When speech therapist Gloria Bartholomew Nelson, director of the Nelson Center in Annandale, evaluates a first-time client's voice and speaking skills, she focuses on:

1. Tension in the vocal cords, face, eyes, jaw, breathing and body movement. "The voice is a barometer of the inner personality," says Nelson. "Tension can change its pitch."

2. Proper breathing. Right: Deep diaphragmatic breathing. Wrong: Shallow breathing.

3. Breathing rythym. Even or irregular?

4. Efficiency in use of breath. How is the air managed? Is the voice breathy?

5. Lung capacity. How long can you speak on one breath? The average person should be able to count to 20 on one breath -- and probably a lot longer.

6. Phrasing. Taking a breath at an appropriate place? Choppy speaking would suggest you aren't.

7. Ability to alter the breathing pattern. Are you flexible? Can you control your breath so you don't run out of breath before you run out of words in your sentence?

8. Rate of speaking. Too fast or too slow?

9. Tonal placement. Shifting the sound to the front of the mouth?

10. Articulation projection. Precision in sounds and accents? Any vowel distortion? How garbled is the sound?

11. Pitch. Speaking too low or too high?

12. Volume. Appropriate loudness for the situation?

13. Quality. Nasality, hoarseness or harshness?

14. Body language. Are movements, posture, how you hold yourself reflecting what you want to say?