11 Differences between Spoken English & Written English

Spoken English and Written English, a guide.

The ultimate purpose of any language is to communicate, i.e, to be able to transfer thoughts and emotions from one person to another.  It is natural for you to start speaking a native language first and then learn how to read and write. However, in learning English, it is important to note that learning to write is as important as learning spoken English.

There are multiple differences between spoken English and written English. This can be especially confusing if you are starting out with the language. But don’t worry, with some practice you’ll be able to excel in both!

So what are the key differences between spoken English and written English? Let’s dive in.

1. Spoken English is Informal

English is a Dynamic Language
English is a Dynamic Language

As written English is used in a wide variety of spaces, including newspapers, journals, books, etc., it tends to be better structured and more complex than conversational English. 

While with formal writing we tend to make note of proper sentence structure, punctuation marks, and grammar, with verbal English we tend to be aware of stress, timing, and tone.

2. Spoken English is Simpler

When we use English in a conversation, there is a tendency to use simple words and short sentences. Whereas with written English, grammar, correct sentence formation, implications, and meanings of words are some of the aspects that are to be kept in mind.   

In simple words, a better grasp of pronunciation is required for speaking whereas a good knowledge of grammar is required for written English.

3. Conveyance In Spoken English

Spoken English uses volume, pitch, and timbre to convey the depth of context and knowledge. These features enable us to connect with the listener on an emotional level.

Written English often fails to connect on the same level as the reader. But writers often use metaphors, idioms, punctuations to convey the context and the meaning behind those lines.

4. Rhythm and Slang

Speaking has rhythm
Spoken English has Rhythm

The speed at which you string together your words, along with the pauses and gestures you make, creates a rhythm that’s distinctive to you. In some ways, we all have our own accents. You speak based on immediate thought and the context of the conversation. Whereas writing requires a longer thought process, and you write based on the specific information you want to convey. 

5. Permanence

Written work is fixed and can be referred to at any time by the reader at the individual’s own pace and thoroughness. We can still access cultures, epics, and history due to the written word.

Spoken English is fleeting and freely flows in real-time. Here, the listener has to be at the same level of understanding and speed to grasp what the other person is saying.

6. Narrative Form

English in verbal conversations is mostly story-based or event-based. It takes on a narrative form when we use it to explain an event or a story.

Written text mostly deals with explaining ideas and describing past and future events. It tends to take on a more descriptive form.

7. Written English can be Impersonal

The text that we write is disconnected from the reader in time and space. Therefore good writers strive to bridge this gap with descriptive and engaging writing.

Spoken English is received and interpreted in real-time thereby eliminating any form of detachment. Constant engagement is what strives the conversation forward.

8. Written English is Better Organised

When compared to spoken English, written English is better organized and formulated since we have multiple opportunities to think and edit the text.

Written English is Better Organised
Written English is Better Organised

Spoken English is largely instinctive and we tend to self-correct as we speak. This advantage benefits our writing as we can formulate it with precise vocabulary and grammar.

9. Production Speed

Production speed varies greatly when we compare written and spoken English. Punctuations, proper formation of sentences and paragraphs are not taken into consideration with spoken English.

Writing takes longer and it is laborious whereas speaking is more natural and doesn’t require much time.

10. Written English is Explicit

Any text that we write mostly tries to stick to a point with clear context and references.

While speaking knowledge is exchanged between us and listeners, but the context and information are assumed most of the time.

11. Spoken English is Dynamic

The real-time interaction of speaking English enables us to easily interpret contexts and share feedback.

Spoken English and Written English are Essential
Written and Spoken English are Equally Important

In writing there is no immediate feedback from the readers, making context clarification a lengthy process.

In conclusion, written and spoken English are two forms of the language which can vary in a lot of ways. If you learn the key differences, this can be a stepping stone towards you becoming a better writer or speaker. But you need to keep in mind that both written and spoken English are equally important to grasp for you to be able to communicate your ideas efficiently and reach your end goal.

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