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Is Vocal Fry Killing Your Career — or Saving It?

Blame the Kardashians or Britney Spears, but vocal fry -- that gravelly hesitation mid-syllable, much-beloved by women on reality TV shows -- is definitely A Thing Now. Whether it's a good thing or a bad thing for our careers is up to interpretation.

Blame the Kardashians or Britney Spears, but vocal fry — that gravelly hesitation mid-syllable, much-beloved by women on reality TV shows — is definitely A Thing Now. Whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing for our careers is up to interpretation.

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(Photo Credit: visual_dichotomy/Flickr)

The fact that some people find the tic annoying is without dispute. Slate podcaster Bob Garfield devoted 26 minutes to the phenomenon, calling it “vulgar,” “repulsive,” and “annoying.” Studies that analyzed students’ reactions to clips of women speaking with vocal fry, however, characterized the speaker as “professional,” “looking for her career,” and “not yet a professional, but on her way there.”

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Even linguistic experts are torn.

“If women do something like uptalk or vocal fry, it’s immediately interpreted as insecure, emotional, or even stupid,” says Carmen Fought, a professor of linguistics at Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif., in an interview with Levo League. In the same piece, she says, “The truth is young women take linguistic features and use them as power tools for building relationships.”

John Carney at CNBC claims that it’s “the way senior women at investment banks talk. It’s ubiquitous among senior and mid-level women, and less common with junior staff.”

So is vocal fry today’s Valley Girl speak, or the voice of tomorrow’s leaders? We’ll have to listen and wait.

Tell Us What You Think

Did you think vocal fry holds women back at work? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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