Home Books

Words Fail Us

In Defence of Disfluency

Book cover featuring a typographic design in pink, red, blue and green


David Mitchell

One of those rare books I hadn’t realised I’d been waiting for until I read it

Owen Sheers

Open-minded, thoughtful and wise… A liberating book

Colm Toibin

In an age of polished TED Talks and overconfident political oratory, success seems to depend upon charismatic public speaking. But what if hyper-fluency is not only unachievable but undesirable?

Jonty Claypole spent 15 years of his life in and out of extreme speech therapy. From sessions with child psychologists to lengthy stuttering boot camps and exposure therapies, he tried everything until finally being told the words he’d always feared: “We can’t cure your stutter.” Those words started him on a journey towards not only making peace with his stammer but learning to use it to his advantage.

Here Jonty argues that our obsession with fluency could be hindering, rather than helping, our creativity, authenticity and persuasiveness. Exploring other speech conditions, such as aphasia and Tourette’s, and telling the stories of the “creatively disfluent” – from Lewis Carroll to Kendrick Lamar – Jonty explains why it’s time for us to stop making sense, get tongue-tied and embrace the life-changing power of inarticulacy.

Read an extract from the book

Date published
224 pages

About the author

Black and white, head and shoulders portrait of Jonty Claypole.

Jonty Claypole

Jonty Claypole is Director of BBC Arts, Chairman of the arts centre HOME in Manchester, and is named in The Bookseller 150, a list of the most influential people in publishing.