Review The gift of the gab: How eloquence works (a review)

original work by DAVID CRYSTAL reviewed by BARRY TOMALIN

Although David Crystal is one of the world’s most eminent professors of English, and a writer and broadcaster on language and related subjects, he is a man who wears his immense learning lightly. The Gift of the Gab is full of lively stories and examples which make his points live in the memory – as an eloquent speech or piece of writing should. The Gift of the Gab is about eloquence, as Crystal describes it, ‘going beyond the ordinary’. To have the gift of the gab means to speak with eloquence. It comes from the Irish ‘to gab’, meaning to tell stories fluently and with ease. The book is about public speaking and presentation skills. It covers lecturing, debating and broadcasting but also more informal areas of public speaking such as after dinner speeches at a social event and best man speeches at a wedding. Therefore, how to speak successfully in both informal and formal, social and official functions are discussed. In his chapter entitled ‘Talking about Content’ he covers almost every area of public speaking, even down to how to introduce a speaker and deliver a vote of thanks, with detailed but succinct summaries of duration, level of formality required and whether to use a reflective, informative, chatty, personal or emotional style. As a general guide, this is invaluable advice.

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