Mastering Word Economy


“Mastering Word Economy” is an engaging and practical activity designed to help students refine their ability to present arguments succinctly. This resource guides students through the process of condensing a one-minute argument progressively into shorter segments—45 seconds, 30 seconds, and finally a 10-second summary. By recording themselves and reviewing their performances, students can observe how they adapt their delivery and focus as the available time decreases, enhancing their skills in word economy and persuasive clarity.


This activity is well-suited for students involved in speech, debate, or any coursework that emphasizes persuasive or expository speaking. It’s particularly valuable for debate team members as they prepare for competitive environments where effective time management and clear, concise argumentation are key.

Learning Outcomes

  • Efficient Communication: Students will learn to express their arguments effectively in increasingly constrained time limits.
  • Critical Self-Analysis: Develop the ability to critically analyze their speaking style, focusing on how they prioritize information and adjust their delivery.
  • Adaptability in Speech: Enhance adaptability, learning to adjust the complexity of language and detail based on the duration of the presentation.
  • Precision in Language: Improve precision in language, selecting only the most impactful words and phrases to convey arguments.


  1. Selecting and Preparing the Initial Argument:

    • Students select a topic and prepare a one-minute argument or choose a one-minute segment from a known speech or debate round.
    • Encourage students to ensure that their chosen argument is clear and has a well-defined structure.
  2. Recording the Full-Length Argument:

    • Students record themselves delivering the one-minute argument. This recording serves as the baseline for their word economy exercises.
  3. Word Economy Exercises:

    • Students should record themselves giving three versions of the same argument:
      • 45-Second Argument: Students revise their one-minute argument to fit a 45-second window. They should focus on trimming examples, unnecessary details, and passive constructions.
      • 30-Second Argument: Further condense the argument to 30 seconds by honing in on the most critical points and using more direct language.
      • 10-Second Summary: Finally, students distill their argument into a 10-second summary, capturing only the essence of their position.
  1. Review and Reflection:

    • After completing all recordings, students review each version of their argument, noting changes in their delivery, word choice, and what information was prioritized or omitted at each stage.
    • Encourage students to reflect on the challenges of each condensation and what they learned about effective communication from this exercise.
  2. Feedback Session:

    • Students can share their recordings with peers or present them in class.
    • Peers and instructors provide feedback focusing on clarity, persuasiveness, and effectiveness of communication at each stage.

Additional Tips

  • Recommend Tools: Suggest tools or apps for easy recording and playback, such as smartphones, tablets, or computers with webcams.
  • Practice Regularly: Encourage students to repeat this exercise with different arguments to become more adept at quickly distilling information.


The “Mastering Word Economy” activity challenges students to sharpen their arguments through a structured approach to reducing speech length. This not only improves their ability to communicate effectively under time constraints but also enhances their overall argumentative and public speaking skills. By regularly engaging in this exercise, students can develop a keen sense of how to craft compelling, concise arguments that resonate with their audience.

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