Are You Weakening Your Message with Qualifiers?

Executive Speech Coach & Hall of Fame Keynote Speaker Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE
Executive Speech Coach & Hall of Fame Keynote Speaker Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE

As an executive speech coach, I advise speakers to, “Edit your speech to a nub.” When preparing a presentation, record yourself and then listen carefully to find and eliminate unnecessary words or phrases.  Cut out anything that will dilute your message. These include: non-words, clichés, redundancies, useless conjunctions, adverbs, adjectives… and qualifiers! I share this excerpt from an article by my friend Craig Harrison, Past District Governor of Oakland, California’s Lakeview Toastmasters to help you eliminate qualifiers.  Craig makes excellent points on how qualifiers weaken your message.

“It’s time to trim the linguistic fat that weighs down your words. Rid yourself of language that diminishes your power. Avoid qualifiers, hedges and other figures of speech that dilute your message and diminish your impact. Speak the language of success…without qualification!

Look out for the hedge!

Review your written and spoken words to audit your use of qualifiers, words that limit or qualify a word or phrase. Qualifiers undermine your message. Are you using words that weaken the impact of your statements?

Salespeople learn this lesson on their way to success. Consider these two statements by competing vendors:

  1. We’ll deliver it by Wednesday.
  2. We’ll try to deliver it by Wednesday.

Which will you buy from? I’m sure it’s the former!

Consider these assertions about similar Toastmasters clubs made by competing VP-PR officers:

  1. Ours is the best club in the District!
  2. I believe ours is the best club in the District!
  3. It’s the best club in the District, in my estimation.

Which club will you visit first? Unequivocally, the one who sounds most confident: the first officer’s statement.

Whether in your club speeches, work presentations or negotiations with your children (or parents), be cognizant how the language used informs the results derived. The following words, whether inserted before a claim or statement, or appended thereafter, weaken your statements and should be avoided whenever possible:

  • Try
  • Maybe
  • If…
  • Possibly
  • Perhaps…
  • With luck…
  • Perchance
  • Might
  • Consider…
  • Entertain a notion
  • Hope to
  • OK?
  • Would like to…?
  • I believe…
  • In my opinion…
  • I feel…
  • As far as I can tell…
  • I suppose …
  • I suggest …
  • I think…
Craig Harrison
Craig Harrison

Too many qualifiers in a sentence call into question the veracity of your statements. Remember, you’re not running for office, – you are selling, persuading or otherwise building your credibility! Speak with authority, assuredness and confidence. Weak language interdicts your power. Banish weak words and the language of doubt from your lexicon.”

This piece was excerpted from Craig Harrison’s article  “Power Speaking – Use Lessons from Sales Pros to Bolster Your Message.”

Professional speaker Craig Harrison, DTM is past District Governor of 120 plus Toastmaster clubs in coastal Northern California, past president of NSA Northern California Chapter, and founder and current dean of NSA Northern California Chapter’s Pro-Track Speakers Academy. He founded Expressions of Excellence!™ to provide sales and service solutions through speaking. Visit: For more articles, tools and tips for speakers visit:

Thank you Craig!

Professional Speaker Craig Harrison with Executive Speech Coach and Hall of Fame Keynote Speaker Patricia Fripp
Craig Harrison and Patricia Fripp

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