Public speaking: Problems & solutions


Monday, June 18, 2018

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Media houses and denominations are to blame for the gaffes — grammatical and especially pronunciation — their employees make because they do not provide the badly needed basic training in speech conventions and mastering pronunciation for them. Preachers and electronic media personnel especially, but executives generally, who must speak in public, need and deserve this training to satisfactorily perform this function, And it is available! Contact the Caribbean Graduate School of Theology.

I have heard too many hosts and guests on radio and television treating words like media, data, criteria and phenomena as if they are singular in number when they are all plural words and have different singular forms like medium, datum, criterion, and phenomenon.

In a TV commercial I hear the now popular mangling of respiratory as “respitory” and veterinary as “vetnary”. Though it may sound crazy, more words than you would assume beginning with an 'e' are pronounced as if they begin with an 'I'. A few examples are English, engineer, enfranchise, exhaustion, electricity, and electorate.

When to use 'less' as opposed to 'few' seems to be a problem for many. So, concerning the number of security personnel in certain areas we hear “there were less soldiers and police seen…” The basic rule is, if you can count the entity in question use few[er] if the entity is uncountable use less, so “there were fewer soldiers and police seen”. “There is less water in the dam now or there are fewer gallons of water in the dam now.”

Farther vs further is also problematic for some. I tell my students to use farther for physical distance and further for conceptual distance. For example, “Ms Green, let's take your argument a bit further and see where it leads,” or “I refuse to go one foot farther on this hike, I am dead beat and very hungry.”

Close proximity, I say again, (Mademoiselle BG) involves a redundancy because proximity is close. Ever heard of distant proximity? Church folk who lead worship need to avoid the redundant entreaty/command “stand to your feet” — as opposed to what, doing a hand stand? The simple, “Please stand” is good enough.

Now for a few tips that may not be known by many.

The expression for a repeated event is 'time and again' not 'time and time again'; 'when the boot is on the other foot' is the original for the now popular 'when the shoe is on the other foot', meaning when the tables are turned; it is really Pandora's jar not box!

Technically, Rev (short for reverend) must be followed by first and last name, not just by surname, otherwise you say the Rev Mr/Mrs/Ms followed by surname only. This can be quite cumbersome in speech and in writing, so you may get around this by calling the person Brother or Sister or Pastor (if the clergy person is a pastor. But bear in mind that not all clergy persons are pastors. I am no longer a pastor, but still a Reverend. The British convention for a clergy person with an earned doctorate (as opposed to an honorary one) is Dr the Rev, whereas the American styling is Rev Dr.

As I said earlier, training in these matters is available.

Rev Clinton Chisholm is academic dean at Caribbean Graduate School of Theology. Send comments to the Observer or

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