Life in progress

The Social Repercussions of Writing vs Speaking


It started with an appointment. My son’s behavioral specialist was to go his school to talk to the teacher to observe him on Tuesday, and then come to see me today. On Tuesday afternoon I received a note from the teacher to say the specialist had canceled due to the flu. I, therefore, assumed she wouldn’t be coming here either. Sure enough, I received a phone call this morning from the behavioral specialist’s office. What happened during that phone call is what’s has me… worried? I wouldn’t go that far: thoughtful, perhaps, ever since.

The nice lady who called me only wanted to let me know my appointment was canceled and would be rescheduled. In order to seem, I don’t know, friendly, or sociable, I felt the need to explain that I already knew the behavioral specialist was sick, since she’d canceled Tuesday’s appointment. But even while I was explaining this, my inner editor was screaming at me, “This is not important to the plot! She doesn’t need to know! She’s probably got a dozen more phone calls to make – let her go!” It’s this conciseness with which I feel the need to write, that makes me wonder what it’s doing to me socially.

And isn’t that true for all of us, to some degree? Whether we’re trying to take shortcuts in speech (how many times have you heard someone utter “lol” out loud? Do you do it?) or cutting ourselves short, as I feel I should have done this morning, it has to be affecting the way we socialize. Writing has become the norm, and speech secondary. We spent far fewer hours with pen and keyboard even twenty years ago, unless it was part of our job, versus talking on the phone or in person. Now our lives are largely lived with the written word.

Writing has always been, in a practical way, different from speech. Drafting a formal letter, whether the recipient is a business associate or a lover, is done with care. Choosing the right words is essential to get the point across. With this in mind, are we bloggers actually better at speaking? Has the practice of finding the correct way to say things, and the editing that goes into many of our posts, improved our skills of communication across the board? And have Facebook and Twitter minimalized our speech to the bare necessities?

I have to wonder how we are evolving. And really, that’s what it is. An evolution of mankind who, at one time walked miles to convey a message, now looks no further than his pocket. We’re not quite to the point that our hands get more use than our tongues, but will we, one day, end up with wrists that bend in odd ways, and mouths that are used only to consume food? But I’m getting ahead of myself (and everyone else).

How we socialize with one another–how we communicate–cannot not be affected by what we spend three quarters of our time doing in order to communicate. Small talk is how we connect with one another. It’s how we discover our shared sentiments. It’s what we do on Facebook and Twitter, but without the human interaction–or at the very least it’s human interaction with a machine as a buffer. Will there come a day when we save our small talk only for such situations as taking pictures of our food on social media, and keep our direct interaction as a form of necessity? I think you really have only to look around a restaurant, or peer into people’s kitchens at dinner time these days for the answer.

Author: LindaGHill

There's a writer in here, clawing her way out.

47 thoughts on “The Social Repercussions of Writing vs Speaking

  1. I don’t know if this is “odd” for me, considering that my job (as an educator) involves a ton of public speaking but I absolutely hate talking on the phone and conference calls drive me batty. I prefer to text or have the opportunity to write a well crafted letter.


  2. Nothing to add here – I think its all been said. SO I just clicked the like…you know – like a knowing nod of approval? (well I would have if I had not had to explain that… for clarity – you know… in words. Written ones)
    However if you were sat across from me, there is a likelihood I would say a whole lot more with a whole lot less effort. Because there is all the added nuances that come into play to create the overhaul meaning and sentiment. AND THAT is I fear what can be so easily lost. Expression of intent and understanding or connection, does not come as easily with conciseness… though there absolutely is a place for it. (still working on finding that because really – it does take a effort to put a whole lot of thought into a small space…and I simply do not have the time to consider for too long such things it is quicker for me to vomit than let it filter through. Selfish I know.
    But fuck it words are funny and sometimes being wordy is just – nice. Wordy play is nicer still.


  3. I am wondering about exactly that topic too since a while.

    It seems so difficult to get a proper conversation going with the kids when we eat.

    They are in an age though (one teenager one nearly teenager) where they don’t say a lot anyway. And they have always been one of the quiet kind.

    I realise that I’m mainly “socialising” online and with my blogs. It’s always been easier for me to let ppl close in written form rather than speaking. I suspect that is one effect if being an abuse survivor. Your trust in the ppl around is somehow scarred.

    If you communicate in writing you do have that safe distance between you and the other.

    I believe though that social media helps us to communicate better because we learn more from each other.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Indeed we do. And it’s a wonderful way to find support. There are those of us who have always had a hard time socializing – I recognize that. But what if everyone did? It would change the world drastically, I think.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I love writing and receiving letters. I have found over the years that I am the last one standing among my family and peers who writes letters. I am still figuring out my voice for my website, yearning for a more conversational tone, while enjoying how posting hones my editing skills.
    A lovely smart post. Thank you.
    Have a peaceful weekend.


  5. Reblogged this on A Good Blog is Hard to Find and commented:
    I agree. I also try to get the nightly dinner going at the real dinner table. That is where we can talk and socialize which is so important for a family and society in general. Great write Linda! -OM
    Note: Comments disabled here. Please visit their blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Reblogged this on Don Massenzio's Blog and commented:
    Insightful post on writing vs. speech.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. All good points… And kind of scary. Try teaching teenagers to write in this day and age! Ummm…like… LOL it’s kinda like hard to figure out just exactly what they like meant to write in those super infinitely lonigish sentences who jump from topic to topic like this one time some of them end abruptly.
    But there’s the other side, too. I met a man once, who didn’t need a phone to figure what to talk about next. Conversation always flowed naturally. It was nice to be the center of conversation.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You do get better at it — assuming you’re actually working to get better at it, and not just shouting word-vomit into the void. (Not that I’m saying your blog is anything like word-vomit. My pot would never do that to your kettle.)

    But yes, absolutely, writing influences the way we speak.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m more the other way round, I think; my rambling, unrestrained style of writing is influenced by my mode of speech.
    I only discovered a love of (or a talent for) writing very recently, but I have always been fascinated by words and the idiom of expression.
    I’ve never been one to use half a dozen words when I could use twenty instead and I have always had a strong dislike for lazy, inelegant use of language, so I refuse to use text-speak abbreviations in even the most informal writing, like the one for laughing out loud (see, I can’t even bring myself to type it) and I get the urge to slap people who actually SAY it out loud.
    Writing has become second nature to me very quickly and I found straight away that it is by far the best way to increase your vocabulary.
    A friend of mine (an incredibly talented artist, face painter and balloon sculptor, who can do almost supernaturally extraordinary things with a few strokes of make up) was bemoaning her inability to express herself on Facebook, saying that she knew what she wanted to say but was frustrated by the difficulty she had articulating what she meant. I know her to be a bright and funny lady, but she maybe didn’t get the best deal from her education, leaving her ill-equipped to translate her creative thoughts into words.
    She said to me, “I must buy a thesaurus, I can never think of the best way to say what I mean.”
    I told her that, although that was a good idea in principle, the very best thing to do would be to write, as much and as often as possible, because just knowing words is all very well, but only by seeing them in front of you and seeing the magic of language develop before your eyes can you truly appreciate the joy of your own knowledge and revel in the beauty of a well-formed turn of phrase.

    This is why I like SoCS so much and why I never plan anything before I write; because words only come together properly for me on the page (oh alright, the screen) and if I try to force them into shape in my head, they refuse to cooperate and feel stilted and wrong.
    However, once I start typing, it becomes difficult to stop them flowing and they just seem to fall into place without any prompting from me at all.

    I’m a sucker for technology and gadgets, but I refuse to allow the ease and simplicity of modern communication to dumb down the wonderful gift that is language, it’s too important a part of me and my life to waste by reducing it to TLAs.

    (and that was the short version, hahaha)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for the novel. πŸ˜‰ But seriously, you kind of proved my point. You say your speech affects your writing, and yet writing has improved your vocabulary. Is that not internal editing? You know, even if it’s not cutting down the number of words, but effectiveness of them.
      Stream of consciousness is by far the best way to write a first draft. When it flows, you know it’s right and true. I enjoy it too. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t edit, I really don’t. I doubt I even do it internally.
        I can only create readable stuff by NOT editing (bar the odd typo, maybe).
        If I think about it before I start writing, it doesn’t work. I can only produce readable stuff if I make it up as I go along and that doesn’t seem to work unless I’m actually writing it down there and then.
        I can’t sit in the garden and make up a story in my head, I’ve tried. I can only do it if I sit down and type, nothing happens before that, it’s like a switch has been turned off until I pick up my phone.
        For example: one liner Wednesday.
        I can only come up with those on Wednesday, when I sit down and think, “Right, one liner Wednesday…umm, hahaha, Pacemaker, hahaha, that’ll work…”
        I’ve honestly tried it as an experiment, thinking of #1linerWeds ideas on another day: Nothing. My mind just slides off it. And yet when Wednesday comes around: (see above).

        All four stories I have had accepted for publication so far are from #SoCS and they all appear exactly as I wrote them in one hit for the blog.
        Catherine, who I submitted them to originally, also told me I’m the only person whose work hasn’t needed any correction for spelling or grammar at all, which amazed me.


  10. I love writing because I can plan out what I’m going to say, as I do feel like sometimes I can’t say what I really wish to say when I am speaking to someone, but that is why I do enjoy both and do constantly work at communicating better in person.
    I don’t have to worry about the social media part as I struggle, always, to be brief enough, often saying things in a more complicated way than I really would need to.
    I hope things don’t change too much. I just saw an interesting TBT about the first appearance of Alexander Bell and his telephone.
    What would he think now?

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I tend to blog just like I talk. Fragments, pauses, and all. So, I guess I’d say that my speaking affects my writing. Maybe I’m the exception to the rule. I dunno. Food for thought. (Which, by the by, is why I enjoy your blog — you always leave me with somethin’ to think about!) XOXOX

    Liked by 1 person

    • Me too, Micki. I feel that anyone meeting me on the street would know me from my blog just by my speech patterns. …yeah, I’m that crazy. πŸ˜› But though I write like I talk, I go back and edit words here and there – and then I find those same words showing up in my speech. It’s a real back-and-forth type of thing.
      Glad to leave you pondering! Thanks very much for your kind words. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Your last sentence is the most alarming to me. It breaks my heart to see folks dining out, and they are each connected to their smart phone. They are missing the whole point. Nice post.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This is a very good post Linda. I struggle to get this right when I work with my “if we were having a beer” posts because I want the dialog to seem like a conversation between two guys. We say things very differently than we write them, unless we’re writing about two guys saying things πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  14. It’s just changing, Linda. Speaking is still important; video social media is starting to catch back up to written media. They are new art forms, and like any new things, there is this learning curve behind it.

    But, specifically writing fiction can change the way I anticipate things in the written word. For example, I was waiting for the plot twist where your specialist ended up confessing that she wasn’t actually sick. What if she’s an international assassin that was having to strangle the life out of someone?

    I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

    Liked by 1 person

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