How To Write Spoken Word

Write Your Best Spoken Word Poetry in 5 Easy Steps 

"Poetry and music are very good friends. Like mommies and daddies and strawberries and cream - they go together" ~Nikki Giovanni 

nikki giovanni and rafa selase black poets learning how to write spoken word

Above is a picture of Nikki Giovanni and myself some years ago. Nikki Giovanni is one of the greatest poets in this century and expert on writing authentic spoken word poetry that pierces the hearts and minds of all who read or listen to her powerful work

Learn To Write Spoken Word

1. GET STARTED WRITING SPOKEN WORD - Learning how to write spoken word is exactly what it says.

The written word is communicated verbally.

You may be unsure where to start, but this is completely normal and is actually a good problem to have.

This lack of vision will require you to now focus on one thing; placing your thoughts, ideas, and energy towards uncovering the subject matter you choose.

You might experience feelings of frustration when you start but you must keep going. Just write what you feel, what you are thinking. Here is the first step. 

2. CHOOSE A SPOKEN WORD THEME - You can use a normal storytelling formula such as character, situation, problem, failing, solving the problem, or consequence.

Or a conventional story: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.
3. PROOFREADING YOUR SPOKEN WORD - Proofreading is one of the most important final spoken word reviewing processes.

You will need to review the spoken word content that you will be presenting in front of the audience. Proofreading includes two tasks; the word proofread consists of two words “proof” and “read”, which means it is a procedure of making your poetry and spoken word “error-proof after reading it”.

And in this case, after listening to it.

Therefore, proofreading is the exercise that guarantees your work is error-proof.
The goal is to have your work appreciated and honored by those that experience your work.

So proofreading your work is essential so that the content can serve its purpose, pierce harts, influence minds and transform communities.

Proofreading makes spoken word poetry qualified for communicating the accurate message and vision to your target group, culture, reader, customer, audience, students, politician and/or musical lover.

It guarantees or at the very least increases the probability that your poetic message has the content, substance, temperature and is clear for communicated the right response from the target audience group.

Proofreading is simply reading, speaking and listening to the content with precision, and for errors.

Proofreading spoken word includes you having others that are close to you listen to your work as you figure it out.

Having trusted folks that are of like minds and support is essential to artistic longevity and growth.

Have someone give you an overview of the spoken word and then go back and Proofread the work in written form. This process of proofreading is ongoing and will help you keep your work fresh and evolving.

This process of proofreading your spoken word gives you the opportunity to review your work, to increase the likelihood of good performance and that it doesn’t cause the audience to misunderstand or lose your message.

Spoken Word Proofreading 

This is the initial stage of the performance process, focusing on communication errors, such as word hiccups, misspellings, wrong pronunciation and mistakes in grammar and punctuation.

Proofreading is important to ensure that your work is professional. This is the process I use. 

  • Pronunciation
  • Word Hiccups - combining words that don't flow or rhyme
  • Grammatical error, Capitalization error, Numbering error
  • Spelling error
  • Inconsistency in the format of the document,
  • Misplaced words, Sentence structure error
  • Punctuation mistakes

Why do we proofread Spoken Word?

Before you submit or deliver any type of work is it an academic research paper, text message, essay, email, memo, or any other written document, it is very important to carefully proofread it.

Proofreading of the written material is the final step in ensuring your message will be understood. I small mistake can cause a major misunderstanding.

For example, imagine you text a friend with the words "you tested me" instead of "you texted me."

This minor error can cause a major misunderstanding. The same goes for your spoken word.

As an artist, I try to take every measure to increase the probability of understanding or getting a response. Sometimes I right to get a response or reaction.

That reaction may even cause a misunderstanding but it was planned because I can then use that misunderstanding to teach a lesson about life.

My point is just to make sure you understand your work fully so that you can provide clarity or elaborate if someone asks.

The spoken word is more than just standing in front of people because of all the eyeballs are focused on you. It is about communicating a message.

Proofreading your spoken word must be done before a performance is done ...always.

Proofreading spoken word or performance poetry helps you to check that you have included everything you want to say in your work.

It gives you the last chance to review your poetry work and add in anything that you may have missed.

It helps you iron out any and all unnecessary performance errors you may have made.

Proofreading your poetry shows that you take pride in your work and that it is the best of you and your thoughts.

This process of proofreading and going over your work will help you gain that little bit extra that is needed on performance day.

Because you will have done the necessary work needed to experience the response to your artistic expression. 

4. MEMORIZE YOUR SPOKEN WORD - Now you must read your poem over and over for flow, rhythm, and rhyme.

This process will allow you to memorize your spoken word so you know how you can deliver it to diverse audiences.

Memorization is critical to learning how to write the spoken word.

3 Ways to Improve Your Memory for Spoken Word

  • Exercise - Exercise has so many benefits to overall well being that not doing it is just not wise. Exercise improves circulation, helps to release toxins and improves energy levels. 
  • Pray and Meditate - Studies have shown actively participating in mindfulness meditation can improve memory recall in just eight weeks. Meditation has the power to help us concentrate, focus, moderate energy levels and, has also been shown to improve standardized test scores and working memory abilities after just two weeks.
  • Sleep  - Sleep is the best vitamin you can take. I am always trying to improve my personal sleep habits. The better sleep you get the more energy you have to give towards the things you care about. 


5. PERFORM YOUR SPOKEN POETRY - Now you can perform it for audiences, to music or another medium.

Add a hip-hop sound and try speeding up or slowing down to make it more palatable for your audience. Here you go the simple formula. 

Repeat, repeat, repeat! Stay consistent...

I have learned the best way to develop your craft is to start now and stay consistent. Start right this moment! Don't wait and do not procrastinate! You must nurture your gift...

Nurture in simple terms is "to care for"

If you care for something you give it you must take time each day to develop and nurture your gift.

No one else will do this for you! You must do it, you must care enough about yourself to give your self the time to develop those special gifts within you.

Enjoy the process and get around people who enjoy what you do! Want more information here is a great article on what the heck is spoken word

Learn How to Write Spoken Word Poetry With a Simple 21 Line Poem

Steps to Writing Spoken Word ( Rule of 21)

  • Choose a topic you care about...Become a storyteller
  • Write a vertical row of numbers from 1 to 21
  • In the first line write your title 
  • In the next 6 lines write down how you feel about the subject 
  • In lines, 7 through 20 write down the problem followed by the answer
  • On the last line write the title of the poem
  • Read It Out Loud - Now go through and edit your lines 2 - 20 thinking about synonyms, rhyming and vocal clarity in mind.  To make your spoken word longer you can repeat this process. Read it out loud again and try to perform it! 

Example of my 21 Line Spoken Word Poetry Method 

    1. TITLE - I gotta get started writing poetry
    2. Is anyone going to listen to my story
    3. But my writing is so unique
    4. I should already be on Newsweek
    5. I am tearing down my personal mystique 
    6. Man I got the dopest spoken word technique 
    7. Highlight reels like old skool Dominique 
    8. MVP skill like NBA Greek Freak 
    9. My written word is divinely chosen words 
    10. Telling stories unheard 
    11. For the normal poetic nerds
    12. Slick vernacular
    13. Swinging for the fence spectacular 
    14. Not highlighting my spoken word writing
    15. My hope is igniting
    16. Magnifying 
    17. Solidifying 
    18. The power of written words
    19. Performed as spoken words
    20. For audiences all over the world
    21. END - I gotta get started writing poetry 

How to write spoken word music? 

Learning to write spoken word music is what I call the "beautiful fusion." I have found great enjoyment in joining music and poetry.

On my album "Red Blood American" I intertwined spoken word, piano and several other instruments when I published the album. 

I discuss in detail how I combine piano and spoken word in "How To Write a Poem."

So that I don't make this article long-winded I will share  3 tips on how to write spoken word and music. 

  1. Determining a mood and pace for your subject. The mood will help you identify which instruments will go best with your spoken word. I tend to be thoughtful, introspective. 
  2. Get someone on to play along with you as you practice reciting your s[poken word over the music. Using this method of practice provides an opportunity for you to expand on your writing and or make changes to better flow with the music.
  3. Memorize your spoke word until it is second nature. This level of practice will allow you to adjust on the fly when you fuse your spoken word with music. 

Spoken Word Versus Written Poetry


Import Questions About Writing Spoken Word?

“How is spoken word different from written poetry?” The answer: the spoken word is performed, and the other is written.

Written poetry is typically for the page. So the focus for written poetry is readability, visual understanding, and comprehension. 

I am no James Baldwin, but this seems to be a good rule of thumb. 

Spoken words focused on the vocal aspects of delivery. Such as:

Articulation - How well and correctly we form our vowels and consonants using our lips, jaw, tongue, and palate to form the sounds that are identified as speech.

PronunciationProper articulation applied to a given word is that word’s pronunciation. The pronunciation includes how the vowels and consonants are produced, as well as which syllable is emphasized.

AccentAn accent refers to the degree of prominence of the way syllables are spoken in words, as when someone from Australia says “undah,” whereas we say “under.” 

DialectDialect is a variety of language where one is distinguished from others by grammar and vocabulary. In California, you might hear people say that they are going to “over there,” versus in Louisville they might see “ovaa thrrr”

Vocal QualityThe quality of the voice, its timbre (distinctive sound) and texture, affects audibility and can jeopardize the articulation.

Pitch and InflectionIdentical to musical parlance, the pitch is the “highness” or “lowness” of the voice. Inflections are variations, turns, and slides in pitch to achieve the meaning.

Regionalisms - Refers to regional differences in language...which could also impact dialect. Which ultimately could leave us all confused!

You get the point!

It takes a lot of skill to be able to write something that’s easy to read, easy to hear, and easy for many people can connect to.

But it takes an equal amount of skill to speak in such a way that grabs attention, entertains, is easy on the ear and is rhythmic.

This is how hip hop started or, more specifically, jazz poetry with folks in the Harlem renaissance. 

Which is more critical Page Poetry or Spoken Word

I do not believe in rules during the creative process, but I can say before I put out youtube videos of my music or dramatic performances, I had published my poetry.

What I realized was written page poetry was the foundation of all my music and performance art. And in reality, it seems people accept and understand the spoken word, music easier than reading.

Think about how many people read books versus watch youtube videos.  The spoken word is the icing on the cake to a page poets storytelling endeavors. 

Often when people think the spoken word, they believe Slam poetry.

Slam is the competitive version of spoken word, and requires poets to keep their poetry to timed performances, without the use of props or any other devices, and forces audience members to score the performance on a numbering scale.

I am different in that I believe art is not a competition but rather an observation and expression of a person's experience.

Nevertheless, that is just my opinion, and we all have different methods to achieve our outcome. 

So, in summary, Spoken Word is vocal while page poetry is written for the page. 

Example of How to Write Spoken Word Music

Below is one of the songs I created after studying Chopin Et. 10. Another musician I was working with threw out the line "Dead presidents don't matter when you're dead." So I wrote a spoken word poem about it. Here is my interpretation of spoken word and music fusion. 



How To Write Spoken Word Poetry Tagalog? 

Tagalog is the language spoken in the beautiful country of the Phillippines. About 30 percent of the Filipino population speaks Tagalog.

Tagalog origins stretch from Australian, New Zealand to East Africa. 

Tagalog is a beautiful language much like the Philippino people in kindness and physical stature.

The Hearing poem in Tagalog has a sweet sound.

There have been many poets such as Rolando Tinio, Virgilio Almario and Edgar Calabia Samar. 

The Tagalog language is the one unique element that makes it different. Tagalog has a different word structure that immediately produces a sound that is direct yet subtle. 

My only advice for someone writing Tagalog poetry would be to share your culture, don't hold back and allow us on the outside to get an inside perspective. 

How to Write Christian Spoken Word Poetry?

Writing Christian spoken word poetry is a simple as writing from your experience as a believer.

When writing your spoken word poetry attempt to align your content with Christian ideals and tenants which is what makes Christian Spoken Word Poetry easily identifiable with listeners that are believers.

One of the best ways to align with Christian ideals is to use the Bible as a reference. Be courageous and consistent with your work. 

5 Ways Nature Can Inspire Your Spoken Word?

The benefits of being in nature and writing poetry can change your life. Taking time to eliminate the noise, reflect, restore and renew will give you the space to create. 

  1. Benefits of being in nature: Going to your local gym can be easy, well structured and full of people you know. But sometimes it’s nice to switch it up and let nature be our gym. This will do wonders for your mind, creativity, and writing. I have found that I often have a skin glow and more energy after being outside and completing a small workout.
  2. You can take a phone or a small notebook with you. It may take a little creativity to get the workout you are desiring but a change in pace can be inspiring and great for the mind, body, soul and spoken word. Listed below are several ways to create your outdoor fitness routine and have a little fun in the process.
  3. Get upside down. Try a handstand against a tree and hold it the for as long as possible, if you find that too easy try attempting handstand pushups. Yes, I actually do handstands. And when the weather permits I like to be in the sun absorbing the healthy rays. The results are great for not only your body but your mind. 
  4. Run the hill while repeating your spoken word: Are you located near hills attempt to run or jog up the hill. If you find that it is not enough! Try 4 – 7 sets.
  5. Take a walk and memorize your spoken work: Walking gives you a great opportunity to memorize or reflect on your work. 




Get my "How to write the Spoken Word" book click here 


Another great resource to learn about spoken word is this Wikipedia article