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QuickBites: How to Use Emphasis to Express Meaning

Recently, a client and I were discussing how you can change the entire meaning of a sentence simply by choosing which word or words you emphasize. Some people call this hitting or punching a word.

 

Every so often, you’ll hear a speaker emphasize the wrong word, resulting in a line that is as harmless as merely seeming out of place to as damaging as changing the meaning of what they’re saying. 

 

In this short episode, you’ll hear an exercise that not only illustrates how this works but also one you can use to practice hitting the appropriate words so you accurately convey your intended meaning.

 

In this exercise, there’s one sentence that, repeated seven times.  However, each time I say it, you’ll hear me emphasize a different word, giving the sentence a completely different meaning each time.

 

The sentence is, I didn’t say he stole the money from the bank. Here we go. Listen to how the meaning changes.

  • I didn’t say he stole the money from the bank.
  • didn’t say he stole the money from the bank.
  • I didn’t say he stole the money from the bank.
  • I didn’t say he stole the money from the bank.
  • I didn’t say he stole the money from the bank.
  • I didn’t say he stole the money from the bank.
  • I didn’t say he stole the money from the bank.

 

Did you hear the difference? Did you hear the meaning change? 

 

When you’re speaking, be sure to emphasize the appropriate words so your listeners, instantly, and accurately understand the intent of what you’re saying.

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