Practice out loud, and record yourself

My father is a Shakespeare nut. He always was. And when we were little he encouraged us to learn passages from the plays, and the poems.

My brother is called Crispin, so he learned the Crispin speech from Henry V. He did it really well, aged about 4 – and onwards.

I always envied him for having a Shakespeare speech with his own name. (My father wanted to call me Hamlet, but Mum put her foot down and I became John-Paul instead.)


A few years ago, I decided to have a go at the Henry V speech myself. I wanted to see if I could learn something like that by heart at my (then seemingly) advanced age.

I filmed it strictly for my own purposes, to see how I had done. You’re welcome to watch, if you have nothing better to do. But the reason I share it here is to demonstrate that I don’t improvise absolutely everything, and do in fact practice sometimes.

I also hope by sharing this to underline how useful it can be to make a recording, and play it back – because only that way can you tell if your sentences sound OK, and whether your chosen delivery makes the most of them.

Coming at this as a journalist, I would like to add a word, below, about the “one-breath” test. But first, here’s my version of the Crispin speech:

Me, in the kitchen, in 2012.

Every so often I come across a news story that has been written by committee (or by a novice). The opening sentence is so full of information that it runs on and on, making it impossible to read aloud in one breath.

Please, test everything you write by reading it aloud before you deliver it to anybody else.

NOTE: To be totally transparent, I don’t actually do that any more. After doing this for years, I test it as I am writing. Please let me know if you discover that I am deluding myself. Thank you.