How to Enunciate Better

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Whether you're performing on stage, on film, or in a recording studio, enunciation is a crucial skill for any actor. After all, you didn't put all that work into learning and delivering your lines just for your audience to be confused by what you're saying. Here’s everything you need to know to improve your enunciation so that the audience can understand the entirety of your brilliant performance.

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What is enunciation?

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Put simply, enunciation is the ability to speak clearly. Even outside of acting, enunciation is an important skill if you want to come across as confident and authoritative. Many factors impact the clarity of your speech, including:

  • Pronunciation
  • Speed
  • Volume
  • Breathing
  • The way you connect each word to the next while speaking

Mumbling, rushing, slurring, and stumbling over words can all keep others from being able to understand you. 

How can I know whether I’m enunciating?

The way you sound to others isn't necessarily the way you sound in your own head, so it can be hard to know whether or not you’re speaking clearly. However, there are ways to figure out if you're enunciating well enough, and to learn what proper enunciation feels like. 

Ask friends and family: Ask loved ones if they feel that you’re easy to understand or if they ever have difficulty knowing what you’re saying. They might be able to give you specific feedback, like that you speak clearly except for when you’re excited, or that you tend to slur your “r” sounds.

Record yourself: The easiest way to hear yourself the way others hear you is to record yourself. When you listen back to the recording, make note of any factors affecting the clarity of your speech, such as mumbling, slurring, stumbling, voice breaks, or rushing. Listen to the recording a few times until you have a good idea of your strengths and weaknesses, and then get to work on making it better.

How to improve enunciation

Voiceover actor

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Practice your speaking skills

Excellent enunciation requires a combination of several skills, each of which can be worked on individually. If you want to improve your overall enunciation, it is important to master each element, as well as to understand how they work together to contribute to strong, clear speech. 

  • Diction and articulation are all about pronunciation and separation of words, making sure each is spoken clearly and distinctly.   
  • Projection helps you ensure that you're speaking at a proper volume for others to hear you, without straining your voice.
  • Vocal quality is about the overall sound of your voice, including timbre, breath support, and inflection. When working on enunciation, it's important to keep things like your breathing, pitch, and tone in balance so that your performance sounds natural.

Aside from skills you can practice, there are other factors that can influence your ability to enunciate well. Especially if you have an audition or performance coming up, it's important to keep these in mind and take care of yourself so that you can let your hard work shine.

Take your body into account

  • Take care of your vocal cords. The health of your vocal cords can be heavily impacted by behavior, so it's important to keep aware of your actions if you want your voice to stay strong. Drink plenty of water, avoid smoking and excessive alcohol, and try to avoid straining your voice by yelling, screaming, or talking too loudly leading up to a performance. 
  • Always warm up. Just as it's important to warm up before engaging in physical exercise, the same is true for vocal exercise. Even if you're not a singer, anyone who works with their voice can benefit greatly from engaging in a few minutes of vocal warmups prior to a rehearsal or performance. 
  • Do breathing exercises. If you're breathing at awkward places during line delivery, it can be more difficult for your audience to understand you. Working on improving your breath control can ensure you only breathe where it makes the most sense, and never run out of air before you're ready.  
  • Stand up straight. It may feel like a no-brainer, but posture can significantly impact the quality of our speech. If you want to be able to speak clearly, make sure your body is properly aligned and relaxed, with your shoulders down, back straight, and chin up.  

Do enunciation exercises 

Doing regular enunciation practice can go a long way in helping you become a better speaker. Fortunately, they can generally be done in a short amount of time. In the shower, driving to work, and folding laundry are all great opportunities to steal a few minutes for enunciation exercises. 

  • Watching yourself speak in a mirror. Pay close attention to your lips, jaw, teeth, and tongue as you talk, and see if you can identify any problem areas. Try to speak so that you can see your teeth, which will naturally require you to open your mouth wider, allowing for a larger sound. 
  • Keep your tongue neutral. It may be difficult at first, but work on speaking with the tip of your tongue touching the base of your lower teeth, so that it doesn't impede the movement of air through your mouth. Try to be conscious of using the other parts of your mouth to help shape your words rather than relying too heavily on your tongue. 
  • Open your mouth wider. This may feel silly at first, but try to open your mouth more than you would when speaking casually. When your mouth is used to moving more, it doesn't get as easily fatigued, which is also helpful in ensuring you're not swallowing all your sound. 
  • Practice tongue twisters. Train your mouth to work deftly through tricky phrases by saying them slowly, focusing on clear, sharp consonants. Once you are used to articulating every syllable, gradually speed these exercises up, until you can get through a whole phrase quickly without a single stumble or mumble.
  • Overarticulate. Another exercise that can feel silly, but will go a long way in training your mind and mouth to enunciate, is to intentionally overarticulate your speech. Using a script, book, or Backstage article of your choosing, read through the text slowly and clearly, articulating every syllable in an exaggerated manner. Notice how it feels to use more of your facial muscles when you speak, and work to incorporate that feeling into your performances.
  • Hold a pencil in your teeth. This exercise is sort of the opposite of keeping your tongue neutral, and instead makes it the star of the show. While holding a pencil between your front teeth, work on reading a book or script as clearly as you can. Without the ability to move your mouth much, your tongue will have to take over the lion's share of the work, improving its overall flexibility.
  • Yawn and stretch. If your mouth and vocal muscles get too tense, it can be hard to speak clearly. Incorporate yawning, neck stretches, and tongue stretches into your warmups, as well as intermittently during breaks, encouraging relaxation which will help tension from interfering with your enunciation.

Try enunciation apps, classes, and coaches

Apps, classes and coaches, oh my! These tools can help you perfect your phonation: 

Medical advice disclaimer: Content in this article is provided for informational purposes only, and does not intend to substitute professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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