Do you use the /ɚ/ sound?

Do you use the /ɚ/ sound?

Do you use the :ɚ: sound?

Do you use the ɚ sound?

If you’re serious about refining your American accent, you need to know when to use the /ɚ/ sound.

Say/ɚ/ with light stress

There’s a good chance that you’re currently either

  • over-pronouncing this sound  (Spanish speakers)
  • dropping this sound  (Chinese speakers)

If you do that, your speech will sound unfamiliar to American listeners.

You should always say the /ɚ/ sound with light stress.

When to use the /ɚ/ sound

The unstressed /ɚ/sound is found in words including:

  1. Stanfɚd
  2. doctɚ
  3. sectɚ
  4. investɚ
  5. membɚ
  6. dollɚ
  7. infɚmation
  8. neighbɚhood

Listen here


Dropping this sound

Dropping this sound will make your words sound incomplete.

This often happens to Chinese speakers.

Over pronouncing this sound

Over pronouncing this sound will make your speech sound choppy.

This often happens to Spanish speakers.

Get some American accent coaching

If you’re a career minded professional who wants to refine your American accent, you may want to check out my accent reduction coaching program.

In my Skype based program, I work with you one on one to bring your communication skills up to the next level.

About the author

Susan Ryan is the author of the ConfidentVoice blog and an American English communication and accent reduction coach.



Common Words Ending With /z/

Common Words Ending With /z/

Common Words Ending With /z/

Common Words Ending With /z/

In spoken American English many words end with a /z/ sound. 

The letter at the end of the word may be S, but the sound of the letter is often /z/.

Say these common words ending with a /z/ sound.

  1. these
  2. those
  3. is 
  4. was 
  5. says
  6. does

Listen here.


There are many more!

Why is this important?

One key reason that using a /z/ sound is important is because vowels that occur before the voiced /z/ sound are nice and long.

And if you know anything about clear spoken American English, you understand how we love to hear long, clear vowel sounds.

Chinese, Japanese, Spanish and Arabic speakers often fail to use the /z/ sound correctly.

Use focus word pitch for clarity

Use focus word pitch for clarity

Use focus word pitch for clarity

Use focus word pitch for clarity

One of the most useful American English communication tips I give my accent reduction coaching clients is this-

When a conversation breaks down ☹…. think about the most important word in your message.

This is called the focus word.

Use pitch emphasis

Repeat that focus word again.

But this time, be careful to emphasize that word using a slight rise in pitch.

Lengthen the vowel sound → a little bit.

Insert a pause

Then pause briefly. This will give your listener time to “get it”.

Here’s an example:

I’ll meet with the ma→nager⤼ on Tue→sday.

Listen here

To say this sentence clearly:

  • stress the word manager
  • pause briefly
  • then stress the word Tuesday

Don’t give the same emphasis to every word.

There is an excellent chance that using this pitch emphasis strategy will clear up the misunderstanding.

 Learn the rules for clear American speech

I teach you the rules for using focus words and pitch emphasis in my iPad book for the American accent.

American Accent Fundamentals - Susan M. Ryan

Click the button above to download the first chapter for free at the iBookstore.

How to pronounce loose & lose

How to pronounce loose & lose

How to pronounce loose & lose

How to pronounce loose & lose

Sometimes pronouncing American English words correctly can drive you crazy.

That’s because the same letter, (in this case the letter S) can have more than one sound.

If you’re a non native speaker who learned English through reading instead of listening, you’re probably not aware of all the spoken patterns.

The sounds of the letter S

To explain what I mean about the letter S having more than one sound, let’s use the words loose & lose.

The adjective loose is pronounced with a /s/ sound. It sounds like luʷse.

The verb to lose is pronounced with a /z/ sound. It sounds like luʷ→ze.

Longer vowel sound

Notice that the /uʷ/ sound is much longer➝ in the word lose.

That’s because it occurs before a voiced /z/ sound.

Using the correct vowel length here is very, very important, especially if you want to speak with a clear American accent!

Here are two sentences you can use to practice the /s/ & /z/ sounds:

1. Did you lose some weight? (luʷ→ze)

2. Yes, and now my pants are too loose! (luʷse)

Listen here


Learn to use the correct sound

Just this week, I taught the sounds of the letter S to three of my accent reduction coaching clients (a Russian speaker, a Hindi speaker and a Spanish speaker).

All three were very surprised to learn that the S frequently has a /z/ sound.

No one has taught you the rules

There’s no need  to feel bad about not knowing all the rules for spoken English.

Only people who’ve taken some accent reduction training would be aware of this.

If clear American English communication is critical for your career success, find out how accent reduction coaching will help you!





Do you use contractions when you speak English?

Do you use contractions when you speak English?

Many non native speakers don’t use contractions when they speak American English.

Instead, they speak word by word, saying phrases such as can not, do not, they will, that is and they are.

Contracted forms

Instead, you should be saying these contracted forms in conversations.

  • can’t
  • don’t
  • they’ll
  • that’s
  • they’re

I know it’s hard to believe, but when you don’t use contractions, it contributes to your accent!

Contractions help you speak with a better rhythm   

Using contractions help you speak using the correct rhythm of spoken English.

When you speak using contractions you’re able to:

  • reduce the sounds of function words
  • use more schwa vowel sounds
  • blend words together more smoothly
  • use American T sounds more effectively

Friendly, melodic & natural

Since you’re not giving equal emphasis to every word, your speech sounds more friendly, melodic and natural to the American listener.

I teach you how to use contractions and many other strategies you can use to reduce your accent in my Skype accent reduction coaching program.

☆My programs are guaranteed to help you speak American English with clarity and confidence!☆



How to pronounce suggestions

How to pronounce suggestions

How to pronounce suggestions

How to pronounce suggestions

One word that my accent reduction coaching clients often mispronounce is suggestions.

It’s tricky!

Let me tell you why suggestions is such a tricky word to pronounce.

The first g has a /g/ sound

The second g has a /ʤ/ sound

The ti also has a /ʤ/ sound

The s has a /z/ sound

Listen & practice

Try to say the word using the audio and my special spelling.

sug ʤes→ ʤenz

Similar words

The ti in the word questions also has a /ʤ/ sound, making it sound like this~


Unlock the code

I help you unlock the code for saying words like suggestions, questions and hundreds of other difficult to pronounce words in my Skype accent reduction coaching program.

If speaking American English clearly and correctly is important to YOU, find out how my ☛ coaching program can work for you.


Why You Need to Use Syllable Stress Correctly

Why You Need to Use Syllable Stress Correctly

Use syllable stress correctly

Use syllable stress correctly

When you’re speaking American English it’s very important for you to use syllable stress correctly.

One reason is because English has many heteronyms.

Heteronyms are two words that are spelled identically. The way the words are pronounced determines their meaning.

Example #1

One good example of this is the word: ADDRESS.

When you say the word ‘address’ the way you use syllable stress changes the meaning of the word.

When you place stress is on the first syllable, address is a noun as in this sentence:
Susan’s a→ddress is 2010 Pine Street.

When you place stress on the second syllable, address becomes a verb.
Susan will əddre→ss the meeting tomorrow.

Example #2

Another example is the word PRESENT.

When you stress the first syllable, the word pre→sənt means a gift.

When you stress the second syllable prəse→nt becomes a verb that means ‘to give’.

Listen here



Note that the reduced syllable in the verb form has a schwa /ə/ vowel sound. This is the reduced vowel sound found in unstressed syllables.

The vowel sounds in stressed syllables are lengthened and pronounced with a slightly higher pitch.

The vowel sounds in reduced syllables often have a schwa sound.

Again, note how the vowel sound in the unstressed syllable is reduced to schwa. The vowel in each stressed syllable is lengthened and pronounced with a slightly higher pitch.

Learn more

To learn more about how to use syllable stress and the schwa vowel sound, check out my iBook, American Accent Fundamentals.

American Accent Fundamentals - Susan M. Ryan

It’s informative, affordable and so easy to use on your iPad.

The first chapter is free in the iBookstore at the link above.

How do I know which syllable to stress?

How do I know which syllable to stress?

How do I know which syllable to stress?

How do I know which syllable to stress?

If you’ve been working on your American accent, you understand that using syllable stress correctly is one of the key skills that you need to learn.

However, knowing which syllable to stress is not always so easy.

In fact, one of the most common questions that people ask me is

Susan, how do I know which syllable to stress?

Syllable stress rules & dictionaries 

Dictionaries use a tiny symbol like this ‘ to indicate which syllable in a word is stressed.

Some dictionaries add the ‘ before the stressed syllable. Other dictionaries add the ‘ after the stressed syllable.

These syllable stress symbols are tiny. Most people have never even noticed them.

I make it clear

When I work with my clients on syllable stress, I use my own symbol that’s much easier to read and understand.

In fact, in my accent reduction coaching program, I provide my clients with a Master List for Syllable Stress that they can use to master these critical patterns.

My Master List for Syllable Stress teaches you the correct way to use syllable stress in~

  1. Two syllable nouns
  2. Place names
  3. People’s names
  4. Nouns ending with tion
  5. Two syllable verbs
  6. Verbs ending with ize
  7. Verbs ending with ate
  8. Adjectives ending with ate
  9. Abbreviations
  10. Numbers

and more…’s a BIG LIST. And it’s really important if you want to speak in a way that’s clear and comprehensible to Americans.

Learn more here on my blog

Follow this thread to read more about how using syllable stress will help your American English sound crisp & clear!

Get some personal coaching

If you’re serious about making noticeable positive changes to the way you speak American English, see how my Skype accent reduction coaching program can help you achieve your communication goals.



Ketchup or catch up?

Ketchup or catch up?  

Ketchup or catch up?

Ketchup or catch up?

This past weekend, one of my accent reduction coaching clients said to me~

Susan, I’ve been so busy since the holidays. I’m still trying to ketchup on my work.

Of course I understood that he meant catch up.

Phrasal verbs rules

Catch up is a phrasal verb.

That means that you stress it on the second part when you say it. This is true for all phrasal verbs.

Listen here



I’m still trying to catchUP on my work.

Speak clear American English

In order to speak clear American English you must apply the correct syllable stress. Not doing so can change the meaning of a word.

Here are a few examples:

  • put down ~ to put something down
  • put down ~ an insult
  • stand up ~ to get off your chair
  • stand up~ a type of comedy
  • turn on~ the computer, the stove
  • turn on ~ that’s a sexual term
  • turn over ~ a piece of paper
  • turn over ~ a type of pastry

Learn your phrasal verbs

In my accent reduction coaching programs I teach you to speak clearly using phrasal verb stress and other types of syllable stress that you’re probably unaware of.