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A Rightly Timed Pause...

Mark Twain was a writer, publisher, lecturer, and the greatest humorist the United States has produced. We share his quote today in the context of Structure associated with the Communicating with FINESSE fishbone (cause and effect) diagram.

When structuring your verbal technical presentations be sure to include formal places to pause. Ideally, pauses would be well placed (and well timed) either before or after one of your key points.

To assist many technical professionals, sometimes the inclusion of a blank slide or an intermediate Q&A slide is a good reminder to occasionally pause. Twain had more than just "time for the audience to catch their breath," but we often need that reminder to pause when we are rolling through technical information.

From Twain:

No word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.

- Mark Twain's Speeches (1923 ed.)

That impressive silence, that eloquent silence, that geometrically progressive silence which often achieves a desired effect where no combination of words howsoever felicitous could accomplish it.... For one audience, the pause will be short; for another a little longer; for another a shade longer still; the performer must vary the length of the pause to suit the shades of difference between audiences. ... I used to play with the pause as other children play with a toy.

- Autobiographical dictation, 11 October 1907. Published in Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 3 (University of California Press, 2015).

More Mark Twain quotes at


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