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A New Speaking Trend which is Dangerous for Your Voice

Updated: Jun 14


In the last few years a new trend has appeared in American speech, especially among young women, which appears to imitate the voices of the Kardashians. This new fad is known as vocal fry.

What is Vocal Fry?

Vocal fry is a low, airy, gravelly voice quality that some people use while speaking, often characterized by a raspy or crackling sound at the bottom of the vocal registration below that of normal speech.. It is produced by vibrating the vocal cords at a very slow rate, which can create a deep, harsh, sometimes growling sound. This voice quality makes young women sound like thy are running out of air.

Past Vocal Trends

When radio and TV were new to the market the “broadcast” voice was born. This dialect from the Midwest was taught in speech - communication classes in broadcast schools throughout most of the 20th Century. Broadcast voices were noted for their theater quality with clear diction, excellent projection, vocal modulation, enunciation, and excellent resonance. When the United States became more ethnically diverse this broadcast standard faded away. Now more and more regional dialects are incorporated into theater and broadcasting.

In the 1980’s a linguistic subculture of young upwardly-mobile young women called the Valley Girls introduced the unique California vocal dialect called uptalk which became the rage of young women at the time. Uptalk is a speech pattern where the speaker ends the sentence with a rising inflection making it sound like question: The phrase, “It is hot in Arizona” in uptalk is interpreted as “ “It is hot in Arizona???”- a question. This fad lasted about 4 to 5 years and dissipated as quickly as it entered our culture.

The New Trend in Speaking and Linguistics

With the introduction of the Kardashians on television and streaming services, a new craze was born - vocal fry. Speaking in vocal fry is when you are at the bottom of your vocal register producing  a low, glottalized, scratchy sound. Additionally, that sound is produced with very little diaphragmatic breath support. Thus fry produces slower vibrations of the vocal folds. Vocal fry has been deemed by broadcast and communication schools as unpleasant and unprofessional in the English language because it can comes across as lazy or disinterested. It can also make it difficult for others to understand what you are saying, as the creaky voice quality can distort the words being spoken. Furthermore, using vocal fry excessively can strain the vocal cords and potentially lead to vocal nodules or other vocal health issues.

How Do I Stop Using Vocal Fry?

Like any other linguistic pattern, we learn speech patterns by listening to others and it is easy to develop new speech habits. Have you ever noticed that if you visit another part of the country for a few weeks you start picking up that dialect? This is how the vocal fry is learned.

The biggest problem causing vocal fry today is that speakers don’t take enough pauses, creating run-on sentences, which contributes to vocal fry. When you don’t take a pause, your sentence becomes so long that the end of the phrase just drops a s you run out of breath until it sounds like a creaky door. To highlight better communication skills you might want to find out what your optimal pitch is by training with a Speech-Language-Pathologist or a Vocologist, such as myself. Finding your optimal pitch and a healthy voice registration will protect you from vocal damage and strain.

Let’s Sum Up

We know that vocal fry is a learned behavior that can be corrected with vocal training. Professionally it is important to speak clearly and confidently in a work setting no matter whether you are a teacher, public speaker, or someone who wants to sound more polished. Remember that vocal fry can detract from your message and credibility. It is best to avoid using vocal fry and instead focus on using a clear and articulate voice while speaking in English.

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1 Comment

Speaking clearly is so important, and takes a conscious effort to fix. Thanks for this helpful advice.

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