Elocution is an antiquated term, usually associated with clichéd phrases such as ‘how now brown cow’, or Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins. We think it is a path to speaking properly, and it associated with received pronunciation, or a neutral non accented English.
According to the Cambridge dictionary, the definition of elocution is "the art of careful public speaking, using clear pronunciation and good breathing to control the voice"...
More than accent
But let’s introduce the idea of elocution for the 21st Century. When we say elocution at London Speech Workshop, we mean so much more than an accent. It is possible to have good elocution and a regional accent, and equally possible to have bad elocution and a neutral or posh accent.
We see elocution as connected, even synonymous with good communication. Yes, maybe some people will want to speak with a neutral accent, they may feel their native accent is getting in the way, they may even experience a glass ceiling, blocking them from a promotion, or the influence which they see their neutral speaking colleagues have available to them. And they may be right. But I would hazard a guess that they are only partially so.
Making an impact
It is rarely all about an accent. When people have power with their voice, when they can achieve their goals with their communication, when they are felt by their peers, audience or people around them to be a good communicator, it is never going to be just about the accent in which they speak, and thank goodness for that! No, so much more important is the way in which you speak. Is the speaker pausing, using intonation, emphasis and expression? Do they do the listeners work for them, creating the ideas that go into the listener’s head? Are they clear and easy to understand? Do they make the most of the words they are saying, tasting the vowels and articulating the consonants? Are they in short, a pleasure to listen to? If this is in place, then regardless of their accent, they have good elocution.
Let your words out
Bad elocution on the other hand, will mean someone is mumbling, or speaking too fast, or speaking with their mouth closed, or giving up on their ideas when they are half way out their mouths….and they may speak in the poshest accent in the world! But they will never be a good communicator if they are not letting their words, crisp tools that they are, reach their audience or listener.
So, when thinking of your elocution, aim high! Let yourself be inspired by great communicators out there, listen for clarity, pausing, emphasis, expression. And most importantly listen to your own engagement as a listener. Do you want more? Because if you do, chances are you are listening to someone who has mastered the art of ‘good elocution!’