What is the difference between oral and written communication?

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Answered by: Eugenia, An Expert in the Grammar and Composition - General Category
Words are tools. They provide the power source necessary for human interaction. Every word begins with a thought. A combination of thoughts creates a plan. A plan is then formulated into either oral or written speech. Herein is the birth of effective oral and written communication.

It is a fact that 75% percent or more of our actual exchange of words is found in oral communication. It comes naturally without prompting, as anyone who has been around a demanding baby can attest. There is a continual barrage of words that are communicated on a daily basis. It is estimated that the average two year old already owns a vocabulary of sixty words or more. By the time the child’s age doubles, his vocabulary has grown to 1,500 words. Imagine a child trying to formulate sentences with pen and paper at that age. Effective written communication would be impossible.

Oral communication is not concerned with the proper spelling of words. There is no need to deliberate over the use of capital letters. Nor do we bother ourselves with which punctuation mark to use at the end of a sentence. Words just fall from our lips, as quickly as they are formulated with our thoughts, unless we have learned the art of thinking before we speak. Oral communication is more personal and informal, with contractions and slang acceptable.

Written communication, on the other hand, does not come easily. It requires years of training and the development of basic writing skills. Over time and with much practice one can attain confidence in a writing style that is clear and easy to understand. Written communication is a slower process than just speaking what comes to our mind. It is more professional. Psychology has proven that our human tendency is to believe what is written more than the spoken word.

The first steps to learning written communication begin with the first, creative scribbles of a toddler. The deliberate and not so well-formed letters of a kindergartener when he writes his name are often awkward and not so legible. As the child grows his writing skills grow also. Over time, techniques are developed to select a topic, with specific information in mind. A target audience is determined. Keywords are carefully chosen. Sentence structure is evaluated. The first draft can be tested and tried with a trusted loved one or trained instructor to review and edit. Final touches are made to assure the message is successfully conveyed. The written word is then effectively launched.

Different reasons for written communication can be varied. The business world operates on written legal documents, contracts, agreements, procedures, and policies. Today’s varied media devices make written communication more popular than ever before with the use of emails, texting and social media. Regardless of the delivery of the writ, the focus must always be upon clarity and effective delivery.

Words are the powerful tools in oral and written communication, used to effectively convey a message. So as the old saying goes, choose your words carefully.

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