How to Add Emphasis: 4 tips for powerful speaking & writing

Precise language is a powerful instrument for leaders, teachers, and other effective communicators. When language is precise, it’s efficient and effective.

Here are 4 ways to add strength and precision to your words:

1. Really Truly Limit your use of words like very and really. If you use strong, clear words the emphasis will be obvious to your audience. Really.

  • I was livid is shorter and stronger than I was really mad.
  • It’s a 7-day walk is more precise than It’s very far away.
  • This is like a lifting a small car is longer but easier to visualize and understand than This is truly heavy.

2. Literally means in fact or actually but people sometimes use it as emphasis, which is incorrect.

  • I was literally beside myself when I saw what the dog did to my shoes means that the dog chewed up your shoes and that there were two of you, standing next to each other. (In that case, the dog may not be the most interesting part of the story.)
  • I was furious or I literally shook with anger are better.

3. I Couldn’t Care Less is correct. Could care less means it’s possible to care less than you do now, which means you must care, even just a little.

4. Keep Only In Its Place. The word only is often misplaced. It should be beside the word it relates to:

  • I only eat bread means the one thing you do with bread is eat it—you don’t drink it, or make hats with it.
  • If you mean that bread is the only thing you eat, put the only beside bread: I eat only bread.
  • If all the bread’s for you, then say Only I eat the bread.

When your language is precise, it’s efficient and effective. You need fewer words, which means people are more likely to listen and understand. Precise language is a powerful instrument for leaders, teachers, and other effective communicators.