Write for the EAR

Write for the ear

Congratulations to young people all over the country who have written their own speeches this year. We know them as Platform Speeches on the speech side of things, and as Constructives in debate (i.e., 1AC).

As you review, rewrite, and refine your speeches one last time before national competitions, consider the SOUND of these speeches. At these particular venues, your speeches are strictly heard, not seen by your audiences (except, of course, for portions of Expository speeches which include some visual elements). Remember that you are writing for the ear not the eye. Therefore, it is necessary to deliberately incorporate rhetorical devices that will make your message echo in our minds, well after you have finished speaking. This usually means using shorter sentences, clever repetition, parallel language, word play, alliteration, assonance, sound-alikes, rhythmic phrases, epanalepsis, anaphora, epiphora, and more. These sorts of techniques were the same elements that the ancients employed when delivering literature orally, centuries ago. For example, the alliteration and rhythmic phrasing of Beowulf, the clever epithets of Homer, and the refrains/repetition of the Psalms allowed them to be handed down from one generation to the next because they could be easily heard and remembered.

Here’s a great link for rhetorical “sound” devices:  Link

And though hard to find now, the book, I’d Rather Die than Give a Speech by Michael M. Klepper with Robert Gunther, © 1995  has a great chapter on “Writing for the Ear.” Here’s a brief excerpt from Chapter 5:

“’Ear appeal’ phrases can be like the haunting songs of a musical that the members of the audience find themselves humming on the way home. Even if people want to forget them, they can’t.  A good ear appeal phrase compels the listener not only to remember it but also repeat it.”

So… Be “hear-able!” We can’t wait for your next speech…