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Search and destroy these Top 10 trouble spots

Your mission as a Toastmaster is to find as many sloppy, lazy and boring words as possible in your speech. After you find these trouble spots, eliminate them. Editing can transform a so-so speech into an effective, well-rounded presentation.

Think of editing as a challenge. Like a youngster playing with a video game, you can search and destroy with your red pen or pencil. If you've composed your speech on a word processor, try using your software's "find" feature to help locate trouble spots. Then zap them into oblivion with a touch of a key.

All of the following items contribute to poor communication and need to be destroyed. So grab those speeches and begin your mission!

1 Excessive use of punctuation. Sometimes the use of exclamation points, underlining, italics and the like create emotion that the words themselves lack. Try rewriting, using more powerful words to say what you mean.

2 The word "that." Read the sentence without it. Usually the meaning will not be changed. For example, replace "Zapping trouble spots means that you'll have a better speech" with "Zapping trouble spots means you'll have a better speech."

3 The overused "I." Beginning too many sentences with "I" bores an audience. Remember, people love to hear their own names or references to "you." As in, "You can master the universe if you follow this advice" - not "I have some advice I'd like to give."

4 Words that end in "- ly." It is wise to avoid adverbs, since they tend to make your speech bland. For a more vivid speech, describe the action. For example, instead of "The alien quietly took over the world," try "The alien oozed into each computer, gaining control over the world one terminal at a time."

5 Connectors. "And," "but," "then," "furthermore," "perhaps," "however," "because" are often used unnecessarily in speeches. Eliminate the connecting words and you'll have two strong sentences instead of one weak one.

6 Pronouns, such as "he," "hers," "theirs." When you're talking about more than one person or thing, pronouns tend to confuse. You know "she" is your mother's dog and not your mother, but your audience probably doesn't.

7 Overused, vague words like "rather," "thing," "lots," "quite a few," "stuff" and "some." These are often the sign of a lazy speech writer. Take the time to find more precise words. Get rid of the clutter.

8 Language that offends. Eliminate the obvious sexist or racist phrases, and choose words from your audience's point of view.

9 Long sentences. Short, descriptive sentences are more interesting for listeners than sentences that seem to run on forever, because those listening lose track of what you are saying before you get to the end of the sentence and therefore your point is lost somewhere among all those words. Simplify!

10 Sentences that begin with "there is" or "there are." Start speeches with an action verb and your listeners are more likely to pay attention.

By Jane_Downes

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