JESUS KNEW THE KEY TO A GOOD SPEECH: USE 1-SYLLABLE WORDS

by Wiley Brooks

Sermon on the Mount

Few would argue that the Sermon on the Mount is one of the most inspirational speeches of all time. This being the Lenten season, I thought it might be fun to see how it measures up for its word choices.  It measures up quite well, thank you.

You need not be Christian to be moved by the words. But what puts the Sermon on the Mount above so many other like-minded talks given through the centuries? Lots of speakers have uplifting, even divine things to say. So, what is it about the Sermon on the Mount that sets it apart?

Lots of short words. Few big ones.

Yes, I know that the Bible wasn’t written in English. But for the book of Matthew to have been so clearly translated speaks to the way in which it was first written. So, please just follow the key point here J.

Those who read my blog know by now how strongly I urge writers and speakers to use the simplest language they can. Short words rule. How short? The Sermon on the Mount totals 1,032 words. Of those, 84 percent have just one syllable. Let that sink in. If you’re a speaker, look at your last talk. Were you even in the 84 percent ballpark? Not likely. Then again, you’re not the son of god, either.

While short words are the way to make what you say or write easy to grasp, itty bitty words are the only way to say something that will be so quotable that it will be accurately repeated for weeks – or in Jesus’ case, a couple thousand years. The most memorable quotes rely mostly on one-syllable words.

There are two lines from the Sermon on the Mount that prove the point.

“An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”

“Whoever slaps you on the right cheek, turn the other to him also.”

Syllable count:

1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1.

2 1 1 1 1 1 1, 1 1 2 1 1 2.

You get the point. While your entire speech should use short, simple words, make sure that the one key message that you want the audience to take away relies on one-syllable words.

Amen to that.