Features of Speech vs. Features of Writing

Looking at the features of speech and the features of writing to see the similarities/differences.

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Speech - Informal

speech is generally more informal. It usually contains slang, shortenings of words and non-standard grammar. We do not think as carefully about what we say as opposed to what we write.

Speech - Spontaneous

not usually planned. Even if we plan what we say, it hardly ever goes to plan. We have no control over what somebody else would say, and so cannot plan a conversation entirely. Contains fillers, pauses, false starts, self-corrections.

Speech - Intonation

we use the intonation - the volume, the pitch - of our voices to show emotion.

 Speech - Interactive

two-way communication. In conversation, we can check and clarify things we don't understand by asking, and we can judge the audience's reaction to what we say.

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Speech - Vague Words

are tolerated. Body language, context, and prior knowledge help us to understand without having to use detail.

Speech - Individual

our personality comes across

Speech - Ephemeral

usually no record is kept. Once we've said something, it's gone. We can't prove what somebody has said.


The audience is known and fixed - we are aware of who is listening.

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Writing - Formal

generally more formal. More 'sophisicated' words, correct grammar.

Writing - Planned

writing is usually planned beforehand. Ideas are expressed more accurately and carefully.

Writing - Punctuation

to show structure of sentences and show questions or surprise.

Writing - Not Interactive

one way. No chance to ask if we don't understand.

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Writing - Precise

more precise choice of words is needed to make the meaning clear. Writing gives more background and explains more.

Writing - Standardised

less personal

Writing - Permanent

(though not always) we are more careful about what we put in writing


once something is in writing, it can be passed to anyone, so the audience is not normally known.

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