Some “very” good advice

Mark Twain once gave the following advice to writers:

Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very’; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.

American novelist and columnist Florence King was of the same opinion:

‘Very’ is the most useless word in the English language and can always come out. More than useless, it is treacherous because it invariably weakens what it is intended to strengthen.

Whether in writing or speaking, “very” is a good word to avoid. Yes, it has its place when used sparingly. The problem is that many people overuse “very”. It becomes a crutch. Even worse is the use of “really”, which is just a weak way of saying “very”. When you use weak modifiers all the time, your writing or speaking becomes weak.

How can you drop “very” but still emphasize an adjective? Simple; use a better adjective. Jennifer Frost has created an excellent infographic for Grammar Check that lists 147 words that you can use instead of “very”. She has invited me to share it with you. Continue reading

Posted in Grammar | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Quotes for Public Speakers (No. 248) – Elbert Hubbard

Elbert Hubbard (1856 - 1915) American Writer and Publisher

Elbert Hubbard (1856 – 1915) American Writer and Publisher

“To escape criticism: Do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.

— Elbert Hubbard

Posted in Quotes for Public Speakers | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Barack Obama’s Farewell Speech

Yesterday, 10 January 2017, President Barack Obama gave his farewell speech in Chicago. It is the end of an era. Obama brought intelligence, dignity and character to the White House.

As the first black President, Obama broke a barrier that seemed impenetrable not so long ago. In so doing, he not only faced a significant amount of racial hostility, he also had to contend with several spurious accusations, including those about his place of birth and religion. It is less than encouraging that one of the biggest promoters of those lies will be the next President of the United States.

Obama assumed office at a time when America was embroiled in two wars and the world was in the depths of a devastating recession. Throughout his mandate, he faced relentless opposition from the Republicans on most of his initiatives. There is nothing wrong with healthy opposition to ideas, but on many occasions, that opposition seemed more personal than substantive; more vindictive than constructive. To be sure, Obama was not a perfect President, but neither were his 43 predecessors. And his successor won’t be either. 

Obama delivered his farewell speech to a partisan crowd in his adopted city, so there was little doubt that he would receive a warm response. There were the expected references to the highlights of his Presidency and hopeful words about the US, but the overall tone was a cautionary one about the fragility of American. Whether Obama’s concerns for the future are founded or not, we will all find out soon enough.

The video of Obama’s speech is immediately below. Rather than analyze the speech as I often do by picking different parts for discussion, I have decided to give you the entire text. It follows the video. At various places, I have added my thoughts in [red]. Those comments refer to the text that comes immediately before.

Continue reading

Posted in Analysis of a Speech | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Happy New Year 2017 (and a new book!)

I want to wish all readers Happy New Year. I hope that 2017 is a happy, healthy and successful one for you and for those whom you hold dear.

If you are a regular visitor to this blog, you might have noticed that my stream of posts has recently dried to a trickle. In fact, my lack of writing is due to … the huge amount of writing that I have been doing over the last couple of months.

My friend and business partner, Florian Mueck and I have been working steadily—including many 12-hour days—on a book on public speaking for the German publishing house, Redline Verlag. We worked hard to meet an early January deadline from the publisher and we have met that deadline. There will be more work to do with the editor over the next two months, but the heavy lifting is now done.


The book, entitled The TED Effect (in German, Der TED-Effekt), will be published in March 2017. It will come out initially in German and we anticipate that it will be released in English later in the year.

Florian and I are excited to share our book with you. If you speak German, you can learn more about it here. And, you can pre-order the book, in paper or electronically, on Amazon.

In the meantime, I look forward to posting more regularly here on Manner of Speaking.

Posted in Book Review | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Quotes for Public Speakers (No. 247) – Mark Twain

Samuel Clemens / Mark Twain (1835 – 1910) American Author and Humorist

“Don’t use a five-dollar word when a fifty-cent word will do.

— Mark Twain

Posted in Quotes for Public Speakers | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments