Using Good Speech Every Day
1. What will make our speech pleasurable to Jehovah?
1 “Let the sayings of my mouth . . . become pleasurable before you, O Jehovah.” (Ps. 19:14) For this to be true in our case, we need to speak about right things and in a manner that befits a servant of God. We want our speech to prove that we are faithful servants of God every day, not merely when we are at the Kingdom Hall or out in the field ministry. Then the language we use in our homes, at work, at school, will reflect favorably on our ministry.—2 Cor. 6:3.
2, 3. Why are our manner of speaking and choice of words important?
2 Our manner of speaking is important. This includes even our facial expression and tone of voice. Our happiness as Jehovah’s servants should show on our faces. A friendly manner and a warm smile attract people. While the Bible truths about which we speak are serious, they are also heartwarming. So be enthusiastic! A “deadpan” expression does not fit our message of hope.
3 As you familiarize yourself with good speech you will realize that words and expressions have “personality.” They can be bitter or sweet, soft or hard, friendly or hostile, upbuilding or demoralizing. Selecting the right word or expression, then, is vitally important. Particularly is this so when words of truth, the good news of the Kingdom, are involved.
4. How can we enlarge our vocabulary?
4 Enlarging your vocabulary. There is no lack of words that can be used in praising Jehovah, as a glance at any dictionary will show. But the question is, How well do you use the reservoir of words available? When reading do you look up words that you do not fully understand, or perhaps mark them to look up when you finish the article? This will help you to increase your vocabulary. You will find, also, that there are many words that you recognize but do not use in everyday speech. Make a conscious effort to use them when appropriate. It is surely in your interest as a Christian minister or student to keep cultivating the ability to speak well.
5, 6. What will aid us to learn to use words properly?
5 Learn to use the right word. Two words may have similar but slightly different meanings, for use under different circumstances. If you take note of this you will avoid offending your listeners, and improve the clarity of your speech. Reference to a good dictionary is helpful. Some dictionaries list under each word both its synonyms (words of similar, though not identical, meaning) and antonyms (words of somewhat opposite meaning). Thus you find not only varied expressions for the same idea, but also different shades of meaning. This is very helpful when you are seeking the right word for the right circumstances. Use of the right word also keeps you from being needlessly wordy, and helps you to get to the point. Wordiness tends to bury thoughts. So practice expressing yourself in few words. When you do it well, then begin to vary your expression with descriptive words that add color and meaning.
6 As you enlarge your vocabulary, do not think only in terms of new words, but consider words that have particular characteristics: verbs that express vigor; adjectives that convey color; transitional expressions that help to avoid monotony; expressions that show warmth and have a note of kindness. In reading the Society’s publications you can note a wide variety of words and phrases from which to choose.
7, 8. Of what dangers in connection with an enlarged vocabulary should we be aware?
7 The purpose of an enlarged vocabulary, of course, is not to show off. Our objective is to convey information, not to make a personal impression on our hearers. Our viewpoint should be identical with that expressed by the apostle Paul: “In a congregation I would rather speak five words with my mind, that I might also instruct others verbally, than ten thousand words in a [foreign] tongue.” (1 Cor. 14:9, 19) If one’s speech is too difficult to be understood it might just as well be in a foreign tongue. Similarly, it is wise to avoid being needlessly technical with those who will not value the details. Even in ordinary conversation we should not try to impress listeners by complex speech and long words. It is more important that our listeners grasp what we have to say. Remember, according to Proverbs 15:2, “the tongue of wise ones does good with knowledge.” The choice of good words, words easily understood, helps make our speech refreshing and stimulating rather than dull and uninteresting.—Col. 4:6.
8 It is important also to learn to say words correctly. Pronounce them properly. You can check a dictionary, and also observe how others pronounce certain words. This will help you to avoid carelessness in pronunciation. Other dangers to be avoided in everyday speech are slurring of words and dropping the endings of words. Do not talk through your teeth. Use good diction. Open your mouth to enunciate distinctly.
9-12. What kind of speech should we avoid, and why?
9 Language to avoid. God’s Word guides us as to what kind of speech to avoid in our everyday life. The apostle Paul counsels us, for example, to avoid “things which are not becoming,” such as “obscene jesting.” (Eph. 5:3, 4) We should avoid words and expressions that are obscene and vulgar. Paul also wrote: “Let a rotten saying not proceed out of your mouth, but whatever saying is good for building up as the need may be, that it may impart what is favorable to the hearers.” (Eph. 4:29) So Christians ought to avoid curse words and rough speech. Some persons think that such language makes what they say emphatic. But there are plenty of good words that are forceful. There is no need to imitate the coarse speech of such people when we talk to them. Simple language may be helpful, but it should be clean and correct.
10 Also to be avoided are certain expressions and modes of speech that clash with grammatical usage. Such speech is often used by worldly entertainers or popularized in modern songs. People tend to imitate these. But it is not good for Christians to adopt such speech patterns. To do so would identify us with the world and its way of life. Drug peddlers and others whose whole pattern of life is criminal or immoral often have their own vocabulary, using words in a way not readily apparent to the casual listener. But our standard of speech should not be affected by such worldly influences.—Rom. 12:2.
11 Christians must be careful to avoid irreverent language. Some persons use the terms “God” and “Lord,” also “Jesus” and “Christ,” simply to add emphasis to speech, or as a substitute for a curse word. Other words such as “gosh,” “golly,” “gee” are simply euphemisms, derived from “God” and “Jesus,” and are therefore also objectionable as interjections.—Ex. 20:7; Matt. 5:34-37.
12 What people say and do may irritate us at times. Even so, it would be inappropriate for a Christian to reply with angry or abusive speech. Says the apostle: “Really put them all away from you, wrath, anger, badness, abusive speech, and obscene talk out of your mouth.” (Col. 3:8) So although the speech of others irritates you, the wise course is to control your spirit.—Prov. 14:29; Jas. 3:11.
13-16. What will help us to improve our grammar and our speech habits?
13 Proper grammar. Some persons may realize that their grammar is not the best. Perhaps they grew up in another country or lacked opportunities for much school education when they were younger. They should not be discouraged; rather, they should make a genuine effort to improve, doing so for the sake of the good news. There are beneficial steps that can be taken. For instance, family reading offers opportunities to make such corrections. Much that we know about grammar we learn by hearing others speak. So listen carefully when mature, well-educated brothers speak. When you read the Bible and the Society’s publications, be conscious of the sentence structure and the form of words used in various situations. Model your own speech in harmony with these good examples.
14 Younger ones should take advantage of the opportunity to learn good grammar and diction while attending school. As long as you are unsure of the reason for this or that grammatical rule, seek further information from your teacher. You have good reason to persevere, for you do want to be an effective minister of the good news.
15 Strive to use good speech every day. One who indulges in sloppy speech habits in his everyday conversations cannot expect to be able to speak well on special occasions. It takes practice. But if you use speech of good quality in the ordinary circumstances of life, then it will come easily and naturally to you when on the platform or when witnessing to others about God’s truth.
16 Practicing good speech every day helps to fill our minds and hearts with delightful words with which we can express our appreciation of Jehovah’s grand purposes by his kingdom. Then we shall experience the truth of Jesus’ words at Luke 6:45: “A good man brings forth good out of the good treasure of his heart.”