Use of vocal fry may damage professional image of young employees

February 26, 2013 by Megan Saunders
Use of vocal fry may damage professional image of young employees
K-State experts offer advice on remaining professional in how you speak. Credit: AmandaBreann via photopincc

The use of one vocal habit could put some college students at a disadvantage when it comes to presenting a professional image, according to experts at Kansas State University.

Linda Hoag, professor of communication sciences and disorders, said vocal fry—also known as glottal fry or the pulse register—is one of the three vocal registers used by humans. Vocal fry is generally associated with the gravelly sound sometimes heard at the end of a spoken sentence. Find an exaggerated example at .

When the voice slips into vocal fry, Hoag said it is more difficult to sound energetic or animated.

"It's more likely to happen when you're low on breath," said Hoag. "A speaker may start out the sentence with a smooth voice, then drift into vocal fry on the final words. It doesn't take much air power to create vocal fry."

When speaking normally or singing, the modal register is generally used. The loft register is used when speaking in a high, falsetto voice. When vocal fry takes place, the are relaxed and vibrating at a low rate in a syncopated rhythm.

"The science behind it is incomplete," Hoag said. "As of now, we are not aware of any structural or that predispose women to vocal fry."

Hoag said vocal fry could be concerning for individuals who use their voices professionally, such as speech-language pathologists.

Another Kansas State University expert said habits such as vocal fry could affect professionals in a variety of careers.

Olivia Law-DelRosso, director of the College of Business Administration's Professional Advantage program, a professional development program for business students, said using vocal fry or words such as "like" or "um" can be irritating to older generations and may make the individual sound unprofessional.

"Vocal fry is considered trendy, and that's not something that generally appeals to older generations or certain clients," Law-DelRosso said. "You want to appear professional, and being thought of as trendy does not help. As far as speaking patterns, it's better to be the standard. Stand out with your ideas and innovations, not your speech."

Law-DelRosso suggested young professionals use what is known as senior presence, which is displaying a presence of maturity, professionalism and experience. Part of that, she said, is being conscious of speech patterns.

"Match the tone and quickness of your voice to the person you're talking to, as well as the volume," she said. "Women sometimes speak too softly, which does not project confidence. Also, young people shouldn't be afraid to speak up or give their opinions. You're in the conversation because your opinion is valued; don't distract from your ideas with your speech patterns."

Fortunately, Hoag said it is possible to keep from slipping into vocal fry when speaking by adjusting your air intake before speaking.

"Taking in a bit more air when you are preparing to speak may help," she said. "End your utterance before your voice starts to sound rough. It may require some initial attention to adjust the amount of air you inhale to match the length of your utterance."

Hoag add that if this doesn't fix the problem, an individual should consider seeing an ear, nose and throat specialist. It may be a health issue, such as allergies, or another source of irritation.

Explore further: Voice prostheses can help patients regain their lost voice

Related Stories

Voice prostheses can help patients regain their lost voice

October 24, 2012

Help is on the way for people who suffer from vocal cord dysfunction. Researchers are developing methods that will contribute to manufacturing voice prostheses with improved affective features. For example, for little girls ...

Showing the Mechanics of Making Music

May 3, 2007

Why do some people sound good enough to compete on American Idol while others can't carry a tune? With a lab full of tubes, wires and computers, Nandhu Radhakrishnan uses speech pathology to help others become better actors ...

Screaming Hoops Fans at Risk for Vocal Problems

March 12, 2009

( -- With the ACC tourney gearing up and March Madness getting in full swing, basketball fans are topping decibel charts with their verbal support for their favorite college team.

A sing-song way to a cure for speech disorder

October 4, 2010

Hindustani singing, a North Indian traditional style of singing, and classical singing, such as the music of Puccini, Mozart and Wagner, vary greatly in technique and sound. Now, speech-language pathology researchers at the ...

Probing Question: Can anyone be taught how to sing?

July 26, 2012

Think back to the last birthday party you attended. When the candles were lit, did you join everyone else in belting out the "Happy Birthday" song -- or were you too self-conscious to do more than mouth the words? Our everyday ...

Recommended for you

New paper answers causation conundrum

November 17, 2017

In a new paper published in a special issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, SFI Professor Jessica Flack offers a practical answer to one of the most significant, and most confused questions in evolutionary ...

Chance discovery of forgotten 1960s 'preprint' experiment

November 16, 2017

For years, scientists have complained that it can take months or even years for a scientific discovery to be published, because of the slowness of peer review. To cut through this problem, researchers in physics and mathematics ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (2) Feb 26, 2013
Yes, Vocal Fry sounds bad. It makes people sound stupid, almost as if they are trying their best to sound unintelligent.

Other times it makes people sound like they are being constantly sarcastic, or at best condescending.

I avoid people who talk like this like the plague.

2.3 / 5 (3) Feb 26, 2013

Very popular among Americans who are now in their 40's.
1 / 5 (4) Feb 26, 2013
Reminds me a little of this.

-Must be that darn satan again.
3 / 5 (4) Feb 26, 2013
Due the economical crisis the world is returning into more traditional separation of gender roles and the causual hippie style isn't appreciated at the job market anymore.
What moron wants to identify with the group that caused the economic crises?
2 / 5 (2) Feb 27, 2013
Everyone kowtowing to the stereotype of 'professionals'? Anyone attempting to align themselves with the financial market?

What has your question to do with the article?
1 / 5 (1) Mar 04, 2013
Was there not enough room for a serious topic in this slot?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.