Good Speaking and Good Writing Don’t Always Meet


Just because you’re good at speaking doesn’t mean you’re good at writing.

That’s nothing against anyone who fits into just one side of the Venn diagram. Everyone has their talents, and everyone has their areas where they struggle. Naturally.

The important thing is to recognize both and seek help where needed.

Speaking of seeking help, hi. My name is Jeannette DiLouie and I’m a political junky. I watch political commentary on YouTube – in my spare time. And I look forward to listening to certain political radio programs during the day.

Clearly, I have problems.

Then again, so do some of the political personalities I follow. They’re typically very engaging speakers, but a fair number of them are not good at writing.

I’d go as far as saying they’re downright bad at it.

I’ve absolutely cringed while reading their books. In one particular case – concerning someone who is, overall, very good at speaking – the first 290 pages were abysmally boring.

And there were only 292 in all.

This isn’t an uncommon problem though. Speaking and writing entail fairly different skillsets because they involve fairly different resources.

Writing, for instance, involves:

  • Vocabulary

  • Sentence style

  • Logical flow

  • Sentence arrangement

  • Sentence structure

  • Knowledge of grammatical rules and when to break them

  • Understanding of white space.

Speaking involves:

  • Vocabulary

  • Sentence style

  • Logical flow

  • Sentence arrangement

  • Physical appearance

  • Apparel

  • Tone of voice

  • Volume of voice

  • Gestures (if it’s a live or video performance)

  • Facial expressions (if it’s a live or video performance)

  • Body stance (if it’s a live or video performance)

  • Charisma

  • Audience engagement (if it’s a live or video performance)

  • The power of the pause.

While there is some overlapping there, speaking involves twice as many elements as writing does, which can make speaking easier. Minus the nerves, of course.

It's true that speakers can only do so much about their physical appearances, but most of their other resources can make up for any deficiencies they may otherwise have.

Unimpressive vocabulary levels can be offset by varying their body stance and facial expressions to better make points.

Those who struggle with logically articulating their arguments can instead modulate their tone and volume to sound more believable.

And people who fall prey to bland sentence structure can rely on the power of a good pause, soliciting audience engagement or turning on the charm.

Going back to those political personalities who are good at speaking but not good at writing… the ones I’m thinking of actually do have impressive vocabularies. They are quite capable of building logical arguments. And as far as I can tell, they’re also good at stringing sentences together.

I honestly think their main problem is that they’re so used to emphasizing their points with speaking elements that they automatically hear their voices, inflections, etc., sounding out in their heads as they write and edit.

Other people, meanwhile, are just bad at writing. It’s not their strong suit, which is fine. There are worse characteristics to have.

(Like perhaps watching political commentary on YouTube.)

If that’s the case though, just admit it. Then get someone – on your staff or otherwise – who's good at writing to take your drafts and make them work… even without all those speaking resources to prop them up.

Being good at speaking and good at writing don’t always meet. Don’t let that damage your presentation.

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