Articulation is defined as the formation of clear and distinct sounds in speech. Unless you’re still speaking with the Transatlantic accent of the 30s and 40s, there’s a very good chance you do not articulate your words flawlessly. And that’s okay! Everyday speech has become very lax and casual – it’s not out of the ordinary to use slang words and misarticulate phrases like want to (wanna) or don’t know (dunno). However, articulation is incredibly important during a speech delivery. I always try to remind my students that their speeches don’t come with subtitles. An audience doesn’t have a pause button. They cannot rewind and play back a speech for clarity. That’s why it’s so important to articulate every word as clearly as possible – your voice is the channel for your message. If your audience cannot understand you, your message gets lost. Similarly, I tell my students to speak as if every person in the audience is a non-native English speaker. While native English speakers could grasp a poorly articulated let me (lemme), a non-native English speaker may not be able to comprehend what “lemme” means in English.
Here’s a little exercise that exemplifies the importance of articulation. Take out a pen and paper and listen to Post Malone’s song Rich & Sad. Try to write down the song’s lyrics word-for-word, particularly of the first verse and hook. When you’ve finished writing down the lyrics, read the official Genius lyrics. How far off were you? (Comment below!) I guarantee that before reading the actual lyrics you did not understand everything Post Malone was saying, and you probably didn’t fully grasp the message of Rich & Sad. From the title you can gauge that Post Malone is rich and sad, but after reading the lyrics, you can tell the song is a sad, love song about Post Malone losing his lover despite having so much money, something I didn’t fully realize until I read the lyrics. Since live speeches don’t come with transcripts, it’s important to not articulate like Post Malone, and form the clearest sounds possible.