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

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‘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. Writing is not ultimately superior to speech- the two modes each have their own uses and appropriateness to different situations.

In certain circumstances, writing would appear to exist as the superior mode of communication. A significant advantage of writing over speech is its permanence rather than it being transient (notwithstanding technological developments of the last century, enabling speech to be recorded). Therefore, a piece of writing may be read by different people, in many different times and places. Further suggestions that writing is superior to speech originate from the fact that the reader holds a variety of advantages over the listener. The reader is able to assimilate written information at their own pace, and possess the ability to return to the written text to refresh their memory and confirm their understanding. 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) is, at most, one hundred and seventy-five words per minute. As concerns the recipient, writing may often seem to be the superior mode of communication.

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The writer may also be seen to possess several advantages over the speaker. The presence of an audience for a writer is most unnecessary - vast distances may separate thousands of readers of dissimilar times and locations without detracting from the communication of the text. A writer is usually in a far stronger position to prepare what they wish to write, and can devise an easily followed structure for their writing whilst being able to redraft their work until they are satisfied. However, spoken English is generally spontaneous, and exists in long, complex, often disjointed constructions, and cannot be ...

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