I don’t know why it took me five years to figure this out. After all, our nation was basically founded on the imperative “Never use two words when one will do.” Right? So why did I, an accomplished speaker, still stumble over phrases in my 1AC or Persuasive?
Because I had written my speeches to be read, not spoken.
One of the first things we learn when entering the speech and debate world is how to structure a speech. At its core, it’s pretty much like an essay: Intro, thesis, three points, conclusion. And so we write our speeches and 1ACs like essays. We cram ideas into sentences, we might even use catchy figures of speech, and we might come up with a beautiful college application. But here’s the rub.
The way we write is very different than the way we speak.
I didn’t make this discovery until I got into radio and learned the difference between print journalism and radio journalism. Take a look at this example: “First, a disclaimer: the following structure is not strictly universal: it does not work best for every type of prompt/case, nor should it be treated as a rigid prescription in general.” For a school essay? Great! For a speech? Not so great. Instead, try this: “First, a disclaimer: this structure is not universal.” Not only does it save you words and time (face it, eight minutes goes by in a blur), it also reads much more easily. You can deliver it better, and your judge can understand it better.
So here’s the takeaway: Read your sentences out loud as you write them.
Think about how you would explain this concept to a friend or sibling, and try to use that kind of phrasing. Keep your sentences short, read them out loud, and rewrite them if they don’t flow smoothly. This way, when it’s time to present, you don’t have to work as hard to come up with interesting vocal inflections. They’ll come naturally with the rhythm of the words.
Simplifying makes everything easier.