University Writing Center Blog

Posted on February 4th, 2021 by University Writing Center | Tags: , , , , , ,

By: Hannah W.

Our amazing consultant Hannah shares her experience with talking, writing, and the value of communicating.

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“Forms of communication differ in various ways, but in the end, it’s really just about conveying ideas.”
– Hannah W., University Writing Consultant

Anyone who really gets to know me knows that I am a long-winded person. I can talk for an extraordinarily long amount of time, with various tangents sprinkled in throughout the whole ordeal. When I feel strong emotions regarding a specific topic AND I feel comfortable around the person I am speaking to, I have the ability to engage in a lengthy discussion.

My poor, kind roommate often has to put up with this sort of chatter. She and I often find ourselves side tracked while we are trying to do homework- which is mostly my fault, in all honesty. I often think of very random things that I feel like I have to share, so I’m the main reason she has trouble focusing.

But, oddly enough, this drawn-out sort of talking doesn’t necessarily embed itself in my writing. In fact, I tend to be more concise when writing. For example, I often have long discussions with friends regarding America’s lack of culture due to the Indegenous Tribes being demolished when settlers came over to the “new world.” When I talk about this topic, I become very animated. My sentences are long and rambling and most of what I say is driven by emotion rather than logic. But when I write about this topic, I keep what I say purely logical. Facts and statistics become my allies and I do my best to prevent the paper from being tainted by my opinions. Personally, I believe part of this happens because I have an end goal and part of it happens because I’m trying to be convincing. When I am speaking with a close friend or family member, there isn’t really a point in mind and I don’t mind if they don’t accept my opinions. I’m simply trying to share my point of view. My writing, on the other hand, is meant to show why something is important.

Writing for school is often logic driven in the first place, so unless opinion is called for, I tend to leave it out completely. This affects the tone of my essays as well. The essays become less personal and more formal because personality is rooted in our morals and values. When I take those morals and values and my personal attachment to them out of an essay, I take away the informal tone. This also changes how I write. Rather than using first and second person language, I stick with third person. I basically remove myself from the equation. When I talk, I use first and second person because these opinions relate to me, but in an essay, those opinions usually have to become facts from another source. 

My word choice also changes. For one thing, I don’t use slang in an essay unless there is a specific reason for it. There isn’t really a specific reason for this. I just know that teachers and professors don’t usually look kindly on a student using the word ‘lit’ to describe something in an essay. Besides slang, I also take out emotion driven words. For example, I once expressed my sadness for a character’s death to a friend by saying, “I hate this book. They killed the little angel boy. All hope is lost.” In the essay about the book, I wrote how devastating the death scene was and how it showed just what the living situation was for the time period. I did not use the word ‘hate’ and I definitely did not describe the boy as ‘the little angel boy,’ even though that is how I felt.

Another thing that changes between my writing and speaking is the length of what I say. I’ve already mentioned that I tend to ramble on and on about things, so it really comes as no surprise that everything I say might as well be a run-on sentence. When I’m talking, or even texting, a friend or family member, I just talk without thinking about the mechanics of what I am saying. And I’m sure half of what I say becomes confusing because of this. When I write, though, I don’t use run-on sentences. I correct them. The main reason I do this is because I don’t want to confuse the reader. When I’m talking to a friend and they don’t understand something, I can easily repeat it or explain it. I can’t do that in a paper. In real life, I can gage a person’s reaction and explain if need be, but I can’t add an explanation to a paper when the reader is going through it. So I try my best to make run-on sentences into sentences that readers can easily understand. If a reader doesn’t understand what you are saying, you can’t personally help then get what you are saying.

Forms of communication differ in various ways, but in the end, it’s really just about conveying ideas. It just so happens that the way mechanics of how I convey those ideas depends on the type of communication. When I talk, I have more emotions and personality and when I write, I am more concise and factual. Regardless of these differences, I communicate in an effective manner. Whether I am having a discussion with my friend at 4 am about why whole milk is better than skim- it’s basically water that tastes kind of like milk- or a paper on the intricacies of France’s duality with past and present culture, I find a way to get my ideas across. I just do it in different ways.

Schedule an appointment with Hannah, or one of our other amazing consultants, for help with communicating your own ideas!



2 responses to “Too Much vs Not Enough: Distinct Detail Differences Between Talking and Writing”

  1. Brandi says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Hannah! I think your discussion around your different approaches to talking vs. writing about a topic is particularly interesting–“Personally, I believe part of this happens because I have an end goal and part of it happens because I’m trying to be convincing. When I am speaking with a close friend or family member, there isn’t really a point in mind and I don’t mind if they don’t accept my opinions. I’m simply trying to share my point of view. My writing, on the other hand, is meant to show why something is important.” It really shows how these two avenues of conveying your thoughts can engage different approaches to a topic and leads to a great discussion about writing process. Talking through an idea without a particular end goal in mind can be just as productive and interesting as putting words on a page!

  2. Shannon says:

    Hey, Hannah. Thanks for sharing! I particularly enjoy your observation on how written and oral communication can differ. I do think it’s pretty interesting how personality can come through in a formal work, but it really is not as easy to pick out as talking to someone directly is. Writing style and personality may mix, but it’s hard to make a formal paper feel warm because of all the requirements students must adhere by. Makes me wonder how different writing would be if we were allowed to make our papers feel more true to out personalities.

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