How You Say Something Matters Just as Much as What You Say

 I have been in college for a year now and most of the classes I have taken have revolved around my major- journalism. While I have learned a lot of valuable tools, the one pro tip I have learned that I apply to my actual life is that the emphasis we place on words matters just as much as what we say. In the broadcast world we have to be very careful about the tone we use, the emphasis we place, and the pronunciation of words. Every word we use is a choice, a very carefully picked choice. A word with a negative connotation relating to a protest might make the audience feel negatively about protesters, even when they’re peaceful. My professors have made sure we are very aware about the words we use and the way in which we say them. Let me give you an example. Try saying the following sentences out loud but emphasize the bolded word. 

Example 1: 

I didn’t steal the cookies. 

I didn’t steal the cookies. 

I didn’t steal the cookies. 

I didn’t steal the cookies. 

I didn’t steal the cookies

In this example we see how different emphasis may be used in different scenarios or may imply different meaning. In the first example, the first line emphasizes that “I” didn’t steal the cookies, but someone else might have. The second line emphasizes that the person speaking in fact did not steal the cookies. The third line makes the listener question whether the person speaking did something else with the cookies. The fourth line emphasizes the subject being talked about, as if “the” cookies were something very special. And the final line emphasizes that the person speaking may have stolen something else. 

Now you may be wondering how this applies to your own life. If you find that someone is mad at you, but you can’t quite figure out what you said that made them upset, think about the way you emphasized your words. The words you said may not be the problem, the way you said it might be. Our words by themselves have little meaning, but the tone we put behind them does. 

Think about if you told someone, “I don’t love you,” vs. “I don’t love you.” While this difference may feel small. The first example implies the speaker is in love with someone else, and the second implies they just don’t feel love for their partner anymore. Our tone can reveal our intentions, whether we realize it or not. 

My least favorite part of my current job, reporting for a local radio station, is going pack and listening to my own voice in post production. But it is important that I listen to myself because a) I want to make sure I didn’t mispronounce a word and b) I want to check the emphasis on my words. Journalists are often thought of as impartial people who write stories. Journalists have opinions, but we often have to keep that out of our stories. If you’re reading a story or headline for broadcast, your emphasis can reveal your own biases. Journalists certainly have biases, we all do. But when we are informing hundreds or thousands of people about a news event, we must let them decide on their own how to feel about it. 

So whether you’re a journalist or someone looking to be a bit more self-aware, think about the emphasis and tone you put into your words. Remember, how you say something matters just as much as what you say.

Popular Posts