A bronze statue of Lady Justice (a blindfolded woman in a cloak, holding scales).

The Cons of the Spoken, Written, and Electronic Word

Over the past 2,500 years, communication media has dramatically evolved. From the spoken word, to the written word, to the electronic word. Although the electronic word is the latest craze, do not be fooled. The spoken and written word are still necessary, and will not be going anywhere.

We know each form communication is important. So, I want to be pessimistic and focus on all the bad. Let’s dive into chapter one of J. D. Applen’s book Writing for the Web: Composing, Coding, and Constructing Web Sites and discuss the cons.

Spoken Word

Before we humans began to write down our ideas, our only way to convey and receive information was through spoken word. Don’t get it twisted, speech is still prominent today. In fact, a large portion of languages spoken today only exist in oral form. These languages are referred to as “natural human languages”. Specifically, many indigenous populations communicate through “natural human languages”. These indigenous languages have not only survived, but have thrived without a written form.

I think it’s obvious spoken word and “natural human languages” are vital forms of communication. So, what’s bad about it? Well, it is impossible to remember all the information that has been conveyed to you throughout your existence on Earth. Am I saying it is impossible to learn in an oral culture? No. However, it requires much more effort to learn. As Applen words it, “Learning in oral cultures is based on the practice of apprenticeship, where people imitate or emulate what others do as they are doing it.” (pg. 3). In a literate culture, people have the ability to revisit and reflect on the information they have been fed. Whereas in an oral culture, people must repeat information in order to digest it. Not to mention, mathematic equations and scientific concepts are extremely difficult to study without a visual component.

Written Word

Later, we are introduced to the written word and literate cultures. Unlike oral cultures, literate cultures rely on both the oral and written form of a language. Countries such as the United States would be considered literate cultures.

This is the part where I talk about the bad. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have access to education. Being literate is something that no one should take for granted. That being said, I want to focus on how others interpret written word. Interpretation is a double edged sword. Interpretations can be fun with creative writing. However, when it comes to academic writing, being understood the way you want to be understood is important. As Applen says, “Think about some of the things you have written that others have read… you might have clarified something that you thought they misunderstood… you could not have done this if someone read what you wrote and you were not there to engage them.” (pg. 5). Written communication is set in stone. However, a perk of oral communication is the ability to correct or rephrase yourself.

Information with the Electronic Word

Lastly, the electronic word. A form of communication that hit the scene fairly recently. Yet, the electronic word has taken the world by storm. Personally, I cannot imagine my life without the electronic word. In fact, I’m communicating electronically as of right now. Mind blown.

You know the drill, what’s so bad about the electronic word? For starters, digital technology is not easily accessible to everyone. But I digress. Let’s focus on writing programs. Word processors such as Word and Google Docs have an impact on how we convey information. As Applen phrases it, “…the technologies we employ are not neutral.” (pg. 1). Although writing with pencil and paper is considered a technology, I would like to focus on digital technology. Writing programs, like the ones previously mentioned, are inherently biased. These programs have default settings, as well as spell checks, and grammar suggestions. Ultimately, this has an effect on our writing. Personally, I despise the squiggly line that appears throughout my documents telling me what I should and should not do. Do not get me started on programs such as Grammarly that are even more controlling.


Yes, the spoken, written, and electronic word are equally as important to our society. However, nothing is perfect. Each communication form has it’s flaws. Oral communication makes it much more difficult to learn; written communication allows for interpretation, which is a double edged sword; electronic word is inherently biased and sways the way we convey ideas. This has been a pessimistic look at chapter one of J. D. Applen’s book Writing for the Web: Composing, Coding, and Constructing Web Sites. Thank you.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *