Pig-tailed and freckle-faced, I stood next to my grandpa’s chair.

“Speak distinctly, or do-not-speak or do-not-speak at all,” he said. It was kind of a song. As a young girl, I often talked so quickly and with such a high-pitched squeak that he couldn’t understand me. To remind me, he would sing his “Speak distinctly” song.

I felt flustered when he sang the song, but I always did as he asked. I slowed down, and repeated myself clearly.

I was about 35 when he died, and I think he repeated that song almost every time I saw him, even after my squeaks modulated into a more adult sounding voice.

The song became a family joke, but it carries a truth that everyone should heed.

If you’re going to bother speaking, speak distinctly.

Choose your words carefully, use the right tone of voice for the right occasion: one that’s not too loud and not too quiet. Keep an even pace and say what you need to say.

Speak distinctly. Or don’t speak at all.

This was originally posted at Mountain State University LeaderTalk and is reposted with permission.