7 Rebuttals To 7 Reasons You Should Speak Without Notes


Seven very brief responses to Carey Neiwhof’s post, “7 Reasons You Should Speak Without Notes.”

[Note: I’m taking “speaking” in his context to be “preaching” in mine, and what he calls “notes” I’m calling a “manuscript.”

Reason 1: Your favorite communicators don’t use notes

My favorite communicators are preachers, and almost all of them use manuscripts.

Reason 2: You seem far more sincere and authentic when you don’t use notes

The appearance of sincerity and authenticity is not the goal. Speaking truth is. And a manuscript well-prepared compromises zero sincerity or authenticity.

Reason 3: You will be far more natural

The appearance of naturalness(?) is not the goal. Speaking truth is. Few things are more painful than listening to a speaker or preacher who is trying to be natural. 

Reason 4: You can make eye contact

If it’s prepared properly (I use 18 point font; .5 inch margins at the top and sides, 2 inches on the bottom; no paragraph longer than three sentences), you can make lots of eye contact with a manuscript.

Reason 5: You will read the room better

A manuscript delivered from a pulpit is a great vehicle for reading a room. As long as you’re preaching and not reciting, reading the room is not a problem. 

Reason 6: You’ll own your material more deeply

Ownership of the material does not depend on the presence or absence of notes, but on how much work you’ve done to prepare. Drafting a manuscript creates deep grooves of ownership for me. 

Reason 7: You’ll be more vulnerable

I have shed tears on manuscripts. Also, vulnerability seems a slippery goal for a preacher to me. Don’t run from it. But maybe don’t aim for it?





8 thoughts on “7 Rebuttals To 7 Reasons You Should Speak Without Notes

  1. Anna says:

    Yes… I also find it depends on the room. In a large congregation with a separate pulpit, there is less room for conversation-style preaching and your words need to be more precise in order for them to be heard and processed. To much casualness and will get lost in a large room, particularly towards the back of the room.

    But in a smaller sanctuary (or fellowship hall during when the sanctuary was under construction in my experience) and the strict manuscript becomes stiff, more fluidity helps the truth be communicated.

  2. I agree with all seven points. I always use a manuscript, but by the time I’ve rehearsed two or three times, I don’t refer to the manuscript constantly. What I have to watch is taking off on unscripted tangents or rabbit trails. Too much coffee can also wreak havoc.

  3. Laura says:

    Thank you. I am a manuscript preacher too, though there are many in my congregation who are convinced I am speaking extemporaneously. Delivering a sermon from the page doesn’t have to mean a dry reading…

  4. I have been preaching without a manuscript for about 2 years now. It fits more with me and my style. Before that I used a manuscript but often felt constrained by the pulpit or manuscript. I don’t memorize them either because then I spend my time trying to remember and not speak truth.

    There are good days and bad days, but I had that with a manuscript as well.

    I also think contact is important. If I were preaching at 4th I’d have a manuscript, but in my context in rural Nebraska being free to move around has been welcomed.

    Much like all of ministry it depends on where it’s happening and who’s doing it.

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