How Vocal Fry Works

Why Not Fry?
If you're a genuine vocal fryer -- not just putting on fry airs -- you probably don't have to worry about your job prospects.
If you're a genuine vocal fryer -- not just putting on fry airs -- you probably don't have to worry about your job prospects.

You can hire a speech pathologist to help break you of your vocal fry habit if you want. Why? A recent study suggests that for young women, using vocal fry can hurt their chances in the job market. Actually, the study also shows that the fry can hurt men's chances too, just a tiny bit less so; after all, the study was titled, "Vocal Fry May Undermine the Success of Young Women in the Marketplace."

But before you dial the pathologist, have a closer look at the study in question. The researchers recorded some men and women repeating the phrase, "Thank you for considering me for this opportunity." They had the speakers do it twice, once in a normal voice and once using vocal fry. They then played the two different recordings to 400 men and 400 women from a range of age groups and asked them to rate the speakers. There was an overwhelmingly negative response to the vocal fry recordings. Nobody wanted to hire creaky-voiced people [source: Anderson et al.].

But as critics have pointed out, there was an inherent flaw in the study's methodology. The speakers weren't vocal-fry natives. In fact, they were coached in glottalization by the researchers [source: DiCanio]. In other words, they were "putting it on" just as you might put on a London accent when trying to repeat a Russell Brand joke. No actual English person is going to mistake you for a Londoner (unless you are one).

The result is that the vocal fry recordings sound robotic and quite unlike how creaky voice is used in real speech. So until research is done using authentically fried vocals, we still don't really know whether glottalization helps or harms your chances in the marketplace. And if somebody ever gets around to conducting such a study, it'll probably be too late. By then, everybody will be doing it — or we'll have moved on to another vocal trend altogether.

Author's Note: How Vocal Fry Works

I hadn't give much thought to vocal fry before researching this article, but I have to admit that upspeak has gotten on my nerves. It was good to be reminded that these vocal trends are part of how a dynamic language evolves and that just because I'm a stick-in-the-mud doesn't mean everybody else should be. I shall go gently into that good (and creaky) night.

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More Great Links


  • Anderson, Rindy et al. "Vocal Fry May Undermine the Success of Young Women in the Marketplace." PLoS One. Vol. 9, Iss. 5. May 28, 2014. (Sept. 22, 2015)
  • Arana, Gabriel. "Creaky Voice: Yet Another Example of Young Women's Linguistic Ingenuity." The Atlantic. Jan. 10, 2013. (Sept. 22, 2015)
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