Whose Speech Is It, Anyway?: Speech Style 92 Your choice of words affects the tone of your speech. Tone is your attitude toward your subject and audience. Your tone can be formal, informal, or somewhere in between. Different tones are appro- priate for different occasions, audiences, and purposes. Talk Soup The tone is your attitude toward your subject and audience. An informal tone, for example, is well suited to a brief speech at a birthday party; a formal tone, in contrast, would be more appropriate for a commencement address or a speech at a stockholders' meeting. No matter what tone you adopt for your speech, it's not a bad idea to downplay your own importance in the Great Chain of Being. You can almost always score a few points with a little humility, while arrogance and smugness rarely play well. And try to avoid absolutes, which convey a black-and- white rigidity. Study the following chart for additional guidelines. Table 12-1. Alternatives for Words That Could Make You Seem Rigid or Smug Words to Avoid Always Invariably Constantly Forever Never Never again At no time In no way Certainly Assuredly Without fail Positively Unconditionally Absolutely Words to Use Sometimes Occasionally From time to time Now and then Occasionally Once in a while Seldom Rarely Likely Reasonably Potentially At times At intervals Not infrequently Avoid Clichés Like the Plague Strive to craft fresh, new phrases. As a general rule, try to stay away from clichés --phrases that are so shopworn that they have lost their capacity to communicate with impact. If you've heard these phrases over and over again, you can bet your audience has, too. Speech of the Devil