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  • Writer's pictureJulia Zay

Speak up! Don't Upspeak!

Updated: Jan 10

Speak up, don’t upspeak!

The bad news, male or female, if you upspeak it may be hurting your career.

Upspeak is a speech pattern in which phrases and sentences routinely end with a rising sound. The inflexion sounds as though a statement is a question, the intonation rising at the end. For example, try this: First read each sentence, out loud, as a statement of fact, then again as if it were a question.

1. I’m done with this report. (? )

2. I have the answer to that problem. (?)

3. It’s time for me to go to lunch. (?)

In each of these sentences, if the speaker uses the questioning upspeak intonation instead of a statement of fact, it makes he or she sound insecure, not confident of what they’ve just said, and that the subject is up for debate:

“I’m done with this report?” This sounds like you are not certain and, if talking to your boss, may cause the boss to question whether or not you should go back and work on it some more.

“I have the answer to that problem?” You say to a group of your peers, but it sounds like a question. So, how convinced do you think they are?

“It’s time for me to go to lunch?” You say this to your boss. Your boss is probably thinking: The way you sounded about your report being done, I think you’d better use your lunch hour and get it up to my standards—and he hasn’t even read it yet!

Though there are some situations where making a statement sound like a question, for an effect, is useful, for the most part, speaking in Upspeak will make you sound insecure, unsure, and lacking authority.

The good news: Here is a way you can get rid of your ineffective Upspeak:

1. First you must become aware of the times you use Upspeak. You could do this by recording yourself speaking.

2. Then write down the sentences you spoke that were done in Upspeak.

3. Mark the second to last syllable with an up arrow.

4. Make a down arrow over the last syllable.

5. Read your sentences out loud, recording yourself while you read, consciously speak louder over the up arrow, and then pronounce the last syllable much lower and short in duration—this will lower your intonation at the end of the sentence.

Keep practicing and soon you can tell your peers, in a confident tone, that you do have an answer to the problem—and they won’t roll their eyes; and you’ll sound self-assured, so your boss won’t have a second thought about the report’s quality, as you hand it in to the boss and head off to grab some lunch. A Bon Appetit!

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