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Introduction

The phrase off the cuff is believed to have originated with waiters who were among the first to use their shirt cuffs as notepads to take orders or to calculate the tab. Hollywood directors were the next perpetrators of the practice, carrying notes to actors about the scene on their shirtsleeves.

Impromptu speaking has likewise become known as off the cuff. The speaker is pictured as hurriedly jotting down notes on his cardboard-starched shirt cuff during the meal and delivering them afterwards from an arm's-length note card.

When you think about it, almost every word we ever speak is spoken off the cuff, at a moment's notice, without anything but an intention. So, why a book on the subject?

The art of putting words together to communicate is something we are asked and expected to do on many occasions, from formal after-dinner speeches, wedding toasts, product presentations, and eulogies to informal opportunities such as news coverage with a media sound bite, a job interview, or an introduction of two friends. Knowing what to say and how to say it defines who we are, makes and breaks both friendships and careers, navigates you through office politics, and distinguishes you among your colleagues and competition. Speaking off the cuff can be learned and, with practice, perfected. It is just another arrow in your quiver of life skills.

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