Speaking: How Fast Talkers can Slow their Speech for Greater Positive Impact-Part 2 (Punctuation)

One technique (including breathing techniques) that fast talkers (as well as speakers of English as a second language) can use to slow their speech for greater positive impact on their audiences consists of visualizing punctuation.  When some people get nervous speaking, they have a tendency to speak faster. If you are one of them, you’re definitely not alone.  In addition to breathing techniques, one technique consists of pausing at thought groups.

Thought Groups

A thought group is a a group of words which go together to express a thought or idea.  Thought groups give you natural places to pause, and take a breath.  We group words into thoughts.    Thought groups break speech into smaller chunks.

Punctuation and Thought Groups

Written or printed thoughts contain punctuation. When you are formulating your own thoughts as you speak, you don’t use punctuation.  However, you can picture in your head commas and periods along with the words you’re speaking.  Think of replacing the commas and periods with pauses, in order to slow your speech down. It might take practice to begin doing this in real time as you’re speaking.  Interestingly enough, the very act of visualizing commas, periods, exclamation marks, and question marks while your words are flowing when you’re speaking, can function to slow your speech down.

Key Point: Replace punctuation with pauses to slow your speech down.

Example: Pretend you were speaking this sentence. “After I heard this news, I was confused, excited, and apprehensive all at the same time.” Pause at the locations of the commas.

Practice Tip: If you have difficulty visualizing the punctuation in your mind while speaking, read aloud and pause at the punctuation marks.  Next, without a communication partner-without a listener, practice expressing  your thoughts out loud while visualizing the punctuation in your mind.  Lastly, visualize the punctuation as you speak to another person.


To slow your rate of speech using thought groups, visualize punctuation while you speak.  Pause where you see the punctuation.  Enacting this in real time at the same time as you are formulating your thoughts as you speak to others can be difficult when you’re just beginning.  As first step, on your own, try reading aloud and pausing at the punctuation marks.  Then speak your own novel thoughts out loud by yourself without a communication partner.

Next, pick one situation or communication partner per day for implementing your “real time” practice.  With this one situation or communication partner, visualize the punctuation as you express your thoughts.  Do this for one minute per day.  Begin extending the length of time you do this.  Your newly learned methods will generalize into new habits which will become old habits.

To your punctuation visualizing as you speak slower for positive impact,



veronicaJuly 9th, 2014 at 7:37 am

The process you present is something which is not only easily visualized, but workable. With a little bit of practice one can change even a life long habit. I appreciate your expertise!

SangitaJuly 9th, 2014 at 9:55 am

Thank you so much Cher for sharing the concept of thought groups, I am practicing from now on 🙂 Since I have few speaking opportunities, this will be very helpful to let go of butterflies from my stomach !!!

KaileanJuly 9th, 2014 at 10:23 am

Great tip! Visualizing is one of my strengths, so I think this will really work for me. Thanks!

WendiJuly 9th, 2014 at 12:17 pm

Often, I speak this way. It is a very relaxing way for me to communicate . I often put people in a “peaceful zone” when I speak. Though if I am talking to a highly charged visual person, I like to keep rapport and speed it up a bit.

Tina GamesJuly 9th, 2014 at 3:53 pm

As a writer, I love the concept of “pausing with commas” – that’s an easy one to remember. ~ Whenever I read my writing out loud, I read it in the way I’ve written it. If there’s a comma, I pause. If there’s a period, I double-pause. So it makes sense to apply this to my public speaking. ~ Many thanks for such a great tip! 🙂

TeenaJuly 9th, 2014 at 7:56 pm

Thank you Cher – I have a presentation next week and I will certainly apply these important tips!


Cher GundersonJuly 9th, 2014 at 8:14 pm

Teena, I’m glad these tips will help 🙂 What is the topic of your presentation?

Cher GundersonJuly 9th, 2014 at 8:15 pm

Yes-this tip is easy to conceptualize 🙂 I can think you will have success applying it to public speaking as well as to your reading.
Thank you for your comments.

Cher GundersonJuly 9th, 2014 at 8:18 pm

Your insight to stay in tempo and connected with those who are more “charged” is impressive. It shows that you are observing your communication partners’ body language and what we call suprasegmentals (segments related to language and speech beyond the actual words).
To your peaceful speaking manner,
Cher 🙂

Cher GundersonJuly 9th, 2014 at 8:19 pm

You’re very welcome. Yes, if visualization is a strong point of yours, you’ll get a good start during real time speech.
To your success,

Cher GundersonJuly 9th, 2014 at 8:22 pm

I’m smiling that I can help you with your influential work you’re doing while you promote your book 🙂 Thinking in terms of these thought groups as they relate to punctuation will help.
Excited about your continued expression of your unique message,

Cher GundersonJuly 9th, 2014 at 8:24 pm

Yes, it is a workable process to visualize thought groups and punctuation, and as you indicate, with practice, pausing and intonation improve, as does the connection of the speaker with the audience, whether one or hundreds 🙂

Jill GreinkeJuly 9th, 2014 at 8:32 pm

What a great tip Cher. You give some great advice to visualization and breathing before speaking to help slow speaking down.

PatriciaJuly 9th, 2014 at 8:50 pm

Great Tips Cher! Love the visualization part! thanks for sharing 🙂

Cher GundersonJuly 10th, 2014 at 6:47 am

Jill, thanks. Have a renewed day.

Cher GundersonJuly 10th, 2014 at 6:48 am

Thanks, and you’re welcome. Have a refreshing day.

Bonnie NussbaumJuly 10th, 2014 at 12:03 pm

I like the idea of picking one person a day for practice. This technique could be used for other changes we wish to make!

Cher GundersonJuly 16th, 2014 at 7:57 pm

Yes, great insight. The technique of picking one person per day can be applied in multiple circumstances 🙂
To awareness and change,

YerusalemJuly 23rd, 2014 at 1:28 am

I applied these tips to my recent Toastmaster speech and the pauses helped me to slow down my pace. Although my evaluator commented that my pauses were a bit lengthy, it was also noted that my speech delivery has improved. Thanks for sharing and I am sure visualizing the punctuation by using the thought groups will definitely work with practice.

Cher GundersonJuly 26th, 2014 at 10:45 am

Yerusalem, it’s great that you applied these techniques right away and that your evaluator noticed that your delivery improved. The important point is that you used these techniques and now you can start to speed up your pauses. It’s not about perfection. It’s about effectiveness 🙂
To you expressing your brilliance,

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