Spoken vs. Written Word

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In the previous few posts, I talked about Digital Literacy and Rhetoric. Now, I will be beginning a new topic starting off with J.D. Applen’s “Writing for the Web: Composing, Coding, and Constructing Web Sites”. Today, I will be focusing on his section about the spoken word and written word.

The Spoken Word

As I’ve mentioned previously, writing is a technology and most of the world today has adopted it. Some cultures still do not have writing and their way of life remains within the confines of orality. When speaking, it is possible for the listener to question the speaker for clarification. When written, there is no elaboration from the ideas on the page like you could get from a living person. Applen refers to “the Socratic Method” in which Socrates feels something has been lost when we convey information through writing, that they “always say the same thing” and that plain words on a page “have no power to help or protect itself”.

Conversations between people is more informative because the speakers are able to clarify, defend and reiterate their ideas all in the present. Examples can range from school debates to court trials. There are people on two sides in those scenarios who can stand behind their words and give them power and impact. Through writing, it is much more difficult and words become defenseless.

The Written Word

While writing in the context of printed texts loses the ability to actively communicate with the reader in the present, it possesses its own advantages. I write as a hobby, and it can be clearer to convey a message through writing than through spoken words. When writing, you have your information displayed before you and the ability to thoroughly reread and tweak it. A message can also be made clearer due to grammatical elements such as commas, colons, semicolons and dashes–something more difficult to convey through speech. Granted, this hinges on people being able to read and write, skills not as common going back multiple centuries ago.

Contrary to orality, written words live on forever. It is writing that has kept our society documented throughout the history of time. If not for writing, we would have little to no knowledge of the past; our history, cultures and ways of life would have to be passed on through speech which can easily become lost or miscontrued.

Online Writing

Words printed on the page give us the dilemma of being unable to refine or reiterate ideas. Today, with the Internet at our fingertips, we able to converse actively even through writing. Maintaining the principle of the spoken word, we can still ask for clarification or feedback despite putting our ideas into written form. Think about how on platforms like Instagram, you can respond to people’s posts and how quickly you can get a reply. The same goes for other platforms like Facebook, YouTube and even educational applications such as Canvas. You respond to others instantly, and the messages document online and you can revisit to see or edit your responses. The internet bridges the concepts of both the written and spoken words in perhaps the best way possible. It is now an excellent method of communication that possesses the benefits of both speech and writing.


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One response to “Spoken vs. Written Word”

  1. […] last week’s post, I discussed “Spoken Word” vs. “Written Word”. Today, we delve into how we typically define text and how far we can understand beyond […]

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