Upspeak or uptalk (2 terms for the same thing) are getting lots of press lately. Some people are being “criticized” for using it. Some people are feeling discriminated against for being criticized for using upspeak.
Either way, if you want to be perceived as a confident, believable person, you’ll want to learn how to stop upspeak. Because upspeak is when you use a rising inflection at the end of your utterances and rising inflection indicates a yes/no question. So automatically when a person hears it, their brain tells them they need to answer yes or no. So they can never believe you.
Taking away your power.
It’s pretty easy, just requires a bit of determination. We’ll go over the steps briefly here then get into more detail about why we use it & how to stop upspeak throughout the article.
Powerful people don’t use upspeak.
Except for Kim Kardashian. Is she powerful? Well, she may be powerful because she’s loaded. Anyway, you’re not looking for that kind of power. I digress. Apologies.
You know the folks who just magnetize everyone around them? People love to be with them; they have excellent communication skills and a strong verbal brand. They’re concise and authoritative but warm and engaging. And they’re super persuasive. I could go on, but I think you get the point.
You can be this way too. Does that sound impossible? It’s not. It’s entirely possible. If you learn and practice the techniques, it’s going to be you in a relatively short time.
Following are the 6 steps to getting rid of uptalk in your daily life:
- Record yourself speaking for just a minute.
- Write down the culprit sentences.
- Make an up arrow on the second to last syllable.
- Draw a down arrow right over the last syllable.
- Read it aloud by speaking louder where the arrow is up.
- Say the last syllable super quiet and short in duration.
Scroll way down to the section How to Stop Upspeak if you don’t need the whys and want to just get to the improvement part.
What is UpSpeak?
Upspeak (AKA Uptalk, Rising Inflection, Upward Inflection–It’s known by a ridiculous number of names, but I just call it Upspeak. It’s short & to the point which is where our communication skills should be headed anyway.) is when a person’s speech goes up in pitch at the end of a statement.
It’s what you do when you ask a yes/no question. You use a rising inflection to indicate to someone that they get to make a decision about what you’ve just said.
Upspeak doesn’t make you sound authoritative or credible. You’re essentially giving away your power when you go up in pitch at the end of a statement.
In English, we have:
Declarative Statements (in which one states a fact or a belief. e.g. “I really like coffee”)
Yes/No questions (in which one asks another for a yes/no answer. e.g. “Would you like coffee?”)
Wh-Questions (Questions beginning with “what” “where” “when” “how”)
Both Declarative Statements & Wh-Questions use a downward inflection. Meaning the pitch goes down. Only Yes/No Questions go up in frequency at the end of the sentence. Try this Y/N Question aloud:
“Do you want some ice cream?”
You go up at the end, right? But if you ask a wh-question, your inflection goes down at the end of your utterance. Try this:
“Where is the meeting?”
We’re supposed to go down in pitch as well as volume at the end of the word, “meeting.” So the ee sound in meet gets longer in duration and louder in volume and the -ing part of the word goes down in pitch, volume & duration.
Being a Great Communicator Can Be Rocket Science and It’s OK
But now let’s try using the upward inflection on some declarative statements. Try these aloud:
We have a meeting tomorrow at 4:30
I work at Google.
I need to leave early today.
I’d like a raise.
What did they sound like coming out of your mouth? How did you feel?
Impact of UpSpeak
So let’s say you’re using an upward inflection on a declarative sentence. Your listeners’ brains are working overtime, trying to figure out if the answer is yes or no. Because when we use Y/N question intonation, we are requiring work from our listeners. They need to answer us.
So here you are possibly delivering a report about an ongoing project, and you keep going up at the end. And your boss and team-mates are having a hard time processing your critical and intelligent messages.
That results in your message not being taken seriously, your ideas being dismissed. Not so much because people are annoyed by upspeak (although I hear that happens too) but because it’s difficult for them to process the information.
What is UpTalk and Why is it Unprofessional?
It’s a question I hear a lot. This article is here to explain what it is. But why is uptalk unprofessional?
My main concern with uptalk is that it makes it very hard for you to be understood. The entire premise behind being a refined & persuasive communicator is that we are understood.
In fact, that’s why we developed language & speaking in the first place.
Would you be content if no one could understand you?
Why would we want to sit in a meeting, trying to get our message across and be content with having no one understand us?
Trouble is, if they don’t understand you, they can’t do what you need them to do.
If you’re living the life of your dreams & everyone is doing what you tell them to do, then feel free to carry on. (Unless you just want to improve yourself because that’s the way you are.)
But if you are working hard on achieving your success, then make communication skills training something you put into your life. It’s as important as going to the gym or doing your workout.
What Crimes are Getting You Interrupted, Micromanaged, and Ignored?
Did Ita Olsen Ever Use Uptalk?
Was I always a perfect communicator? No! I’m still not an impeccable communicator!
Full disclosure: I used to use upspeak like it was going out of style! I went up at the end, I had a super high pitch that had almost zero ability to project my voice across the room. Stop it, my list of vocal flaws was nearly endless.
But when I hung out my Communication Skills Training shingle in 1996, I decided I had to improve my own ability to speak in all anxiety-ridden environments. I knew that was the key to my getting ahead in my career.
How to Stop Upspeak
Truth? It’s not that hard to eliminate your upspeak. (It’s not that hard to do any of the speaking & vocal training that I teach, really)
It merely requires a few minutes a day for a couple of weeks. We’ll stop upspeak in its tracks 🙂
Let’s go through the steps.
- Don’t be afraid of recording yourself. That will not help you in your life. Your tennis pro video records you. Your music teacher records you. Here you are by yourself at your kitchen table. Record yourself talking.
- Listen for upspeak and write down the offending sentences. If you have to listen a few times to find them, great.
- Draw an up arrow on the last strong syllable on the last word. In this last sentence, it’s the ‘o’ in “word”. But if it were ‘talking’ it would be over the ‘a’ that you put the up arrow.
- Make a down arrow over the last part of the word.
- Read it aloud by speaking louder where the arrow is up. Here’s how to speak louder and quieter on the last 2 syllables.
- Say the last syllable super quiet and short in duration. Also, go down in pitch at the end.
The trick with bringing your inflection down at the end of your utterances is to determine which syllable receives the primary emphasis and making that one longer & louder. If the last word is a one syllable word, then the word itself gets split into 2 parts. For example:
“Here’s the book.” Sounds like: “Here’s the bUuk.”
That’s how to stop upspeak.
Results of Eliminating Upspeak
You will be taken so seriously when you speak. People will stop & listen to you. People will follow your lead. You’ll be considered refined & persuasive as a communicator. There’s no downside to eliminating upspeak from your life.
Use the steps outlined above to eliminate your upspeak. Do this for a few weeks. Start with easy speaking situations, then when that’s mastered, you can work your way to more challenging speaking situations. Then your new “downspeak” will become a habit in your life. You’ll not have to work on your upspeak again. It’ll be a learned behavior. 🙂
Uptalk Undermines You
Using upspeak literally undermines the speaker. It confuses people when they try to listen. Resulting in a much lower percentage of comprehension.
Using upspeak also results in fewer people following your call to action. You have a call to action. One of our primary calls to action is for people to think we’re smart in the workplace and in our personal lives.
UpSpeak is Not Your Identity
Your identity has nothing to do with something so superficial as speech errors. These things happen because that’s what we learned when listening to others. Speaking flaws happen more when we get nervous than when we’re comfortable.
Get What You Want With More Persuasive Speaking
Your identity is how smart you are, how funny you are, other important characteristics like that. Because our education system doesn’t teach kids to be great communicators. It’s not even addressed! So we are left to our own devices when it comes to developing communication skills.
Want to stop using upspeak? The Voice Spa will train you.
The Voice Spa first teaches you to be habitually relaxed in all high-stakes situations. You’ll be ultra-confident and cool as a cucumber being interview on Bloomberg or GMA. You’ll be smooth as silk during an interview or on Shark Tank 🙂
Next, you learn to use a concise speaking style. Then I teach you to bring your intonation down at the end of your utterances.
Then I teach you the techniques to being authoritative & persuasive. I give you lots of practice.
You’ll learn to use a back resonance which gives you a very professional and authoritative sound. Your voice will be so magnetic people will do precisely what you tell them to do.
If you do your homework (it’s not brain surgery but requires some diligence), you’ll end up being an incredibly well-spoken persuasive person. You’ll still be you, only more compelling and influential.
What do you think about UpSpeak?
Tell me what you think about upspeak or uptalk. Which word do you like better? Have you ever heard of uptalk? Are you currently using it and would like to eliminate it? Do you know anyone who uses uptalk or upspeak? How do you feel about it? Did this article help you to stop upspeak? Have you ever worked on your communication skills in any capacity? These are the things I’d like to know from you. And then some!
19 thoughts on “How to Stop UpSpeak”
It is so annoying it seems to be more of a female thing than a male thing. It seems females use it more when being interviewed on the radio part of the “telephone voice” people adapt as opposed to their ordinary communicating voice. When did all this begin. It wasnt about years ago. I believe it to be a sign of the speaker lack of confidence in what they are saying. It lacks certainty.
Amen. It’s like tacitly saying, “Am I okay? Do you like what I’m saying?” And, frankly, my whole brain is screaming, “No! I can’t even hear what you’re saying because I’m tuning you out. I can’t stand to listen you you!”
The misogynistic society we live in created this. Women in STEM and in corporate positions are ridiculed for sounding intelligent, sure of themselves and assertive in their fields. Men subject to the societal view that males are somehow supposed to be superior in their field than females create toxic environments to women who are threatening. It is still going on in 2021. See: Exploring the YouTube Science Communication Gender Gap: A Sentiment Analysis, the gender wage gap of U.S. and Austrailia, Picture a Scientist, or google scholar the topic and find hundreds of supporting articles.
I work for a multi-million dollar earning middle aged male who does it CONSTANTLY.
That is a sexist comment, you’re a jerk
Let’s please not name-call on this site.
I understand you’d say it’s sexist but everyone is entitled to their opinion. Perhaps we can find the statistics of who uses upspeak more, men or women.
I have to be honest, I heard myself doing this the other day with the word “Okay?”. As a rhetorical device to see if people understood me.
I didn’t even know I was doing it until some guy told me how annoying I sound. I cried and got mad, like everyone should just deal with it and not make fun of me. I was angry for like 6 months! But I’ve been working on it for a while and I do notice that people are taking me more seriously. So, yeah that guy was so mean! But I didn’t know I was doing it so I’m glad I found out. Besides, I know I’m not the only one who upspeaks.It’s better to improve myself and reap the benefits than sit around not sounding authoritative.
Really appreciate your definition of upspeak. I’ve noticed this is quite common amongst speech of both genders
Very informative article! As a teacher, I’m well aware of the importance of having communication skills. Yet, I never really realized what UpSpeak was until reading this.
I’ve been listening to people and it seems mostly women use upspeak. Listen to the shows like ‘chopped’ or ‘worst cooks in america’–it’s the women that use upspeak. No more, not me, I’m going to work on my speech. Thank you for the article!!!
Men use it, too!
Thank goodness for this wonderful site. I first heard what was to become known as upspeak in 2006. I live in London, where you can’t walk past a metropolitan type without hearing them speak in this manner. I wish l could say my home city – dialect and accent rich Manchester – was free of this hideous form of speech. Sadly not. Is there anywhere on the planet it hasn’t reached yet?
Quite a bit of introspection and self-assessment necessary. I don’t think the general populous is able and willing. They’d probably rather just be ineffective at communicating than put a little time and energy into it.
I thought this was the most valuable advice this century. I have been trying to work out why people do not action my suggestions for years. The classic, someone else says the same thing and it gets done. They also repeat themselves back to me when I was clear the first time. I do feel less feminine when practising it but surprisingly, it gives great results. My back ground is in Performing Arts & my mum was very animated growing up. I must have mimicked and continued the bad habits thinking it was a personality trait. I currently work for an answer service and it will really help with call control durations. I appreciate your insight, thank you.
Thanks for your lovely comment, D. I’m happy to teach you to do it and still feel feminine. A little tweak will help you out 🙂
Thanks so much for this information! I hate watching videos of myself speaking, and worked out why, it’s due to the upspeak habit i have. As painful as recording myself may be, I think it’s the most valuable learning tool!!!
I agree! Thanks for your note!