Three Strikes and You’re Out!

The basketball season has finished and many are now watching baseball.

The “three strikes rule” in baseball can also be applied to speaking-clarity and a listener’s tolerance of confusion.   If the listener is still confused after three attempts to understand the speaker, the listener will start to “tune out” the speaker.

How do we keep our listeners’ attention?

Let’s review the first of the top three issues for ESOL speakers from “The Articulate Advantage” March ‘15 article.


Speaking Speed:

Speaking too fast often causes the speaker to eliminate key syllables within words, make sound substitutions and use incorrect linking or stress patterns.

The listener must have time to make “edits” or they will often quit trying to understand.

How do you slow down? On the website, Baseball Mental Game Tips, the author Patrick Cohn quoted Brad Holman, pitching coach for Triple-A Round Rock Express, “Don’t be too quick. Step back and take a breath.” The same holds true for speaking. Here are three strategies to slow down so that the listener may understand you better.

1. Choose an article from an online news source. An article about baseball might work. Or find another easy article. Find a paragraph that has 100 to 125 words.

  • Highlight and copy this paragraph to a word document. Do a word count to confirm the number of words.
  • Record your speaking while you read this article aloud.
  • Go back and check your time. Did you do it in less than 60 seconds? If so, you spoke too fast. Do it again until you can slow down your speaking speed enough to say it in the full 60 to 70 seconds. It feels too slow, yet this makes you very aware of your own pronunciation and your audience’s response.
  1. Next, Listen again.
  • How long were your pauses between sentences? Where did you put the pauses?
  • Using pauses between sentences allows the listener to edit and understand your content better.
  • Try for .5 to 1 second pauses between sentences. Remember, this helps the listener “edit”.
  1. Did you find words with more than two syllables in the paragraph?
  • Three, four and five+ syllable words often are mispronounced. Underline these words.
  • Use an online dictionary to determine how they are said correctly. Even if you don’t say the vowels or consonants correctly, you must be able to say the right amount of syllables. English spelling often does not give you the correct pronunciation.
  • Record the target word three times. Make certain that you are correct. If not, do it again, until you can pronounce the correct number of syllables correctly. Then record each sentence with the target word.


Do you need more help? Contact me for a free initial consultation. If you are a member of a Toastmaster’s Club, check out my article in the July 2014, Toastmasters magazine. “Sound Strategies To Make Sure Your English Is Understood”

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