Published February 27, 2013
You may not know it's called "vocal fry" but you'd recognize it if you heard it. Experts think the prevalence this drawn out, exaggerated way of speaking which you might associate with some young women you know is damaging the careers of some young professionals.
Vocal fry is one of the three vocal registers used by humans, and it's usually reserved for situations when the speaker has run out of breath or is lacking in energy or enthusiasm. But this lackluster way of speaking has become more prevalent in the ordinary speech of young people, particularly women, said Linda Hoag, professor of communication sciences and vocal disorders at Kansas State University.
Some aspects of the speech pattern remain mysterious, including its prevalence among women, Hoag said. “The science behind it is incomplete,” she said. “As of now, we are not aware of any structural or physiological differences that predispose women to vocal fry.”
Hoag said that the speech habit could act as a setback for individuals who must use their voices professionally, such as speech pathologists. She recommends that those stricken with this vocal fry syndrome try inhaling more deeply before beginning a sentence.
Olivia Law-DelRosso, director of the College of Business Administration's Professional Advantage program at Kansas State, said the vocal fry phenomenon could also be detrimental to young people whose voice would otherwise have no impact on their careers.
"Vocal fry is considered trendy, and that's not something that generally appeals to older generations or certain clients," Law-DelRosso said. "You want to appear professional, and being thought of as trendy does not help."
Law-DelRosso said that young professionals should focus on being innovative in their ideas, not in their approach to the spoken word. She also said young workers should avoid certain words associated with this vocal fry dialect, such as "like" or "um," as they often irritate members of older generations and tend to make the speaker sound less professional.
Instead of falling back on these vocal habits, Law-DelRosso recommends that young professionals use "senior presence," or a mature demeanor that exudes professionalism and experience. Part of growing up, she said, is being conscious of one's speech patterns.
"Match the tone and quickness of your voice to the person you're talking to, as well as the volume," Law-DelRosso said. "You're in the conversation because your opinion is valued. Don't distract from your ideas with your speech patterns."