Is Writing More Permanent Than Speaking?

A few days ago the class laughed as we read aloud our past wordy, unclear and deficient writing.  Our writing sort of made arguments…but not really.  Our work sort of reached conclusions, but not sure conclusions.  Our work was, at best, fearful (as Ray says).  This got me thinking about the power of our written word versus our spoken word.  Is one more legitimate or more permanent than the other?  Is spoken word more transitory because it is guided by impulsivity and emotion? And is writing more meaningful because we put our conscious thought into physical form?

5 thoughts to “Is Writing More Permanent Than Speaking?”

  1. Interesting question. I think this really depends on the context and situation. In some cases, spoken word can be more powerful, as this allows one to truly express their genuine emotions. For example, (of course I’m going to use sports), if a coach is trying to fire up his (or her) team, I think it goes without saying that an emotional pep talk would prove fire more effective than a written message Can anyone imagine Bill Parcells drafting a halftime speech to email to his team? However, in other cases, written word may prove to be more effective, as this enables people to produce something that is both retraceable and concrete. In this instance, the first example that comes to mind are legal notices.

    So to answer your question, I do not think that there is necessarily a right or wrong answer. Rather, it all depends.

    1. I totally agree with Benji’s idea that either the written word or the spoken word can be more powerful depending on the context of the situation; if the intended audience craves an emotional stimulation, an impassioned speech may be the best way to leave an impact on them whereas an audience that seeks a logical explanation of some issue may react more strongly to a clear, written argument. So Carly, to answer your initial question, I think that the “permanence” of something only has to do with the person who receives the information rather than the way the information is received. An example that comes to mind is the Civil Rights Movement; two of the most lasting “artifacts” from this period are Martin Luther King Jr’s speech and Blood Done Sign My Name (a novel about racism in the South).

      These two are presented in entirely different forms but still stand as some of the most influential and lasting arguments of the Civil Rights Era, showing that either the spoken or the written word can be just as influential as the other depending on what the audience needs or wants to hear.

  2. I think that Thursday’s class makes the question more confusing, but I’d go with written. When things are written in a fearful manner (like our examples from class) I believe that speaking is more permanent because there’s a better chance you’ll at least understand something. But when something is well written, it is there forever. Many times when people speak we remember small soundbites, but when something is in text, it’s there for you to read, and then read again. You can reflect and revisit text in a different way that I believe makes written word more permanent.

  3. I totally agree with Benji and Sean: it depends…(I think they said the rest pretty well, I don’t want to sound repetitive here ;D )

    BUT your question also got me thinking about something else:

    How has speaking and writing evolved over the last decade? Does this change how effective one is over the other? For example, text messaging or instant messaging versus spoken word: Our generation has been thrown into a technological whirlwind in which kids hide behind a computer and express themselves through written language. But how many times have you misinterpreted an IM or a text? Doesn’t this change the effectiveness of written words? But then what about cell phones? This has altered the way we communicate: no longer do we see the emotions behind spoken language.

    I was just wondering what some other thoughts were on this?

  4. When I think about writing versus speaking, I think of ownership. It’s much easier to write something, especially on controversial topics, than to speak about it from an emotional standpoint, because we are more detached. Why do people break up in text messages? Because it’s emotionally easier. Would we ever say certain things we post on Facebook directly to the other human being? Definitely not. When we speak, there’s something inherent that we don’t exactly get when we write. Maybe its’ the fact that there’s no delete button for the spoken word.

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