Banish “Fluff” From Speeches

Legend has it that when someone asked Michelangelo how he was able to sculpt such beautiful angels from cold, hard marble, he replied “I simply chip away at everything I don’t need and eventually the angel emerges.”

Good speech writing is a lot like sculpting. If you chip away the words and phrases that don’t contribute, your message will emerge. Here are some examples of redundant writing:

  • “In the majority of instances.” Writing “usually” is enough to make your point.
  • “As you may or may not know.” If you may know, then obviously you may not know.
  • “We are trying to attempt a solution.” To try is to attempt.
  • “Unexpected emergency.” If you know it will happen, it’s not an emergency.
  • “Very unique.” Unique doesn’t mean unusual, it means one of a kind.

— Adapted from “Look for the Angel,” Helen Wilkie, Communi-keys,

One response to “Banish “Fluff” From Speeches

  1. Brava to Helen! Well said! Those few examples should be enough to make any speaker rethink how they communicate their messages. You truly picked these right out of my brain. The *may or may not know* one makes me want to scream and thank you for saying that unique doesn’t mean unusual.

    Thinking back to my early and mid 20s when I wasn’t confident speaking on a subject I used more words. I didn’t know I was doing it then but I realize it now, 20 years later. I don’t know if this is a natural tendency or not. But when I know a subject well, I intentionally speak more simply and clearly because I want to make it easy to digest and understand. Burying the message underneath extra words adds weight and nothing else.

    Patricia Nixon
    Nixon Virtual Strategies

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