Writers Beware of the Vocal Fry Syndrome

blah talk comic bubble text pop art retro style. Useless conversation. Empty speech

A recent trip to the beauty salon turned out to be an exercise in frustration. Instead of relaxing in between deadlines, I found it impossible to tune out two loud customers. Droning on for several hours, they chatted as if they were catching up on twenty years instead of just a few days. Believe me when I say I learned much more about their lives than I ever cared to know. What made things even worse was their nearly constant use of what speech professionals refer to as the “vocal fry.”

If you aren’t sure what I mean, check out this two minute video starring comedian Faith Salie. Be warned. Your ears will hurt. According to a Science Magazine article, a large percentage of young women have succumbed to a particularly slow fluttering of the vocal cords, much to the dismay of employers in search of candidates who don’t use a “creaky-voiced affectation.” Actress, screenwriter and director Lake Bell pounces on the topic with humor in her award-winning film, In A World.

Chuckles aside, a fickle audience will quickly go elsewhere if someone does a poor job of communicating. This important idea applies to both the spoken and written word. If text on a page is monotonous, lacks authority or irks the reader, the author will have failed to captivate, inform or entertain. That’s a bad outcome for everyone. How one makes magic with words will obviously vary across creative artists. Nevertheless, it is crucial to understand that it’s not just a matter of having something relevant to say but how it is said as well.