How To Ensure You Are Understood


Whether you are leading your team meeting, pitching to investors or talking to your partner over a romantic dinner, the ability to be understood is critical. What you are saying may be extremely important but unless your audience can understand what you’re saying your message will be lost. And one of the best ways to ensure that your message is understood is with good diction.

Diction is the opposite of mumbling; it requires the crisp, clear pronunciation of consonants. Improving your articulation takes practice but it is well worth the effort. And the great news is that even just a few exercises each day to strengthen and stretch the muscles involved in speech will have a significant impact. Exercises will also bring your attention to any habitual speech patterns that may need improvement.

The type of exercises I am referring to are tongue twisters. You will probably know many of them, there are thousands to try; each one exercises a different part of your speech and focuses on improving a different consonant.

Following my training as an actor and singer I barely go a day when I don’t do some sort of vocal exercises, and I ALWAYS do some tongue twisters before an important meeting, networking event or presentation. I find that warming up my articulators enables me to feel more in control of my speech and ensures I don’t ‘trip over my words’.

I’ll be sharing some of my favourite tongue twisters below, but before you start I recommend doing a few exercises to wake up your tongue and mouth:

  • Open your mouth wide and then pinch it tightly closed a few times
  • Mouth the word ‘WOW’ stretching it as wide as you can on the ‘O’
  • Make an exaggerated chewing motion as if you were a cow
  • Sweep your tongue around your mouth into each cheek and across the front of your top and bottom teeth then poke it out and move it about a few times

These might feel weird to begin with but they will make a huge difference when you start to vocalise your tongue twisters. A couple of tips for practising tongue twisters:

  • Begin repeating each phrase slowly and carefully making sure that each consonant is crisp and clear.
  • Then gradually increase the speed whilst still maintaining the clarity.
  • If you stumble, start again until you can do it quickly and clearly.

Now try saying some of the tongue twisters below:

  • Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?
  • She sells sea shell by the sea shore; the sea shells she sells are sea shore sea shells
  • I want a proper cup of coffee in a proper copper coffee pot; if I can’t have a proper cup of coffee in a proper copper coffee pot, I’ll have a cup of tea
  • The Leith police dismisseth us
  • Mixed biscuits, mixed biscuits, mixed biscuits
  • Suzy sells sizzling sausages; the sausages Suzy sells are sizzling
  • Red leather, yellow leather, red leather, yellow leather, red leather, yellow leather
  • Red lorry, yellow lorry, red lorry, yellow lorry, red lorry, yellow lorry
  • You know you need unique New York, New York’s unique
  • She is a thistle sifter and she has a sieve of sifted thistles, and a sieve of unsifted thistles because she is a thistle sifter
  • Five flippant Frenchmen fly from France for fashions
  • Betty Botter bought a bit of butter, but she said ‘This butter’s bitter. If I put it in my batter it will make my batter bitter.’ So she bought a bit of butter, better than the bitter butter, and it made her bitter batter better!

How did you get on? You’ll find that some are easier than others, and of course it is the more challenging ones that you should focus on!

To remind you on a regular basis of the importance of clear diction and to give you new tongue twisters to try, I have introduced #TongueTwisterTuesday. Follow me on Twitter @Grow_Potential or facebook at Grow Your Potential for a new exercise every week.

I’m always looking for different tongue twisters to try to please share your favourites in the comments section and I’ll add them to my list.

Mel Sherwood is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, a company passionate about providing the seeds to speaking success. Mel’s background includes over 20 years’ experience in public, private and not-for-profit organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom and she has also worked as an actor, presenter and singer.

Specialising in helping others transform their life and their business through clear, confident and credible communication, Mel empowers ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to clarify their message, engage their audience and use their body, voice, mind and heart to enthusiastically and authentically express their ‘inner oomph’. To find out more go to or follow Mel on Twitter @Grow_Potential


4 thoughts on “How To Ensure You Are Understood

  1. LifeCoachingSue

    As always Mel, loving your blogs. The recent one on COURAGE particularly resonated with me in terms of coaching in particular. Well done you! Keep up the inspired and inspiring writing.

    Sue x

    **************************** Sue MacGillivray Life Coaching Solutions email: Tel: 0141 533 5136 Mobile: 07597 107812 Like my Facebook page for daily tips and strategies to manage your life iMA Affiliate – bringing people closer


  2. The Quiet Speaker

    A few I’ve heard, though not sure they qualify as “tongue twisters”…
    To improve articulation: Wouldn’t you like to start renovating the wooden patio decking?
    To reduce sibilant ‘s’: Stan seasoned the salad with salt. I put the best biscuit in the basket. In this race, bets on pets are off limits. (You practice the ‘s’ in different positions in the word.)


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