s temperature. I wondered why his temperature was always range 36.9 to 37 deg. C. after a few months of waiting, one day; his temperature was reading 39 deg. C.

Yes! I quickly prepared myself coupled with perfume, candlelight and music.

And I said to him, “Sexy.” That is Tony’s name. “This is the right time. Let’s do it.”

Tony looked at me from top to bottom, and he said, “No. This is not the right time. You’re hot, but I’m feeling cold.”

Without further explanation, he rushed into the other bedroom and he locked himself up. I wondered why.

I looked into the mirror, wondering. I looked at myself, thinking. And I asked myself, “Ok what. Why is he rejecting me?”

Three days later, he came out from the bedroom. He told me that was the SARS period that he had to quarantine himself.

Until today, I’m still waiting for his temperature to be right.

Ladies and Gentlemen: Although there are so many things I’m still wondering why and I’ve no answer to them, I’m still a happy person.

You don’t need to know everything to be a happy person. If you want to see wonderful things happening in your life, be like me – a wonder woman.

Note: Speech contributed by Rena Teow who participated in the TI Humorous Speech Contest 2003. For best effect, the speech should be delivered with an innocent look and a spouse who is a “sweet looking, smooth face and stunning Toastmaster”.


Personal Digital Assistant


Where do you keep the meeting schedules with your customers? How do you check the dates of your club’s meetings? When is your wife’s birthday? What number do I dial to locate my boss if I am unable to go to the office? Huh, what is the name and number of the photographer that you had in mind for your wedding dinner? You have given me some very good pointers which I would like to write down but where can I find the pen and papers? Where are the pieces of papers that I had written on?

In the past, people put the dates and time on the calendar. We also put friends’ names, telephone numbers as well as addresses in small booklets. We write in bits and pieces of papers which can be easily misplaced. In the corporate planner that we receive from our company or suppliers, we put our meeting schedules, notes and business contacts information. When there are changes, we had to cancel or use liquid correction fluid. It is very untidy.

Nowadays, you can see people using a device called Palm Pilot or Pocket PC that is a PDA.
What is a PDA? PDA stands for “Personal Digital Assistant”. They are used as a Personal Information Manager, or PIM in short, that has the same features of the corporate planner except that it had additional features like accessing emails, listening to MP3 music, surfing the net, etc.

In the past, I used to look for papers or post-pads so that I can take down my friends’ contacts numbers, email addresses and lunch appointments. My table and monitor screen will be full of post-pads and papers… One day, when I need to find some contact numbers, I couldn’t find it. A lot of appts are made with the users and I was unable to manage my time properly as most of the time, I do not have my corporate planner with me.

One day, on the bus, I realized that I need a device that I could carry around that is not bulky but come in handy. I can put it in my pocket and have the basic requirements like contact list, calendar, journal, appts, notes. I realized that there is a PDA device called Palm Pilot. One of the model – Palm IIIx catch my eyes as it had the requirements at an affordable price.

After using the Palm Pilot for almost 3 yrs, I decided that I need more features like keeping the format that I had created and saved. What doesn’t the Palm IIIx able to do? As it needs to convert to Palm readable format to the software that can be read and required to purchase additional software like “Do*****ents to Go ” which need to be install on the computer to convert the files.

After a few days of analyzing the information I had, I went down to Challenger at Funan the IT Mall to purchase a Pocket PC devices called HP (Compaq) IPAQ and buy additional add-on features like Dual sleeves that comes with additional battery and memory card like IBM Microdrive.

This PDA has a Windows Based interface and it had Pocket Word, Pocket Excel, Pocket Notepad, Pocket Outlook, Games, Windows Media Player to play music, a microphone for recording lectures and many other. Eventually, I had upgraded my IPAQ to a better one that is faster and brought accessories like Keyboard, Battery charger – which I can charge my battery anywhere anytime, a screen protector, GPS card that comes with the Singapore map. Not forgetting additional software that is popular for use like – Bus guide, Antivirus program, Pocket Slides and games.

In conclusion, having a PDA had changed my life in many ways and I become more organized with my schedules, more productive and save the environment by using less paper.

Why not consider getting a PDA for your needs?

Impossible and Improbable



‘Off With Her Head’ shouted the Queen of Hearts from ‘Alice in Wonderland’ 

I had accidently wondered into the mirror with Alice, when we came upon the Queen of Hearts. The Queen wanted to play bridge with me. I told her I hated the game, plus it was very boring. 

‘Off With Her Head’, the Queen yelled. 

I was suddenly surrounded with soldiers and marched off for execution. 

The Joker ran quickly for the King of Hearts. 

The executioner raised his axe. ‘Swish!’ Down it came! 

The King reached us and yelled ‘Stop! ‘ 

The executioner didn’t have Tiger Wood’s excellent reflex action. Up came the axe but he had touched my neck. The reflex action was one second too slow. The sharp axe left a 
6 cm by 1 mm cut on my neck (Tiger Woods would have done better). 


My office is in Geylang Road. The Red Light district, so I am told, is just 50 meters ahead. There is a condo at the back of my office block that has lots of foreigners. 

One early morning, as usual, I took the short cut through the back. When suddenly a foreign man rushed out of the gate with the police in hot pursuit. 

He saw me. Caught hold of me. Put his sharp knife on my neck and told the police to back off or he will slice my throat from ear to ear. 

All stopped and slowly backed-off. Unknown to the foreigner, there was a police sniper behind us. The rifle rose. The sniper took aim. ‘Kapow!’ The bullet went straight into the man’s head. 

It was a reaction but his hand moved. The knife sliced the side of my neck. The medic rushed to stop me bleeding like a sliced plucked chicken. I was sent to the hospital to be stitched up. 

Beware! The Storyteller!

Note: The impossible and improbable stories for the scar on June’s neck. Ouch!!

E. C. F. -1st Runners Up Speech

“Good afternoon, aunty! Can I help you?”

I turned back to check who he was addressing. No one was behind me. I realised he was addressing me! He called me Aunty! A young savvy Salesman just called me Aunty! I’m devastated. Was all the effort and money spent wasted? Was all the work for nothing?


Mr. Chairman, Fellow Toastmasters, Ladies & Gentleman. 

I’ve done all the necessaries to look young with the ECF formula 

E is for Exercise – I vigilantly exercise every day. 

C is for Colour – I colour my hair to the correct tone. 

F is for Fashion – I keep up to date with fashion. 

Yet that young man called me Aunty! 

E is for Exercise.

See these muscles! (show muscles). I am strong. Am I not? 

I even managed to play 18 holes of golf during the weekends. They say you don’t play golf to keep fit. You have to be fit to play golf. 

That is why I joined a California gym. They have these big wide display windows to show everyone that you are exercising. 

I’d put on a snazzy blouse. Tight short shorts. Expensive gym shoes. 

Then I’d jump onto the treadmill and start to brisk walk. 

For company, I’d bring my mechanical dog ‘Spot’ to brisk walk with me.

If Spot would talk, we’d have this conversation: 

June: Hey look Spot! Everyone’s looking at us.

Spot: Woof! They’re not looking at you. They’re looking at me.

June: Alright. We’ll have a bet. I’ll put you off the treadmill. Let’s see who’s watching whom.

I start walking without Spot. Humm. No one is looking. Wait a minute! Here comes a guy. 

Guy: Hi I’m Gay!

June: Gay! Oh dear, I’m not!

Guy: No! No! You don’t understand! My name is Gea Ban Peng. Tell me Miss, where did you buy your dog. I would like to buy one for myself.

June: Come on back Spot. It looks like they’re only interested in you.

E is for EXERCISE. 

C is for Colour

Our family genes always gave us white streaks in our hair. In the old day’s I had to visit a salon to do my hair. But now-a-days, we just buy a bottle of hair dye from Guardian. Your problem is solved. 

Last Chinese New Year I decided to be a Redhead. It was a hot sunny day. I was walking down the road towards my grandmother’s house. My grandmother saw me. Gave a shriek and rushed to the gate of her house. On the way she grabbed a jar of orange-ade my aunt was using to pour drinks for the guests. As I opened the gate, Grandma, poured the whole jar of the orange on my head. 

June: Ah Ma! What are you doing?

Granny: Ah Girl. The sun is so hot. Your hair is on fire.

Next, I decided to be a blond. I went to my granny’s house again. Granny arranged for me to meet a matchmaker. 

After the introductions, the matchmaker looked at me and said. Wah! So many white hair. Not to worry! I have the match for you. He’s 90 years old but he can still perform.

June: Perform! You mean he can play golf?

I think I better stick to my natural colour (Don’t you?) (Turn round to show hair) 

C is for COLOUR. 

F is for Fashion.

I was a little worried about wearing the cheongsum. 

I may look out of date and old fashion. 

I decided to consult a famous fashion designer, Mr. Yves Saint Laurent (YSL). 

He looked at my cheongsum and said, ‘Why don’t you keep on wearing the cheongsum, June. It suits you. What we can do is update it.’

Let’s first get rid of the sleeves (tearing sleeves action) 

Let’s get throw away the fussy button and put one zip at the back only. (throw buttons & turn round to show zipper). ‘What you’d have is a classic A-line dress’ (show A-line) except it changed to an 8-line dress (show figure ‘8’) 

Mr YSL, also told my tailor to make my collar 50% less. 

To my tailor, 50% is only one collar out of two. 

F is for Fashion.

Exercise. Colour. Fashion.

Yet a young man called me Aunty! 

Last week, I went into the store again. A 20’ish young lady was standing at the counter being served. She had copper streaks in her hair. Bicycle shorts to show off her properly primped leg muscels. A figure hugging, mid-driftless tee shirt. 

The young man said. ‘ Thank you very much Aunty!’

I was curious and asked him why he called the young lady Aunty. 

He told me he called all his customers, Aunty!
Aunty is a term used by some people out of respect. 
Aunty is also a term to use if you do not know that person’s name 

I told him, “You can call me Aunty, anytime!”

But please, don’t call me Ah Soh!

“Ah Soh?” 

Note: Contest speech contributed by “Aunty” June Oh who participated in the TI Humorous Speech Contest 2003. She was 1st runner-up in TRL TMC’s contest and emerged Champion in both Brilliant Advanced TMC and Area Z1 contests. She finally settled for 1st runner-up in the Division Z Contest. For excellent effect, the speech should be delivered with a very good imaginary friend, a versatile coloured crown and the courage to strip!


A Little Secret of Mine

Good afternoon ladies and gentleman, I used to be very very shy. When a handsome guy talks to me, I will blush; my heart beat increases, and I will become very slow in response. This has brought me an extraordinary experience.

10 years ago, the most handsome boy in my secondary school said to me, “Yun Ling, you are so cute, would you like to go out with me?” My eyes grew bigger, my heart beats faster, and my mouth was wide-opened for 1 hour. He could not wait any longer and thought I turned him down. After that, there was a rumour in the school, YunLing is a lesbian. I was deeply hurt that time and I told myself that I will never talk to a handsome guy again.



Later, I moved on to Pre-Unviersity, thinking that the lesbian rumour will not follow me any longer. Therefore, I happily advertised myself as a SARS, which means single and really sweet. This worked. A lot of guys queue up just to bring me out. As I was still a bit phobia of handsome guys, I rejected them. Until one day, a guy who has Tom cruise eyes, Keauno Reeve face, Arnold’s body, approached me. My face blushed, my heart beat faster, my eyes grew bigger, and my mouth was wide-opened for 1 min. Heh, I improved liaoz ….. I reply immediately, YES YES YES, I want to be your girl friend. After that, we were publicly announced as couples. For the following 3 months, he never bought me gifts, not even tupper ware. He never invited me for movie, not even Phua Chu Kang. He never brought me out for dinner, not even “chao kuey teow”. I found that it was a bit abnormal. Thus, in order to make him jealous, I told him that there were still some more guys after me. He replied, “oh really? There are also a lot of guys after me too. I’m a gay.” He continued, “I know you are a lesbian, the purpose for you to get a boy friend is to hide your true identity. Right? I think this is a brilliant idea, thus, I also want to be with you so that I can hide my true identity.”

I was devastated. I swear to myself that, I will never never get a handsome boy friend anymore.

Time passes, I have remained as a SARS for many years. You know, people taste changes when grow older. Me too. As I have been avoiding handsome guys all these while, my tastes changed. All my friends said that I have weird taste now. Perhaps they are right.

Last year, my friend introduced me to attend Tampines Regional Library Toastmaster club meeting. When I first saw Tony delivering his speech, my face blushed, my heart beat faster, my eyes grew bigger, and my mouth was wide-opened for 1 sec only. Heh, I have improved tremendously over the years. I turned to Ivan who was just standing beside me and said, “ Heh, Tony is so handsome.” Ivan gave me a unbelievable look and replied,” are you sure? Can not be lah. ….. Seow Mei told me that I’m the most handsome guy in our club.”


I examined Ivan for a while, and then said, “hm…. Perhaps, Seow Mei eyes got stamp lah…” Ivan was so angry that, he shouted at me, “Your eyes are full of stamps….” Wow, I know I’m not alone, because there is one more lady here whose eyes are full of stamps. That is, Rena.


Note: Contest speech contributed by Teh Yun Ling who shared her intimate story in the TRL TMC’s Humorous Speech Contest 2003. She won the 2nd runner-up in the contest.