So what is it? It has many names, but ‘vocal fry’ or ‘vocal creak’ are common names … and listening to one of my radio interviews, I can hear myself doing it without realising it.
It’s produced when the vocal cords are made to flutter together, usually at the end of a sentence, producing a creaky, croaky, guttural, rasping Dalek-like sound.
It’s common in the US, and is becoming increasingly common in the UK, and as with so many speaking fashions, it seems to have developed and is most used among women.
It’s been noted that the sound is prevalent among high level female executives and well-known stars, perhaps in an attempt to make a naturally light voice sound lower and more authoritative, and young girls are mimicking it to sound more like their idols.
If you’re not familiar with the sound yet, listen to the girls on ‘Made in Chelsea’, most of the actresses in ‘Suburgatory,’ Zooey Deschanel from ‘New Girl’ and Jolene Blalock from ‘Star Trek: Enterprise’ [all film and TV actresses who don’t need to project their voices] for exaggerated examples of the sound.
Speaking fashions come and go, and like fashions in dress are mainly an attempt to fit in and get on, so there will be another one along soon.
But for any public speaker, vocal fry can only be a problem – deliberately limiting and suppressing the power of the voice will inhibit your ability to project across a distance, affect personal impact and impair the message.
And beware the effect on your audience – it can sound grating, sarcastic and extremely off-putting.
We’re all a work in progress, and I’ll be listening out for vocal fry in my own speaking from now on!