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_How to Conquer Monotony_

We obviate monotony in dress by replenishing our wardrobes. We avoid monotony in speech by multiplying our powers of speech. We multiply our powers of speech by increasing our tools.

The carpenter has special implements with which to construct the several parts of a building. The organist has certain keys and stops which he manipulates to produce his harmonies and effects. In like manner the speaker has certain instruments and tools at his command by which he builds his argument, plays on the feelings, and guides the beliefs of his audience. To give you a conception of these instruments, and practical help in learning to use them, are the purposes of the immediately following chapters.

Why did not the Children of Israel whirl through the desert in limousines, and why did not Noah have moving-picture entertainments and talking machines on the Ark? The laws that enable us to operate an automobile, produce moving-pictures, or music on the Victrola, would have worked just as well then as they do today. It was ignorance of law that for ages deprived humanity of our modern conveniences. Many speakers still use ox-cart methods in their speech instead of employing automobile or overland-express methods. They are ignorant of laws that make for efficiency in speaking. Just to the extent that you regard and use the laws that we are about to examine and learn how to use will you have efficiency and force in your speaking; and just to the extent that you disregard them will your speaking be feeble and ineffective. We cannot impress too thoroughly upon you the necessity for a real working mastery of these principles. They are the very foundations of successful speaking. "Get your principles right," said Napoleon, "and the rest is a matter of detail."

It is useless to shoe a dead horse, and all the sound principles in Christendom will never make a live speech out of a dead one. So let it be understood that public speaking is not a matter of mastering a few dead rules; the most important law of public speech is the necessity for truth, force, feeling, and life. Forget all else, but not this.

When you have mastered the mechanics of speech outlined in the next few chapters you will no longer be troubled with monotony. The complete knowledge of these principles and the ability to apply them will give you great variety in your powers of expression. But they cannot be mastered and applied by thinking or reading about them--you must practise, _practise_, _PRACTISE_. If no one else will listen to you, listen to yourself--you must always be your own best critic, and the severest one of all.

The technical principles that we lay down in the following chapters are not arbitrary creations of our own. They are all founded on the practices that good speakers and actors adopt--either naturally and unconsciously or under instruction--in getting their effects.

It is useless to warn the student that he must be natural. To be natural may be to be monotonous. The little strawberry up in the arctics with a few tiny seeds and an acid tang is a natural berry, but it is not to be compared with the improved variety that we enjoy here. The dwarfed oak on the rocky hillside is natural, but a poor thing compared with the beautiful tree found in the rich, moist bottom lands. Be natural--but improve your natural gifts until you have approached the ideal, for we must strive after idealized nature, in fruit, tree, and speech.

QUESTIONS AND EXERCISES.

1. What are the causes of monotony?

2. Cite some instances in nature.

3. Cite instances in man's daily life.

4. Describe some of the effects of monotony in both cases.

5. Read aloud some speech without paying particular attention to its meaning or force.

6. Now repeat it after you have thoroughly a.s.similated its matter and spirit. What difference do you notice in its rendition?

7. Why is monotony one of the worst as well as one of the most common faults of speakers?

CHAPTER III

EFFICIENCY THROUGH EMPHASIS AND SUBORDINATION

In a word, the principle of emphasis...is followed best, not by remembering particular rules, but by being full of a particular feeling.

--C.S. BALDWIN, _Writing and Speaking_.

The gun that scatters too much does not bag the birds. The same principle applies to speech. The speaker that fires his force and emphasis at random into a sentence will not get results. Not every word is of special importance--therefore only certain words demand emphasis.

You say Ma.s.sa_CHU_setts and Minne_AP_olis, you do not emphasize each syllable alike, but hit the accented syllable with force and hurry over the unimportant ones. Now why do you not apply this principle in speaking a sentence? To some extent you do, in ordinary speech; but do you in public discourse? It is there that monotony caused by lack of emphasis is so painfully apparent.

So far as emphasis is concerned, you may consider the average sentence as just one big word, with the important word as the accented syllable.

Note the following:

"Destiny is not a matter of chance. It is a matter of choice."

You might as well say _Ma.s.s-A-CHU-SETTS_, emphasizing every syllable equally, as to lay equal stress on each word in the foregoing sentences.

Speak it aloud and see. Of course you will want to emphasize _destiny_, for it is the princ.i.p.al idea in your declaration, and you will put some emphasis on _not_, else your hearers may think you are affirming that destiny _is_ a matter of chance. By all means you must emphasize _chance_, for it is one of the two big ideas in the statement.

Another reason why _chance_ takes emphasis is that it is contrasted with _choice_ in the next sentence. Obviously, the author has contrasted these ideas purposely, so that they might be more emphatic, and here we see that contrast is one of the very first devices to gain emphasis.

As a public speaker you can a.s.sist this emphasis of contrast with your voice. If you say, "My horse is not _black_," what color immediately comes into mind? White, naturally, for that is the opposite of black. If you wish to bring out the thought that destiny is a matter of choice, you can do so more effectively by first saying that "_DESTINY_ is _NOT_ a matter of _CHANCE_." Is not the color of the horse impressed upon us more emphatically when you say, "My horse is _NOT BLACK_. He is _WHITE_"

than it would be by hearing you a.s.sert merely that your horse is white?

In the second sentence of the statement there is only one important word--_choice_. It is the one word that positively defines the quality of the subject being discussed, and the author of those lines desired to bring it out emphatically, as he has shown by contrasting it with another idea. These lines, then, would read like this:

"_DESTINY_ is _NOT_ a matter of _CHANCE_. It is a matter of _CHOICE_."

Now read this over, striking the words in capitals with a great deal of force.

In almost every sentence there are a few _MOUNTAIN PEAK WORDS_ that represent the big, important ideas. When you pick up the evening paper you can tell at a glance which are the important news articles. Thanks to the editor, he does not tell about a "hold up" in Hong Kong in the same sized type as he uses to report the death of five firemen in your home city. Size of type is his device to show emphasis in bold relief.

He brings out sometimes even in red headlines the striking news of the day.

It would be a boon to speech-making if speakers would conserve the attention of their audiences in the same way and emphasize only the words representing the important ideas. The average speaker will deliver the foregoing line on destiny with about the same amount of emphasis on each word. Instead of saying, "It is a matter of _CHOICE_," he will deliver it, "It is a matter of choice," or "_IT IS A MATTER OF CHOICE_"--both equally bad.

Charles Dana, the famous editor of _The New York Sun_, told one of his reporters that if he went up the street and saw a dog bite a man, to pay no attention to it. _The Sun_ could not afford to waste the time and attention of its readers on such unimportant happenings. "But," said Mr.

Dana, "if you see a man bite a dog, hurry back to the office and write the story." Of course that is news; that is unusual.

Now the speaker who says "_IT IS A MATTER OF CHOICE_" is putting too much emphasis upon things that are of no more importance to metropolitan readers than a dog bite, and when he fails to emphasize "choice" he is like the reporter who "pa.s.ses up" the man's biting a dog. The ideal speaker makes his big words stand out like mountain peaks; his unimportant words are submerged like stream-beds. His big thoughts stand like huge oaks; his ideas of no especial value are merely like the gra.s.s around the tree.

From all this we may deduce this important principle: _EMPHASIS_ is a matter of _CONTRAST_ and _COMPARISON_.

Recently the _New York American_ featured an editorial by Arthur Brisbane. Note the following, printed in the same type as given here.

=We do not know what the President THOUGHT when he got that message, or what the elephant thinks when he sees the mouse, but we do know what the President DID.=

The words _THOUGHT_ and _DID_ immediately catch the reader's attention because they are different from the others, not especially because they are larger. If all the rest of the words in this sentence were made ten times as large as they are, and _DID_ and _THOUGHT_ were kept at their present size, they would still be emphatic, because different.

Take the following from Robert Chambers' novel, "The Business of Life."

The words _you_, _had_, _would_, are all emphatic, because they have been made different.

He looked at her in angry astonishment.

"Well, what do _you_ call it if it isn't cowardice--to slink off and marry a defenseless girl like that!"

"Did you expect me to give you a chance to destroy me and poison Jacqueline's mind? If I _had_ been guilty of the thing with which you charge me, what I have done _would_ have been cowardly. Otherwise, it is justified."

A Fifth Avenue bus would attract attention up at Minisink Ford, New York, while one of the ox teams that frequently pa.s.s there would attract attention on Fifth Avenue. To make a word emphatic, deliver it differently from the manner in which the words surrounding it are delivered. If you have been talking loudly, utter the emphatic word in a concentrated whisper--and you have intense emphasis. If you have been going fast, go very slow on the emphatic word. If you have been talking on a low pitch, jump to a high one on the emphatic word. If you have been talking on a high pitch, take a low one on your emphatic ideas.

Read the chapters on "Inflection," "Feeling," "Pause," "Change of Pitch," "Change of Tempo." Each of these will explain in detail how to get emphasis through the use of a certain principle.

In this chapter, however, we are considering only one form of emphasis: that of applying force to the important word and subordinating the unimportant words. Do not forget: this is one of the main methods that you must continually employ in getting your effects.

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