What is the meaning of the last sentence? How do you relate it with previous sentences? I should explain in advance that the writer is addressing a speaker who is giving his or her lecture in front of the audience on the stage.

A good rule of thumb is to keep your facial expression consistent with your ideas. You can have big ideas - they're only listening to you, after all. You may feel the need to keep your face neutral, which is boring, in a conversation about your ideas, but don't forget, you're the only one up there. Represent your ideas. If they're big, be big. It's easier to dial it down than ramp it up.

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    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jun 21, 2019 at 22:44

1 Answer 1


In the context of advice about whether to show animation while giving a speech, the sentence

  • It's easier to dial it down than ramp it up.

means that moving from extreme animation to less animation is easier to do than becoming more animated after showing little animation at first. The meaning is conveyed by metaphor.

Dial down and ramp up are phrasal verbs, which take pronoun objects between the verb and its particle. The object -- it -- refers to the same thing in each case -- animation while speaking -- and the opposition of up and down as particles for the phrasal verb shows that they are opposites.

They are also both metaphors, and not the same metaphor, which makes it confusing.

Dial refers to a volume knob on an old radio or stereo (supplanted by icons to press on newer equipment). Turning the knob, or dial, raised or lowered the sound volume. Dialing it up raises the volume (this is an UP/DOWN metaphor), and dialing it down lowers it.

A ramp, on the other hand, is a tilted surface for movement vertically. To ramp up something is to increase its height, which may simply mean providing a larger number, as here.

Consequently both turn up and ramp up have much the same meaning in this context, as do turn down and ramp down. So why use two? Good question.

Probably for variety. This is a motto that the listener is supposed to bear in mind, after all, and the punchier it is, the more likely they are to remember it. Or so one can hope.

  • Many thanks for your great explanation. The fact is that the meaning of the sentence "It's easier to dial it down than ramp it up." is clear to me. I don't know its relationship with the other sentences in the paragraph. There is no talk of less animated or more animated. The main point of the paragraph is to be animated with your ideas. "If they're big, be big." We can not see anything about easiness of moving from being "extreme" animated to less animated. What the writer says is being animated according to bigness of the ideas.
    – John
    Commented Jun 22, 2019 at 3:51
  • But there’s talk of facial expression and advice not to keep it neutral.
    – Xanne
    Commented Jun 22, 2019 at 6:15
  • Facial expression is one aspect of animation. If you see a speaker with unchanging facial expression, you lose interest in watching. The same with intonation, gesture, rhythm, and so on. I was using a general term to cover all of them, since the last sentence holds for all of them. Don't keep it neutral, indeed. And if you start animated, you can have quiet moments, but if you start neutral, the first time you animate you will startle them. Commented Jun 22, 2019 at 14:11

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