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English

Speaking

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Writing a speech

Standard English

Standard English is the style of English grammar, spelling and vocabulary that is widely accepted in spoken and written English. In formal speaking and listening situations, you will need to communicate using Standard English, eg when writing or giving a speech.

Speeches

The key to presenting the perfect speech is preparation and practice. World leaders don't just stand up and make up a speech on the spot - they carefully prepare beforehand. They even employ people to write their speeches, although remember, this is not an option at school!

An effective speech needs to:

  • Use the English language skilfully - as you have time to prepare your speech in advance, you can show off your English language skills and vocabulary.

  • Be memorable - former prime minister Tony Blair was famous for making a speech that included the phrase "Education, education, education". This use of repetition made the speech memorable and helped his audience identify his key point.

  • Make people think - you may have heard of Martin Luther King who repeated the phrase "I have a dream" when he campaigned for equal rights for black Americans. This was a speech designed to inspire and connect with his audience.

Excerpt from Martin Luther King's 'I have a dream' speech

Martin Luther King

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama little black boys and little black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

Read the speech in full on the BBC News website.

A good speech might contain the following:

  • Rhetorical questions

  • Repetition

  • Lists of three

  • Contrast

  • Emotive language

  • Direct address

  • Evidence (statistics, quotations, examples)

Here is an example of a speech to a group of students. Rollover the highlighted sections to see how the writer uses the techniques from the list above.

Fellow students, have you ever felt afraid to walk around the school by yourself? 11: Direct Address. The speaker is addressing the audience directly, asking them to think about their own experiences.  In a recent survey carried out by the school council, 70 percent 22: Evidence. This is an example of evidence to make the argument more convincing. of us have been bullied at some time in our life at school.

The bullies arevicious, violent and vindictive33: Lists of three. A list of three words together sounds really powerful when it is said out loud. 44: Emotive Language. These three words are examples of emotive language. . Unfortunately, they are getting away with it. Can this be fair?55: Rhetorical Questions. The audience aren't expected to give an answer, but the speaker wants them to think about what he is saying.

We, the victims, are afraid of wearing the wrong trainers. We are afraid of being too smart or too stupid. We are afraid 66: Repetition. It is effective to repeat the word 'afraid' in a speech about bullying. of anything that might draw attention to ourselves. The time has come for the fear to stop.

The bullies terrify other students, and yet they are cowards 77: Contrast. 'Coward' contrasts with 'terrify'.  themselves. If we pull together we can fight this fear. Join me and fight this fear 88: Another example of repetition! today.

1
Direct address Direct Address. The speaker is addressing the audience directly, asking them to think about their own experiences.
2
Evidence Evidence. This is an example of evidence to make the argument more convincing.
3
Lists of three. Lists of three. A list of three words together sounds really powerful when it is said out loud.
4
Emotive Language. Emotive Language. These three words are examples of emotive language.
5
Rhetorical Questions. Rhetorical Questions. The audience aren't expected to give an answer, but the speaker wants them to think about what he is saying.
6
Repetition. Repetition. It is effective to repeat the word 'afraid' in a speech about bullying.
7
Contrast. Contrast. 'Coward' contrasts with 'terrify'.
8
Repetition. Another example of repetition!

Activity

Speaking activity

Improve your public speaking and maybe you'll be a TV Presenter one day. But it's not all bad!

Play

State of Debate

Talk your way out of trouble using your English skills.

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