There are many differences between written English and how real English is spoken.  These can be confusing when learning English.  This is the reason why immersion in the language is required and learning to write English is as important as learning to speak English. Let us explore the differences between these two forms of English.

Features of spoken English:

Here are examples of how real Spoken English is different from textbook English:

  1. It is informal

Writing, whether, in newspapers, books or magazines can be far more structured and complex than conversational English. This is because writing in a formal way has to include punctuation and proper sentence and paragraph structure.  Writing in an instant messaging format can be more like spoken English.  Speaking is more general and requires a knowledge of intonation, stress, timing, and pitch.

2. Spoken English has more simplicity

English was spoken between 2 or more people and covers general English perhaps in a more general and simpler form than written English.  Written English needs to be formal when used for education and business.

3. English, when spoken, has rhythm

In real English, there is more rhythm, the difference in speed of speaking together with pauses and gestures in body language and is based on mental thought and interaction with others.  In written English, there is more of a defined content.

4. Use of slang and colloquialism

There is certain vocabulary that is only used in spoken English for example slangs like “facetime” and “bae” are rarely used in written English. Shortened forms like saying 2018 either as twenty eighteen or two thousand and eighteen.

5. Narrative form

Spoken English is face to face and is more in narrative form, event-based, action-based and story-based.  Written English can be expository based, idea-based, explaining ideas and describing future and past.

Features of Written English:

Good and clear pronunciation is required for speaking whereas a good knowledge of grammar is required for written English. Here are some basic characteristics of written English:

1. It Has More Permanence

Written discourse is fixed and stable so the reading can be done at whatever time, speed and level of thoroughness the individual reader wishes. Spoken text, in contrast, is fleeting and moves on in real-time. The listener – though he or she may occasionally interrupt to request clarification – just in general follow what is said at the speed set by the speaker.

 2. Written English Has More Explicitness

The written text is explicit; it has to make clear the context and all references. In a speech, the real-time situation and knowledge shared between speaker and listener mean that some information can be assumed and need not be made explicit.

 3. It Is More Dense

The content is presented much more densely in writing. In the speech, the information is “diluted” and conveyed through many more words: there are a lot of repetitions, glosses, “fillers”, producing a text that is noticeably longer and with more redundant passages.

 4. Written English Is More Detached

The writing of a text is detached in time and space from its reading; the writer normally works alone, and may not be acquainted with his or her readers. Speaking usually takes place in immediate interaction with known listeners, with the availability of immediate feedback.

5. It Is More Organised

A written text is usually organised and carefully formulated since its composer has time and opportunity to edit it before making it available for reading. A speaker is improvising as he or she speaks: ongoing alterations, in the shape of glosses, self-corrections and so on produce an apparently disorganized ‘stream-of-consciousness’ kind of discourse. Thus a written text conforms more to conventional rules of grammar, and its vocabulary is more precise and formal.

6. The slowness of production, speed of reception

Writing is much slower than speaking. On the other hand, we can usually read a piece of text and understand it much faster than we can take in the same text if we listen while someone reads it aloud to us.

7. It Uses Standard language

Writing normally uses a generally acceptable standard variety of the language, whereas speech may sometimes be in a regional or other limited-context dialects. In some languages (Chinese, for example), the various spoken dialects may even be mutually incomprehensible, while the written language is universally understood. Check this blog to know more about how English is spoken.

In a Nutshell:

Spoken English and Written English are the two forms of the English Language that differ from each other in many ways. For being a good communicator or a good writer your skill has to be adequate and you need to know the art spoken English with all its’ difference from the written form.

About the Author

Indulekha Prabha

My name is Indulekha Prabha. I am an English teacher and a content writer by profession. When I'm not working you can find me writing fiction, reading poetry and painting.

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