Speaking Tips: Think in Periods, not Commas

Have you ever sat through a meeting, listening to someone who just rambles on and on and on? Brutal, isn’t it? You are looking at your watch or your phone, trying to wish the time forward and each time you look you realize it is only 48 seconds since the last time you looked. It takes every ounce of self control in your body to smile and nod and look engaged. And all the while, you are hoping this person will just STOP talking.

Now, be honest with yourself, and think about if anyone ever has felt that way in one of your meetings


We’ve all had those moments of rambling, some of us more than others. And there are a few ways to deal with it. Many of the solutions consist of better techniques for preparing and organizing your message. We’ve written about that many times here in the past, but that is not our topic today. Today’s solution is a delivery technique.

When rambling is the concern, we need to think about a few things: shorter sentences and actual pauses, moments of silence between sentences and between thoughts. Silence can, and should, be practiced. And a great way to think about creating that silence is to “think in periods.” Think of a period as a stop sign in your monologue, a moment to pause.

When we ramble, most of us are “thinking in commas,” (or perhaps not thinking at all) with long sentences, no pauses. We become like a boulder rolling down hill. We go faster and faster and we go on and on and on, gaining speed all the time, never letting anyone catch up to us.

The point here is to try to break your speech pattern up, speak in a complete sentence, and then STOP. Wait a moment, and then speak again. This will allow your audience to keep up with you and digest what you are saying. Practice stopping. Practice leaving a noticeable space between the end of one sentence and the beginning of the next.

Think in periods. Focus on the silent pause. Slow down. Shorten your sentences.

This will help the rambling. I promise! And try recording yourself once in a while, so you can hear what you actually sound like. Hearing a recording of ourselves can create an enormous amount of self awareness.

Have a great day.

We believe that great communication skills change the world. We transform people and organizations of all sizes with simple, repeatable techniques, through an integrated platform of corporate training, coaching, and asynchronous learning.

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Dean Brenner

A book about change

The Latimer Group’s CEO Dean Brenner is a noted keynote speaker and author on the subject of persuasive communication. He has written three books, including Persuaded, in which he details how communication can transform organizations into highly effective, creative, transparent environments that succeed at every level.