If there was ever a speech-related habit that drives some of us bonkers, it’s the voice dropping down at the end of a sentence, especially if it ends in that dreaded 21st-century phenomenon, the creaky, grating low-pitched sound known as glottal fry (also called vocal fry). It seems I’m always asking “What? Could you say that again?” since the last word or two of so many statements seem to disappear.
Part of the problem with this disappearance of the end of sentences, which I call the down ending, whether or not it has glottal fry, is a dropping of pitch, energy, and breath support. Glottal fry isn’t really harmful to the voice (the vocal cords are actually super relaxed and compliant when we “fry”), but it is maddening for the listener. Even if there’s no fry at the end of the phrase, the voice often just drops down into oblivion, rendering the voice too soft and the words unintelligible. So what can we do to fix this bad habit?
The solution is simple in theory, but may take a bit of work in practice. I call it the up ending. But wait, you might ask, doesn’t that make it sound like a question? The answer is no. At the end of a question, our voice often goes up at or near the end of a sentence, but it doesn’t really drop down again in many cases. With the up ending I’m talking about, like the skier going off the ski jump, the voice goes up a little at or near the end of a sentence, then drops down. But because the voice went up and off that ski jump first, it doesn’t drop down as far as it does in the down ending, because it started from a high pitch.
While we’re busy sending our voices off ski jumps at the ends of sentences, we also have to remember to maintain energy and breath support right to the last syllable of the last word of a sentence. I call this “keep on singing”. You wouldn’t let your voice drop into the basement on the last word in a line from a song. You shouldn’t let it drop in speaking either. Keep your energy going until that last syllable is completed.
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