Business Writing

“But it’s how I speak …”

B1- B1 B2 C1

I was thinking today about the differences between writing and speaking. In emails we often write informally, as though we are speaking to the person. Emails are seen as an informal communication method in most instances, and writing as we speak is usually okay—although if you’re writing to a boss or a client, you may want to be more formal in your writing.

Now, I’m not talking about lots of long words and complicated sentences. I’m talking about being aware of the differences between written English and spoken English, and make choices when you are writing, rather than just ‘writing as you speak’.

Here are a few of the differences.


Spoken language Written language
It is mostly spontaneous and contains redundancies (that is, we say the same thing a couple of times in different ways) It is mostly planned and contains very few extraneous words
The discourse is often ‘untidy’ The discourse if often very organised and observes formal boundaries such as paragraphs and chapters
A higher likelihood of an informal style or register It is usually neutral or formal in terms of style and register
The speaker is usually able to get instant feedback on their message Feedback is usually either absent or delayed
Often made up of a series of utterances that are not complete sentences There is a higher incidence of both simple and complex complete sentences
Conveys meaning through stress, intonation and pauses Uses punctuation to help make meaning clearer, and vocabulary choices tend to be more precise
The speaker can support their message using gesture and facial expression Writers use layout, headings and different typefaces to support their message