How to use beautiful language to engage your audience

Updated: Nov 1, 2018

There are many language devices that we can use in our speeches to engage our audiences. A magnetism exists in powerful sentences that attract audiences like moths to a flame.

English is a powerful language. Kai L. Chan, Distinguished Fellow at the INSEAD Innovation & Policy Initiative, conducted a statistical study where he examined the usage and effectiveness of languages across the globe. English ranked as number one.

Language is powerful. We need to make it an ally in our public speaking arsenal.

Three powerful methods of making our language richer

Today we’ll take a look at three literary devices that will engage our audiences and make them sit up and take notice.

Engage with alliteration

The first is alliteration. Alliteration is when we repeat the initial consonant sounds of words in rapid succession. For example, ‘you have demonstrated the depths of your desire.’ Another example would be, ‘We will work. We will win.’

A real life example of this comes from Barack Obama when he said in his Fort Worth memorial service speech,

‘They are part of the finest fighting force that the world has ever known.’

Engage with asyndeton

Another technique to engage our audience is that of asyndeton. This is when we deliberately omit conjunction words from a sentence.

What are conjunction words, I hear you say?

They’re those joining words that we use all the time like, ‘and’, ‘for’, ‘so’, ‘but’ etc.

For example, instead of saying, ‘We need family, neighbours and friends,’ we might say, ‘we need family, neighbours, friends.’

Again, we might say, ‘the car has fastened our lives, made long distance travel possible, and shortened the distance between us’ or we could shorten this with asyndeton by saying, ‘the car has fastened our lives, made long distance travel possible, shortened the distance between us.’

Federation Square Melbourne Victoria

A real life example comes from author Toni Morrison in her Nobel lecture. In this speech, she said,

Perhaps the achievement of Paradise was premature, a little hasty if no one could take the time to understand other languages, other views, other narratives.

Engage with tricolon

The third method we’ll look at today is the tricolon. Speakers have been using this since ancient times; we’ve already seen tricolons used on this page. It’s when we group things together in threes. Groups of three sound pleasing to the ear.

There are many, many examples of it. Here’s one from Dwight Eisenhower. In 1953, he said,

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

An example from Australian history comes from Prime Minister Paul Keating in 1992. When he spoke about the crimes committed against the original people of Australia, he said,

We committed the murders. We took the children from their mothers. We practised discrimination and exclusion. It was our ignorance and our prejudice.

When you’re next crafting a speech, think about how you craft your sentences. Think about these literary devices: alliteration, asyndeton, tricolon. Think about how you can enrich your presentation by enriching your language.

Maybe, one day, you’ll deliver a speech that will make its way into the history books.

Likable links: & New York Public Library


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