Written communication is a type of non-verbal communication used to convey information. It involves the use of words, sentences, and paragraphs encoded in text. Examples of written communication include emails, letters, reports, and manuals.
It is often considered a more formal type of communication than verbal communication because writers must take more time to contemplate what they write, and it can be read verbatim at a later date. As a result, it’s regularly used for legal purposes.
Similarly, it can be disseminated in a one-to-many format easily, because it is written once and duplicated via technology such as email memos.
Written Communication Examples
- Letters: Letters are composed to be sent to a specific person or group of people, addressing various topics ranging from informal requests to professional documentation. Examples of letters include business letters, personal letters, and even love letters.
- Email: Emails are another example of written communication utilized to convey messages quickly and effectively. Many businesses use email to communicate with customers, colleagues, and partners.
- Reports: Reports are documents that summarize the research and findings of a particular problem or issue. It is often used to present facts and evidence in the form of charts and tables.
- Technical Documentation: This type of communication is used to inform readers about how to use certain products or services. It is often used in the form of user manuals, instruction guides, and white papers.
- Memos: Memos are short messages that are sent within an organization or a business. They can be used to inform colleagues about changes in policy, procedures, or other important information. So, if a person wants to remind the team about a deadline, they can use memos.
- Press Releases: This type of written communication is used to publicly announce the news. Companies and organizations often use it to inform the media about their activities and events. So, if Apple was launching a new product, they might write and distribute a press release.
- Policies and Procedures: Policies and procedures are sets of instructions and processes that need to be followed in a particular organization. They are often used to ensure everyone is on the same page, especially regarding more complex operations.
- Proposals: Proposals are documents used to present ideas and plans that need approval from the higher-ups. They can be used to propose projects, business collaborations, investments, etc. For instance, if a person wants to pitch an idea for a new product to their boss, they can write a proposal.
- Contracts: Contracts are legally binding documents used to ensure fair and mutually beneficial agreements between two or more parties. They are often applied in business, real estate, and other agreements. So, when buying a house, people need to sign a contract.
- Academic Writing: This type of written communication is used to present facts and evidence in the form of essays, research papers, and other publications. Academic writing is often used in the fields of higher education and research. Its primary purpose is to communicate knowledge and understanding between a student and professor.
- Research Proposals
- Cover letters
- Purchase orders
- Product manuals
- User guides
- Shopping lists
- To-do lists
- Evaluation reports
- Greeting cards
- Social media posts
- Text messages
- Street signs
- Blog posts
- Web content
- Research papers
- Direct mail
- White papers
- Job descriptions
- Work orders
- Meeting minutes
- Presentation slides
- Training materials
- Feedback forms
- Performance reviews
Pros and Cons of Written Communication
|Advantages of Written Communication||Disadvantages of Written Communication|
|High accuracy: Written messages allow for greater accuracy because they can be edited and proofread to ensure accuracy before they are sent.||Lack of emotion: Written messages cannot convey nonverbal cues such as facial expressions or body language that are essential for sharing the sender’s feelings. This often means passive-aggressive comments are often misinterpreted.|
|Clarity: Written statements can be crafted in a way that is easy to comprehend, making it useful for conveying complex messages clearly and concisely.||Delay in communication: Written messages need to be sent and received, which takes time, resulting in a delay in communication.|
|Efficiency: Written messages are more efficient than other forms of communication, such as verbal communication, in terms of time and cost savings. They are also more convenient to store and access when needed.||Misinterpretations: Messages can be misinterpreted or misunderstood, particularly when sarcasm and jokes are involved, as they lack the nonverbal cues and facial expressions that help convey the sender’s intent.|
|Documentation: Written messages provide documentation for future reference and can be saved and used as evidence in court if needed.|
|Uniformity: Messages can be sent to multiple people simultaneously, ensuring that everyone receives the same message and can act accordingly.|
Advantages of Written Communication
Written communication has many advantages, including high accuracy, clarity, efficiency, and documentation.
Written communication allows for greater accuracy because it allows one to think through messages before sending them. Additionally, written messages can be edited and proofread to ensure accuracy before they are sent.
For instance, if a person wants to communicate complex information, they can write it down and revise it several times before sending it. Consequently, they reduce the chances of misunderstanding or miscommunication (Klimova, 2012).
Written communication is useful for conveying complex messages clearly and concisely. In addition, written statements can be crafted in a way that is easy to comprehend.
So, instructions for a task can be written down and presented in an organized and concise manner. It ensures that everyone understands the message and can act accordingly.
Written communication is efficient in many ways, including time and cost savings. It allows people to communicate quicker than other forms of communication, such as verbal communication.
Additionally, written messages are much more convenient to store and access when needed (Klimova, 2012).
For instance, if a person needs to refer to a message they sent in the past, they can quickly locate it with minimal effort.
Written communication also provides documentation for future reference. Written messages can be saved and used as evidence in court if the need arises.
So, if someone wants to sign a contract, they should use written communication instead of verbal communication. Such actions ensure that the agreement between two parties is documented and can be referred to in the future if needed.
Written communication allows for uniformity, as messages can be sent to multiple people simultaneously (Klimova, 2012).
For instance, if a company CEO wants to send a message to all its employees, they can quickly send it to everyone in the organization using written communication. It ensures that everyone receives the same message and can act accordingly.
Written communication also prevents misunderstanding or miscommunication due to discrepancies in verbal communication that may occur when messages are communicated differently to different people.
Disadvantages of Written Communication
While written communication has several advantages, it also has a few disadvantages, including a lack of emotion, delay in communication, and misinterpretations.
1. Lack of Emotion
While written communication is accurate and concise, it lacks emotion. Written messages cannot convey nonverbal cues such as facial expressions or body language that are essential for sharing the sender’s feelings.
For example, if a person is trying to comfort someone in distress, they should use verbal communication instead of written messages. Verbal communication can help convey empathy, comfort, and understanding, which written messages cannot.
2. Delay in Communication
Written communication also suffers from a delay in communication. Written messages need to be sent and received, which takes time.
If someone needs to make quick decisions, they should use verbal communication instead of written messages.
Another disadvantage of written communication is that messages can be misinterpreted or misunderstood.
For instance, sarcasm and jokes can be easily misinterpreted in written messages because they lack the nonverbal cues and facial expressions that help convey the sender’s intent.
As a result, it can lead to confusion and misunderstandings, which can be avoided with verbal communication.
Written Communication vs. Verbal Communication
|Written Communication||Verbal Communication|
|Meaning||Written communication relies on the written word, such as letters, emails, and text messages, to convey meaning.||Verbal communication relies on spoken words to convey meaning, such as face-to-face conversations or phone calls.|
|Speed||Written communication can be slower than verbal communication because it takes time to write and read messages.||Verbal communication can be faster than written communication because it allows for immediate feedback and clarification.|
|Record Keeping||Written communication provides a permanent record of the message that can be referenced later.||Verbal communication does not provide a permanent record of the message.|
|Clarity||Written communication allows for greater clarity because messages can be revised and edited before sending.||Verbal communication can be less clear because it is spontaneous and does not allow for editing.|
|Nonverbal Cues||Written communication lacks nonverbal cues, such as facial expressions and tone of voice, which can lead to misinterpretation.||Verbal communication allows for the use of nonverbal cues, which can help convey meaning and emotion.|
|Formality||Written communication tends to be more formal than verbal communication, as messages are usually planned and thought out.||Verbal communication can be more casual and spontaneous.|
While written communication means exchanging information using the written word, verbal communication is an exchange of information through speech.
Written communication is more formal and organized compared to verbal communication (Prabavathi & Nagasubramani, 2018).
Written communication also allows for greater accuracy and precision as it allows the sender to think through their message and reflect on its content before sending it.
Additionally, written communication can be documented and used as evidence in court if the need arises.
On the other hand, verbal communication is more informal and often involves spontaneous conversations (Prabavathi & Nagasubramani, 2018).
Verbal communication also allows for immediate feedback and response, making it ideal for conversations that require quick decisions.
It also encourages the audience to engage in the conversation because they can ask questions and receive real-time responses.
Both written and verbal communication are valuable tools for exchanging information in different contexts. However, depending on the purpose, one or the other may be more suitable.
For example, if a person wants to present facts and evidence accurately, they should use written communication. However, verbal communication would be the better option if they need to make quick decisions in a conversation.
Other Types of Communication
Written communication means sending messages in writing, such as emails and texts. It is an efficient form of communication that can be used for conveying complex messages clearly and quickly.
Through this kind of communication, one can attain clarity, efficiency, documentation, and uniformity.
However, there are some downsides, such as the absence of emotion in messaging or lack thereof, delay in delivery, and a high potential for misinterpretation.
Therefore, it is essential to consider the advantages and disadvantages of written communication when deciding which form of communication to use. Depending on the situation, one form of communication might be more appropriate.
Butterfield, J. (2013). Written communication: Soft skills for the digital workplace. Cengage Learning.
Gupta, S., & Bansal, J. (2020). Business communication. SBPD Publications.
Klimova, B. F. (2012). The importance of writing. Paripex – Indian Journal of Research, 2(1), 9–11. https://doi.org/10.15373/22501991/jan2013/4
Ngang, T. K. (2019). Leadership and change management. Springer Verlag.
Prabavathi, R., & Nagasubramani, P. C. (2018). Effective oral and written communication. Journal of Applied and Advanced Research, 3(S1), 29. https://doi.org/10.21839/jaar.2018.v3is1.164
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]