Religion Magazine

Written Speech Or Spoken Word?

By Richardl @richardlittleda

The importance of the written word

Just been reading a fascinating post on Inc all about written communication. It is well worth reading in full, but here are some highlights which caught my eye. The CEO of Evernote says that : ‘Many people can pretend to be something they’re not in person, but very few people can do so in writing.’ This seems an astonishing assertion from an online company when one of the key problems with online identity is our chameleon-like ability to reinvent ourselves by what we write. At Amazon, meanwhile, meetings of senior executives begin with 30 minutes’ of silence whilst people read several memos of up to six pages each. CEO Jeff Bezos sees this as a way to avoid intellectual laziness, since he does not want his management team to ‘become a country club’.

I have just finished teaching a course at Spurgeon’s College on preaching. As ever, it has been an exhausting privilege and a singular honor to do so. Of course, I cannot teach such a course without reference to written notes and the part they play in oral communication. Here is a question, though. Do oral communicators think in speech and then convert it to text in order to preserve it, or do they write their thoughts and then convert them to speech in the act of delivery?  For me, the technique probably varies according to the end product. In a narrative sermon, where a choice of descriptively rich vocabulary is paramount, I probably write my thoughts. At the back of my mind may be the thought that these will probably be published as written texts after the act of preaching too. With a thematic sermon, though, I think in terms of speech and then write notes which enable the speech to retain its structure.

How do you go about it?

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