Amy Carroll » Speaking Tips » Wonderful Words

Wonderful Words

Words are a speaker’s paintbrush.  They’re the tools of our trade, and I’m in love with them.  Right clicking to a thesaurus?  My favorite. A beautifully crafted sentence?  Blissful sighs.  A tight phrase that transmits a deep truth?  Over-the-top.

Although speakers deliver spoken words, we all start message development with the written word in some form.  Most of our writing is done in one of two forms–manuscripting or outlining.  There are pros and cons to both, but my opinion is that you should choose the style that works best for you while compensating for the down-sides of your preferred method.

Manuscripting–This method is writing your message out word-for-word just as if you are writing a chapter in a book.

Pros:  I think that speakers who manuscript often have a beautiful grasp of language that is reflected in their speaking.  Writing out the whole message allows you to write crafted, thoughtful sentences carrying maximum impact.  Manuscripting also allows you to calculate time more accurately.  I’ve read several sources and the agreed average of written words per minute is approximately 100 written words per minute.  (Makes the math easy too!)  If you’re given 30 minutes to speak, you’ll need to write about 3000 words.  You can easily adjust to 45 minutes by adding more words for a total of 4500.

Cons:  The temptation with a manuscript is to read your message instead of using excellent speaker’s delivery.  You can address the problem either by creating an abbreviated outline of your manuscript to take on stage or highlighting key phrases that allow your eyes to skip from main idea to main idea.

Outlining–Instead of writing word-for-word, outlines contain main ideas and points.  Formal outlining isn’t necessary if you have your own understandable method.

Pros:  The advantage of outlining is to provide a flexible structure.  If you tend to “internalize” instead of “memorize” your messages, outlining is probably for you.  It lends to a natural, conversational style and is already a version that makes for good stage notes.

Cons:  Without advance practice, outlining can end up in wordy and unfocused story-telling.  Outliners still need to work to write memorable, well-crafted sentences to include in your message so that it can retain impact.  Also, outlines are harder to time.  Practice is an essential element to stay laser-like and within the time frame given.

Although I’m an outliner, I can see benefits to both.  Which are you?  How does it affect your preparation and/or delivery?




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  1. I prepare to speak by writing in manuscript form. Then I rehearse what I’ve written and boldface key points or phrases that I have crafted for impact. When I’m telling a personal story, I step away from the podium because I don’t need to rely on notes for that. My speaking tends to be more teaching with personal stories for illustration.

  2. Wow. I definitely prefer manuscript style. For me, I just feel comfortable that way. I can be prone to rambling if I’m not careful so I think that’s why outlining doesn’t work as well for me.

  3. I am actually a “combo” writer – outlining the message first (using Andy Stanley’s method JUST LIKE YOU TAUGHT ME!) and filling in any key points or illustrations that come to mind for each section of the message at the time of outlining and in the days that follow as I pray about the message, let the Spirit talk to me, encounter unexpected experiences that fit, discover relevant quotes, articles, anecdotes that fit. I usually put ME at the top of a notebook page, then YOU at the top of another notebook page, and so on, and continue to fill in those pages over a number of days as insights occur.

    Once I have a basic framework or outline, I move to manuscripting each of the 5 outline sections by drawing from the notes I have in each section. That allows me to read for flow, cut for timing of message & then internalize by reading several times & adjusting length and content as I discover is needed in practicing.

    Then I go back and outline from the manuscript to speak from. I find that when I’m speaking from the outline and want to stress a point or can see I have enough time to add material, that I can easily recall from my note taking other things that fit or make the point without going totally rogue & coming up with something extra on the spot. So I actually outline, manuscript, outline, speak.

  4. I actually am a “manuscripting” speaker. Lately, I have a terrible issue with my memory and can even forget “one” word and get stuck there….LOL! I do not read but like you say in your piece- I highlight, bold and italize points that I can quickly glance at. However, it is my insuance policy in case I go totally blank!

    Thank you so much for sharing all your knowledge and tips with us. Hopefully some day I will be able to take advantage of your services.

    Have a blessed CHRISTmas season!

  5. Kate Posthuma says:

    Hi, Amy,
    When I first started speaking, I wrote my message out word-for-word because it made me feel the most comfortable. I would then read through it several times until it was internalized. However, when I would deliver it, I still “read” it instead of “spoke” it. As I have grown over the years I still mostly write it out manuscript, leaving only notes for parts I can share from memory. I am now at the point of delivery where I am more relaxed and look only at my notes once in a while instead of reading them. Not surprisingly, my audience is more engaged with this method and I am having more fun too!
    God’s peace to you this Christmas!