Vocal Fry and Communication Skills

February 27, 2014
By Beth Brooks, CAE

Last year I started noticing a new speaking trait by some radio and TV reporters. It was irritating to me and I mentioned it to several people but no one had noticed anything unusual.

Then last fall, Faith Salie from CBS Sunday Morning had a special segment on exactly the phenomena that I had noticed. And it had a name: Vocal Fry.

Watch the story:

I was happy to note that I wasn’t crazy, and yes, it is very irritating and concerning to a lot of people.

In a nutshell, Vocal Fry is a curious vocal pattern of speech mostly done by young adult women who speak English: low, creaky vibrations… a guttural vibration. It was once considered a speech disorder and has now become a language fad.

Some people refer to as a “Kardashian” trait.   At the Texas Book Festival I asked a speech writer about this and she noted that some psychologists are concerned that this stems from low self esteem in young women.  While young women certainly deserve a lot of credit for trend setting, this one is disconcerting to me.

Communication is so very important in our business. Knowing how to speak and make presentations is a must if you want to move up and ahead. The ability to speak and get your point across (without distractions such as “ums”, fidgeting with your hair, and vocal fry), is imperative. 

If you have a co-worker or an employee who has started talking in the vocal fry manner, you need to point this out just as you would guide them if they were dressing or acting inappropriately. 

In fact, encourage them to join Toastmasters and learn the skills of speaking clearly. TSAE has a Toastmasters Club in Austin, and DFWAE has one in Dallas. 

Learn more about TSAE Toastmasters

Learn more about DFWAE Toastmasters

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