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© Ugur Akinci
OK, I admit the irony upfront: this is a written argument about talking 🙂 But given my daily workload, I unfortunately still don’t have the time to create well-produced videos. So writing is still the quickest way for me to put an idea across.
Yet, this is an important issue that also explains why this blog is not named “Technical Writing Center” but “Technical Communication Center” since communication involves a lot more than just writing.
As a writer I obviously enjoy stringing words together and communicating my thoughts that way.
Here are the obvious advantages of writing:
(1) Permanence. Once you put something in writing it more or less becomes a part of “the record.” And records promote accountability, measurement, and productivity. In principle, it’s a good thing.
(2) Creativity. Daily talk is carried out with a limited vocabulary. When you write, you have sudden success to hundreds of thousands of words and expressions that you usually wouldn’t use in a conversation. You can inject irony, humor, and all the other stylistic flourishes that sometimes elevates prose to a work of art. Writing and reading can be a delicious aesthetic experience indeed.
(3) Persuasion. When you write you can really put together a well-crafted argument, with strong logic and supporting materials. You can achieve a level of rigor that’s hard to hit when you’re talking to someone in person.
Yet, here are some equally powerful reasons why you might prefer to communicate by talking instead of writing:
(1) Body language and extra sensory data. When we talk we broadcast all kinds of emotional messages by the way we modulate our voice, the way we position our body, the way we repeat things or introduce a “pregnant pause” in between words, etc. Most of those things convey even if we’re on the phone, and these days, thanks to technologies like Skype, the line between phone and face-to-face communication is eliminated rapidly. That extra input helps prevent misunderstandings and widens the “bandwidth”.
(2) Archiving? No thanks. Sometimes you might not want your message to be a part of the permanent record for several reasons. For example, if your communication is very time and context specific, when put into words, it will lose that context. Your message might be misconstrued and misunderstood by a future reader who is unaware of your special circumstances.
(3) Feedback. Oral communication opens the doors wide open for instant feedback. If you are trying to elicit instantaneous feedback, you can achieve it much easier by talking to people instead of writing to them.
What do you think about the relative merits of written versus oral communication? Please feel free to share.
(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.)