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3 pervasive & annoying speech habits

by | Aug 12, 2023 | 6 comments

You are about to hire your new VP of Sales. Or you are negotiating with the owner of a family-owned business for the rights to franchise. Or you are meeting with your CIO about a possible security breach.

And then the potential VP, the owner, and the CIO use one or all three of these highly annoying speech habits. Outcome: you don’t want to work with any of them.

In a recent conversation with Dr. Alice Silbergleit, the Director of the Speech-Language Sciences and Disorders Department of Neurology at the Henry Ford Health System in Michigan, I asked, “What are your top three bad speech habits?”

“That’s easy,” Dr. Silbergleit replied. “These three bad habits are rampant and they are killers. The first one is: DOING SOMETHING CALLED ‘UPSPEAK’. Second place goes to ‘GLOTTAL FRY’. And the third bad habit is ending sentences with ‘RIGHT?’ All three of these tie for first place!”

  1. UPSPEAK: This phenomenon refers to making all sentences end as if they were questions. Hence, your pitch goes up at the conclusion of the sentence even if you are NOT asking a question. I tell my clients to “land the plane” at the end of each sentence, even if you are asking a question. Lower your pitch. Don’t raise pitch.
  2. GLOTTAL (VOCAL) FRY: The glottal fry register is the lowest vocal register and produces a creaky lower voice. Females, to potentially sound more credible, use this croaking sound more than males. Yet, as Dr. Silbergleit explained, this voice pattern undermines the effectiveness of their communication.
  3. “RIGHT?” It was great seeing you too – RIGHT???  “Right?” is the third annoying speaking habit! Ending every sentence with the word “right” detracts from your overall presence. I concur with Dr. Silbergleit and will add two more words/phrases that become annoying: “Does that make sense?” and “Do you see what I mean?”

Just because these bad habits are rampant does not make them acceptable, right? Listen to yourself and see if you are doing Upspeak or Glottal Fry. Does that make sense?


  1. Harry Hall


    When I was teaching public speaking, I would listen for ‘up speak’ on the students’ first presentations. Didn’t see it much, but I recall one in particular. She didn’t know what I was talking about, but everyone else heard it. I recorded her once w/o her knowledge, then she caught it. I told her that would totally undermine her credibility, especially since she was going into the military.

    • Karen Cortell Reisman

      Harry – great idea to record “upspeak”. Besides creating awareness around this annoying habit, how have you helped your students and clients to stop doing this credibility crusher behavior?
      Thanks for your comments,

      • Harry Hall

        Playback a recording of them doing it. That fixes it pretty quickly.

        • Karen Cortell Reisman

          Good idea. Thanks Harry.

  2. Stevelpaso

    Great info. In the UPSPEAK, “refers to making all sentences end as if they were questions.” Isn’t this how the British always speak?
    What about “you know what I mean”, “Hum” and “whatchamacallit”.

    • Karen Cortell Reisman

      Hi Steve – You bring up a good point. Other accents have other good and annoying habits. As for Upspeak: the majority of native standard southern British English speakers do not use upspeak.
      Your other annoying phrases we say can be the start of an avalanche of filler phrases and verbal clutter. You know what I mean?
      Thanks for your comments,

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