Monday, January 31, 2011

Spontaneous Pauses: The Great Facilitators of Fresh Words and Synonyms

If the use of fresh words and synonyms is a defining trait of those who are articulate, then so are spontaneous pauses.

First, what do I mean by spontaneous pauses? Unlike “pregnant pauses,” which are planned or deliberate and inserted in a speech or conversation for effect, a spontaneous pause is, well, unplanned and usually takes a fraction of a second--just sufficient time for a speaker’s brain to put its “random access drive” into motion and pick a fresh word that will help articulate that person's thoughts.

The video clip below is a perfect example of a spontaneous pause in action. After uttering the words “if one is living on social security alone, one’s got pretty,” the speaker--Nicholas Eberstadt--pauses for a split second as his brain seeks out a fresh and strong word that will help capture the essence of his message, and out comes “penurious” from his lips. Sure, there was a good chance that instead of penurious, Mr. Eberstadt might have come up with some other word that too would have given force to his argument.

Bottom line: If you can make the use of spontaneous pauses automatic when you are speaking with passion or trying to emphasize something--as I have learned to do over the years, fresh words and synonyms will become second nature to you.

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