When Spoken Words Are Best
Something happened to me this week that made me realize it’s time to cover when not to write — but choose the spoken word instead. To summarize, a blizzard of emails were exchanged regarding an outstanding project — which was dormant for months and suddenly resurrected — that resulted in bad feelings all around. A five-minute phone call was all it took to rectify the situation, eliminate the negativity and move forward.
Why is it a good idea to speak rather than write when a conflict exists, an issue needs to be resolved or you need to deliver bad news? Here are a few reasons:
You can respond to the spoken word immediately, so there’s no time delay between answers — and you have the ability to create a dialogue, a give-and-take that can quickly get to the heart of the matter.
You can interact with the person you’re speaking with, drawing conclusions from their tone and actions — instead of having to read between the lines.
You are likely to be more diplomatic when speaking to someone, choosing to temper comments you may feel comfortable writing. (Social media is a great example of writing things you’d never say.)
You can significantly cut down on misunderstandings that result from poor writing and/or the inability to properly explain your position.
The Limitations of Oral Communication
As someone who gets paid to write, I feel the need to spell out some of the shortcomings of speaking rather than writing, which include:
There’s no formal record of what was said, so you can get into “he said, she said” situations.
Emotions can take over your conversation — resulting in things being said that are later regretted.
If the conversation includes more than two people, it can be difficult to clearly communicate — and some participants may feel left out.
As a professional, you need to determine when a phone call or in-person meeting is warranted rather than written communication like an email or text. Consider the situation and think about what you want to accomplish before you make your choice.
When words are redundant, it means they can be omitted without losing meaning. Here’s a recent example from an online news source:
What was written: Kate Middleton debuted her baby bump for the first time.
What should have been written: Kate Middleton debuted her baby bump.
Very is a vague word that doesn’t add much to your writing. For instance, instead of using very old, use ancient; substitute wealthy for very rich, brief for very short, chilling for very scary and rapid for very quick. These are just a few examples; the next time you’re tempted to use very, try to substitute a more descriptive word.