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Mend your speech a little, lest you mar your fortunes. — William Shakespeare What serious young lawyer would consciously talk like this: “Eyes like toadily bummed on him, like y’know? He’s got like these issues or whatever.” Unhappily, they often do. And to judge by what is overheard daily in the corridors of some law firms or among some cell phone-wielding young lawyers, the speakers are oblivious to their crimes of the tongue. Rightly or wrongly by their personal lights, such talk can result in broken deals and dead-end interviews, say three national consultants regularly employed by law firms and individual attorneys sufficiently self-aware of, or perhaps warned about, their oral horrors. “I just don’t understand these lawyers,” said Ralph Proodian, founder of New York-based Speech Communication Analysis. “Why does a lawyer have to sound like a dud? Why can’t they have a standard for themselves? Why do they want to sound like Marlon Brando?” Added Michelle Rosen, an actor and singer who frequently co-teaches at Proodian’s seminars, “It sounds like baby talk.” Phyllis Martin, a retired hiring executive at Procter & Gamble headquarters in Cincinnati, has made a fortune with the international best-seller “Word Watchers Handbook,” in which she recounts the “hear-aches” of her career. “I don’t consider myself a particular expert, except in one area — words that hurt my ears,” said Martin, whose book urges young professionals to chisel certain words and phrases from their vocabularies. “The moment someone uses a word incorrectly, they ruin the rest of their presentation.” Ann Marie Sabath, a former school teacher who founded the Cincinnati-based professional etiquette consultancy At Ease, acknowledged that her fellow baby-boomers likewise engage in verbal faux pas, and sometimes depend too much on flabby adverbs. “Oh, yes, the older attorneys have their sins,” said Sabath, whose latest book on professional conduct, “Courting Business: 101 Ways for Accelerating Business Relationships,” will be published in February. “I’ve committed sins myself. I absolutely use the word absolutely way too often.” The idea of polite and respectful speech, according to Sabath, is to avoid words and phrases that separate generations. This, she suggests, is not so bad for business. Said Proodian, “You destroy yourself when you open your mouth if you don’t know how to speak.” Nearly all of Proodian’s young attorney students, he said, ask how to overcome the jitters when making presentations to clients or partners, or interviewing for a better job. “People who care about the outcome of a meeting are not going to be relaxed,” he said. Not to worry, he tells his students, “Do you know that Laurence Olivier said he had stage fright? Right up to the end, that’s what he said.” Rosen said she was not so much nervous in the early stages of her theatrical career as she was handicapped by “a really thick Long Island accent, a little bit of nasality and a lisp.” She got over it, and has been a Proodianite ever since. “Everybody knows how to talk,” she said. “Ralph teaches refinement.” Refinement, said Proodian, amounts to a set of “simple skills” and a conviction that tonality and voice quality matter because, he said, “Most listeners’ minds wander.” There is ease and melody to the English language, he said, which consists of 38 basic sounds, of which only seven are made outside the mouth, requiring minimal muscularity — so long as you breathe naturally. “If you don’t stop to breathe,” he said, “You make your listener uncomfortable.” A FEW POINTERS Proodian’s additional advice:

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