Word Stress: Formal

Formal Word Stress in Sentences

Here are the basic facts on formal word stress. Remember that you will be practicing these when you repeat sentences during every lesson. Use this page as your guide, and return at any time to review.

First, let’s define “formal.” Standard American English is an informal language by nature. This means that in professional American speech, there are not many rules of etiquette. There is an overall cultural preference to appear friendly and casual when doing business. 

For these lessons, formal American English will be useful when:

* you are at a medium-sized or larger business meeting or conference
* you are giving a presentation
* you are interviewing
* you are networking with colleagues that you do not know well
* you are talking to clients or customers
* you are stating an important point or intending to present information clearly

In other words, you can use the formal version at almost any time when you want to be clear or to present yourself well. In fact, if you do not prefer to speak quickly, you can use formal speech at all times. However, even if you do this, it is wise to study the casual version as well because it will assist you in your listening skills.

How to Create Formal Word Stress in Sentences

Here are the basics:

1. stress about 2 -4 important words in each sentence
2.  always speak in phrases–pause between phrases
3. reduce small words–this causes stressed words to be clearer
4. let words in phrases flow together

The standard form of American English was created for international media, and it is based on clear communication. You want to stress words that establish the information you are delivering or that emphasize your meaning. 

Speaking in phrases causes you to sound fluent and confident. The most common words that begin phrases are that, which, who, and, or, but, when, if or any of the prepositions such as after, about, above, around, at, as, before, behind, beside, by, during, for, from, in, into, of, off, on, over, since, than, through, to, towards, under, until, with, within and without. You can pause before any of these words, and this will cause your listener to hear phrases rather than a word-by-word statement. In addition, you can often pause between a noun and verb in a longer phrase. For instance, in Lesson 1, you will find this sentence:

Our team is presenting a strategy for dealing with threatening, competitive companies.

“Our team is presenting a strategy” is a lot of information. It will be clearer if you pause briefly between the noun and verb, as in “team” and “is.” Here are the places you can pause shown with a slash:

Our team / is presenting a strategy / for dealing with threatening / competitive companies.

One point to keep in mind: try not to separate a verb phrase. For instance “to deal with” is a verb phrase. “Deal” and “with” go together to create a unique meaning. You can
pause a little bit between these words, but not too much.

Of course, always pause for punctuation, such as a comma, period or colon.

Reducing small words causes stressed words to be more clear. This too creates an impression of confidence–it shows that you assume people will understand you. In formal speech, we reduce the most common small words. These are listed below. In casual speech, we will reduce a few more.

Allow the words within phrases to flow together. If a word ends in a letter and the next word begins with that same letter, you can usually speak the sound once, as in next to,  last time or this story. The letter S can often flow into the next word as in miss out. And remember that if T is the last letter of a word and comes between vowel sounds, it can be a light D sound as in pass it on or what if. Standard American English has prominent vowel sounds and somewhat soft consonants. Words should flow together easily and smoothly. 

Small Words that People Naturally Reduce

Remember, this is not casual. These words are so common, people almost always reduce them. Of course, there may be times when you want to stress one of them, but that will not happen very often. When you reduce small words, always connect to the word that follows.

todrop the O soundt’day, t’morrow, t’work, t’the meeting
anddrop the A and Dhis ‘n hers, stocks ‘n bonds, pro’s ‘n cons
ordrop the O soundpick up ‘r delivery, sunny ‘r cloudy
fordrop the O soundfr the office, fr the benefits, fr the future
candrop the A soundcn you go, he cn work on it, they cn get it done
ofIt sounds like “uv”the manager uv the department, the head uv security
aalways attach to the next word*a document, a contract, a presentation
analways attach to the next wordan order, an older woman, an average worker
thealways attach to the next wordthe memo, the budget, the day’s work
* It is important to attach a, an and the to the word that follows. These words have very little meaning and should be spoken as if they are the first sounds in the nouns.
750 Business WordsIntroduction Main Page
* http://www.speakmethod.com is a part of I.E. Tutoring, Seattle, WA, which holds the copyright to all materials. Subscribers may print images and pages for individual use, but not for commercial use or distribution. *

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