Linguistics, Part One: Form and Format

11.10.2021 |

Episode #1 of the course How to write a great speech: Linguistics, drama, and rhetoric by K.C. Finn


Welcome to the course!

I’m K.C. Finn, multi-award-winning and best-selling author of Young Adult, Fantasy, and Horror fiction. As someone who constantly works in the field of words and presents their work to audiences on a regular basis, public speaking and speechcraft have become a natural part of my working life. But I wasn’t always quite so able to craft speeches that would inform, entertain, and inspire my students and readers, so I’ve taken some time to analyze the way that speeches work, and break down the process for others to learn.

I’m here to show you how linguistics, dramatic techniques, and the art of rhetoric can be combined to create memorable speeches that sound professional, smooth, and confident. Knowing that you have a great speech to deliver is half the battle when you first take to the podium or grab the microphone, and I’ll make sure that you have the language techniques to take you from start to finish in the speechwriting process.

Whilst you’re interacting with the lessons, you’ll find Exercise Opportunities that require you to pause and make some short notes. Take every opportunity to do so, and watch your speech plans come to life before your eyes!

In Lesson One, we’ll examine how the building blocks of speeches work, including the way we structure them for best delivery and how that relates to the intention of what we’re trying to say


Why Write a Speech?

Speeches are an unusual part of daily life for most people. We don’t typically have to make speeches every day in most occupations, so when faced with the idea of suddenly having to present a topic, raise a toast to a good friend or share our ideas and experiences in front of a crowd, daunting doubts can set in fast. Throughout this course, we’ll take things one step at a time and break the speechmaking process into small, manageable chunks.

For now, all you need to know is the topic that you want to talk about and some of the ideas and information you want to include. Then, we’ll take a look at the next section to determine where your intention and motivation for the speech fit in. It may be solely in one of the following three categories, or it might be a combination of more than one.

Exercise: Write down your main topic now, and any ideas, stories, anecdotes, facts, or figures that you know you want to include.


The Three Motivations of Speech

In the world of speechcraft, there are three main purposes to consider when writing a speech:

Writing to Inform relates to delivering data, facts, figures, and things that people need to know and remember, or simply telling stories. (Examples of this form include: wedding/ceremonial speeches, work or school presentations, biographies, and personal statements for work or education.)

Writing to Motivate relates to instilling others with emotion, garnering empathy, and helping others understand a point of view without directly persuading them towards it. (Examples of this form include: personal testimonies, social justice writing, autobiographical and memoir speeches, and recounting personal experiences to teach moral/social/ethical lessons.)

Writing to Persuade relates to getting others to understand and accept your point of view, or to promote ideas and items that you’d like others to be interested in. (Examples of this form include: advertising copy, political speeches, debates, arguments, protests, propaganda, and marketing text.)

Exercise: Think about why you want to (or have to) give your speech, and note down the overall intention. Then, take any individual ideas you’ve had and match those to at least one motivating factor too (remember they may overlap).


Creating Your First Structure

Now that you understand the intentions of what you’re trying to say, let’s look at how we structure a speech. Every speech ought to contain all the elements of Informing, Motivating, and Persuading in order to make it effective, but how much of each element depends on the intention you have.

Here are my key tips:

Start with information – make sure your audience understand the circumstances around the point you are making;

Include emotion – motivate your audience with personal touches, light humor, and your own special connection to the subject area;

End on the persuasive – it’s never a good idea to start with an argument, but once you’ve got your audience informed and emotionally invested, you can bring them around to your way of thinking.

Exercise: Take a look at the ideas you have so far, and see if you need to rearrange them to fit with the structure. Also, look at the balance of motivating factors present in your notes so far, and make sure that they fit with the overall purpose of your speech.

In Lesson Two, we’ll learn how to develop your sound skills so that the key points of what you’re saying become memorable phrases that people will recall later.

Until then, make some notes on your initial intention and structure possibilities.



Recommended reading

To learn more about the best ways to lay out your speech, try this helpful article.


Share with friends