Written vs Oral Communication Difference Explained

The comparison of written vs oral communication is ages old. Communication skills affect your ability to be understood and to understand others, establish positive relationships, and perform your job well. Both these modes of communication offer its own advantages.

written vs oral communication

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Written Communication

In a formal organisation, written communication is the most important media for conveying ideas, information etc. Written message includes reports, policies, rules, statistical data, newsletters, memo, procedures, handbook, bulletin boards and house newspaper etc. Written communication save time and money and can be retained as legal records and reference source.

A written communication has the advantage of being easily verified and of being more precisely defined if there arise a need for subsequent correction. The lengthy and complicated messages are better understood if they are put in writing.

Drawbacks of Written Communication:

  • It is a slower method of communication if we consider the total amount of time involved from the formulation of idea by the sender to the understanding of the idea by the receiver. A written communication competes with all other written material that reaches the desk of an executive. As such there can be a gap between the time when a communication reaches the manager’s desk and the time when he or she reads it. Moreover, if clarifications are needed because the message is not clear to the receiver, further delay would take place. However, with the advent of electronic media such delays have been considerably reduced.
  • Secondly, despite the fact that a greater degree of preciseness is aimed at while preparing a written communication, there is always a possibility of ambiguity or lack of clarity creeping in leading to misunderstanding on the part of the receiver. Clarifications naturally mean delay
  • Lastly, over-reliance on written communication can lead to too much of paper-work in the organisation. This not only consumes time, money and energy, but also indicates a lack of trust among the employees of the organisation. It has been observed that when trust is low and suspicions are high in an organisation, an over-reliance on written communication is likely to occur

Oral Communication

An organisation cannot function without written communications of various kinds, yet by far the greater percentage of information is communicated orally. It has been observed that managers spend 60 to 80 per cent of their work time in oral communication. Oral communication has the merit of being more rapid. Spoken messages cannot always be verified so easily.

Generally, the spoken word is a quicker and less complicated way of getting one’s ideas across another person. Again, it offers the potential of two-way information flow, and therefore less possibility of misunderstanding the communication. The creation of a less formal atmosphere and generation of fellow feelings are the additional advantages brought about through oral communication. However, the oral communication is not entirely free from defects. It is less effective as a means of presenting complicated and lengthy data. It is also subject to misinterpretation and the effects of barriers arising from interpersonal relationships.

Examples of oral communications are conferences, committee meetings, telephone conversation, loudspeaker announcements, etc

Which one is better: Written vs Oral Communication?

Can you determine which of the two, oral or written, is a better means of communication? The choice between the two is determined by the situation. However, the use of both together will very often strengthen and reinforce a message. The material in your hand is the written communication which will be fortified subsequently through oral communication in the counselling sessions or educational TV programmes.

Recommended Reading

If you have time and resources, we recommend you to read Chapter on Communication from Organizational Behavior by Robbins. However this is purely optional since we have explained the basic difference.

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