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'Writing is often thought to be superior to speech - To what extent is this true?'

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Introduction

'Writing is often thought to be superior to speech. To what extent is this true?' Traditionally, writing has often been considered the superior mode of communication: since the medieval age, when the majority of the populace was illiterate, the ability to write acknowledged one as a member of the upper class social elite, this association having secured writings connection with scholarship and knowledge. Certainly, there exists a myriad advantages afforded by writing. However, in more recent years the significance of speech has been increasingly recognized, partly through the development of technology such as the telephone, television and radio. This mode of communication is now rated more highly- for example, by GCSE examining boards, which now consider 'speaking and listening' to be an integral component of the English examination. ...read more.

Middle

Much of speech tends to be transient, and whilst the listener may often request the speaker to reiterate, speech affords a greater risk of information being misunderstood, misheard or missed altogether. The reader also has other benefits when compared with the listener. For example, most writing tends to conform to Standard English. In speech, a regional accent or dialect may distract the listener from what is being said, lead to lack of intelligibility or cause the speaker to encounter prejudice. Conversely, the reader of Standard English encounters no social difficulties. There exists also an argument that the reader absorbs information at a higher rate than the listener: the average reading speed being approximately three-hundred words per minute, whilst that of speaking (and therefore listening) ...read more.

Conclusion

A final advantage of writing over speech is that writing is most suitable for recording long, complex pieces of information- a piece of speech generally has to be shorter and more concise. In more informal situations, however, and especially when a social tool is required for building personal relationships with others, speech exists as the superior mode of communication. A social situation where one would have to communicate through writing is ridiculous and unimaginable. The speaker does hold various advantages over the writer, and these advantages may often have been ignored by perscriptivists who have considered writing to be the superior mode of communication. A speaker, for example, usually has the benefit of instant feedback from their audience, and reserves the right to modify their speech accordingly. A speech may be geared towards a particular context, for example by the use of deictic expressions such as 'this one' and 'over there'. ...read more.

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