Speech 30: Speechwriting

This course explores speechwriting as a process. Students will work independently and in peer groups to write speeches for themselves and for others. Students will also deliver speeches. Throughout the course, students will compare speechwriting with other types of writing, celebrating the unique challenges of writing for the ear. No prerequisites. Limited enrollment.

To view the full ORC description, which indicates terms this course is scheduled to be offered, follow this link: Speech 30

In this course, we will consider some challenges of writing speeches. As we move toward better writing for the ear, we will consult ancient and contemporary texts and practice the craft of speechwriting. To recognize the collaborative nature of speechmaking and speechwriting, we will work in peer groups for feedback, advice, and perspective.

Students will not only write but also deliver speeches.

We will pay close attention to the strengths and weaknesses of speech manuscripts, comparing manuscripts with extemporaneous, memorized, and impromptu approaches to speech. How can a speech set to paper resonate with the dynamism of spontaneous, heartfelt utterances? How can a speaker avoid rote memory while using a manuscript and sustaining crucial engagement with an audience? We’ll move back and forth between speaking and writing, seeing how each can inform the other.

One of the means we’ll use to make these discoveries about speechwriting is dialogue. If we want our speeches to reflect the dynamism and collaboration of dialogue (and I argue that we do), we should use dialogue to build our speeches. I’m using dialogue here as a broad, general term—encompassing talk, conversation, speaking aloud. We will engage in dialogue, not just to audition our arguments and ideas, but also, to discover our arguments and ideas.

There will be two longer speeches written and delivered during the term. You will also write and deliver a number of shorter speeches, including two speeches written for and delivered by other speakers. Speeches will be more formal than informal and will be evaluated as they are delivered. That is, we’ll assess speeches as speeches, not as writings. Note that we’ll average a little over one speech per week during the term, and each will involve pre- and post-speech writings.

You’ll be asked to regularly post entries to our class blog on Blackboard, and you will also keep a Blackboard-based journal during the term to help monitor your progress in speechwriting and speaking.

During the course, we will face a number of speechwriting challenges: How do we convert our ideas into spoken words of influence? How can we write more effectively for the ear? How can we reflect the spontaneity and dynamism of dialogue in a speech set to paper? To offer some answers to these questions and others, we’ll speak about speaking, write about speaking, speak about writing, and write about writing. Meta-communication—in many forms, across mediums—will play a central role in the course.

Course Goals

We will aim for two primary learning objectives:

  • to become better speechwriters through informed practice of speechwriting;
  • to help others to become better speechwriters through collaboration and constructive criticism.

To meet these primary objectives, I will help you to:

  • contrast speechwriting with other types of writing;
  • discover and apply criteria of good speechwriting;
  • experience writing speeches for oneself and for others;
  • practice writing memorable and impacting phrases;
  • assess and use strategic speech organizational strategies;
  • advance positions regarding ethical considerations and challenges of speechwriting;
  • improve skills of critical evaluation;
  • improve public speaking delivery;
  • demonstrate rhetorical flexibility; and
  • write and deliver interesting speeches.