“Stylistic Use of Language”

In his book “Public Speaking”, David Zarefsky mentioned five attributes of oral style which are simplicity, repetition, informality, reflexivity and potential for clutters. The oral style according to him is much simpler than the written style. The oral style is easier to understand than the written style because it uses simpler and shorter sentences. It also avoids jargons and technical words. The speaker must deliver messages that can be easily comprehended by the listeners. The oral style also makes use of repetitions in order to emphasize is important details so that the listeners would not ignore it. It helps both the listener and the speaker to remember key ideas. Informality is another attribute of the oral style. It is more conversational in terms of approach. It may use phrases or incomplete sentences. It does not employ strict grammar rules unlike in the written style. Oral style is also reflexive. The speaker may refer to themselves, to listeners or to situations, while in the written style using the “I” attribute is avoided. The oral style also has potential to clutters. Speakers cannot edit their speeches after and even when they are delivering it unlike writers who can revise their articles prior to its submission. Words may not come out from the speaker’s mouth the way he wanted it to. This is the reason why speakers must be prepared to avoid unnecessary words so as to deliver their speeches smoothly. Written materials are permanent. You can always read it as many times as you can, while speeches are transient, you cannot replay it unless you use a tape recorder. Listeners cannot control the pace of a speech’s delivery, that’s why speakers must ensure the understandability of their message.

In his key note address to the Democratic National Convention, Mario Cuomo used different stylistic devices in order to make his speech powerful, in such a way that he can move and influence people. He started his speech with irony. He pointed out that he would skip the stories, poetry and the temptations to use rhetoric. He used again when discussed that the reduction of the inflation rate are through unemployment, hunger, poverty etc. He also used dialogues to segue his arguments. He also used descriptions, stories, and comparisons like simile and metaphor to employ the vividness in his ideas. He used rhetorical questions occasionally. He used alliteration when he talked about the Democrats’ credo. He started each statement of their dreams with the phrase “We believe.” It is also in this part when he used the connotation of what a good government is for them. He stated that it must be characterized by fairness and reasonableness. He also somehow, employed metaphors because of the characteristics of government which the democrats can still do in the future. What made his speech more powerful is the way he used the condensation symbols. One of the ideas highlighted in his speech is UNITY. He emphasizes that Democrats believes in unity while Republicans do not. He used the condensation symbol when he appealed to everyone for unison. He said “Unlike any other party, we embrace men and women of every color, every creed, every orientation, and every economic class.” He also mentioned the poor, the middle class, the blue and the white collar workers, the young professionals, the entrepreneurs, etc. in his speech. In using these words he was able to establish connection between him and any other citizen. He was able to relate with them.

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The stylistic devices he used are strong enough to convey his message of unity for the Democrats and division for the Republicans. He was able to give concrete words, examples and pictures of what they dreamed of. I think Cuomo successfully convey his message to his listeners. But I think it is too idealistic and biased on their side. All his praises went to the Democrats and all the criticisms went to the Republicans. I think he should have been gentler so as not to portray an arrogant image to his listeners. He may use irony instead to tender his criticisms which are directly addressed to the Republicans.

According to Zarefsky, a speaker can achieve clarity using concrete words, maxims, and limited jargons or technical terms, word economy and active voice. Concrete words can explain your ideas explicitly. It helps the audience grasp and remember your message. Maxims or aphorisms can also help in the comprehension of the listeners. Maxims are famous proverbs. Limited jargons or technical terms should be used for better understandability of your message. The speaker must use simple and common words and avoid clutter to ensure the clarity of his speech. Using active voice is preferable than the passive. It is much simpler to understand. On the other hand rhythm can be achieved using repetitions, parallel wording, antithesis and conversion of word order. Repetition is used to emphasize an idea so that the listeners will remember it. Parallel wording is repeating a phrase in terms of different meaning or ideas. Antithesis is pairing of opposites within the speech. It is basically playing with words. It is using the same set of words but when shuffled convey a different idea already. Placing of words is important.

Moving on, vividness can be attained using descriptions, stories, comparisons such as simile and metaphors, alliteration, onomatopoeia, personification, dialogues and rhetorical questions. Descriptions make use of adjectives to create a mental image among the listeners. It helps for the better understanding of the speech. Stories can be anecdotes which will help the listeners see what is happening. They can easily relate to stories which provides them clear picture of events. Comparison like simile is used to compare something in the likeness of other, it gives the listener an idea of what it is like, while metaphors discusses something in terms of another. Alliterations are repeating same consonant sounds. It helps for high recall of the idea. Onomatopoeia is using sounds that are the same with what they are referring to. Personification is humanizing ideas. It tries to explain abstract and complex ideas in human terms according to Zarefsky. Dialogues catch the attention of the readers. It is like communicating two-way by using another speaker. It is also used to address arguments. Rhetorical questions are another way of getting participation from the listeners because it made them think. They are not meant to be answered because they already have an implied answer. The answers are already expected.