Have you ever written a speech you thought was great, only to have it fall completely flat upon delivery?
Maybe the presentation wasn’t quite right for your audience. Maybe you just had an off day.
Or maybe you didn’t account for the fact that speaking and writing are actually very different means of communication.
Yes, even though they both communicate ideas using language, great writing doesn’t necessarily translate into great speaking. Here are three critical differences between writing and speaking:
One of the differences between writing and speaking is the use of repetition. In writing, you usually want to avoid being repetitive. Repetitive writing is not very creative and can often cause the reader to become bored. In addition, repetition isn’t necessary because of the ability to instantly go back and re-read something if you missed it.
In speaking, however, repetition is actually necessary. Audiences don’t listen very closely to the exact words you’re saying, so you need to repeat your key messages early and often. Just as road signs remind you of where you are when you’re driving, repeating key points reminds your audience of where you are when you’re presenting.
2. Complex sentences
Another one of the differences between writing and speaking is the use of complex sentences. In writing, complex sentences can be necessary for adding the right level of detail and precision. Plus, complex sentences can be made easier to read with the right punctuation.
However, complex sentences are deadly for your speaking. They flatten your delivery, causing you to drone on and on. In addition, speaking requires something fundamental that writing does not: breathing. So, make sure you’re giving yourself time to breathe by limiting your use of complex sentences.
3. Word choice
Finally, writing and speaking differ in terms of the importance of word choice. In writing, you usually want to choose your words very carefully, as people can go back and re-read. A well-chosen word can often make or break the point you’re making.
In speaking, the exact words you choose aren’t nearly as important as the general point you’re trying to make. Just as you remember the melodies of songs, not the specific notes, your audience will remember your ideas, not your specific words. So, don’t obsess over making sure every word you say is absolutely perfect.
You can absolutely be both a great writer and a great speaker. But if you want to accomplish this feat, you need to understand the nuances between the two. By being thoughtful about the differences between writing and speaking, you will get much better at both.