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10 Reasons Writing Is Better than Speaking

I know speakers who write to promote their speaking. I know writers who speak to promote their writing. I do both, and I'm not sure which is primary. I don't really care at this point. But I do know each has its advantages and disadvantages. This is the first list of a pair. The other one will consider 10 Reasons Speaking Is Better than Writing. As to which you should focus on, the answer is: yes. They're not polar opposites. After all, Mark Twain was an outstanding writer and an outstanding speaker, and many have followed in his footsteps.

10 Reasons Writing Is Better than Speaking

    1. You don't have to worry about correct pronunciation.

    I didn't realize until I started speaking that I know a lot of words that I've never said out loud, and when I say them out loud I sometimes get them wrong. There are tools to help you pronounce a word correctly, but writers just don't have to worry about that at all.

    2. You can rewrite.

    Dale Carnegie once said, "There are always three speeches, for every one you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave." No matter how much you plan, it will likely come out differently than intend. With writing, you have rewriting. With rewriting, you can get that sucker just exactly the way you want it. Done.

    3. You can have an audience every day—really, multiple times a day.

    Especially with blogging and social media posting, you can reach an audience multiple times a day. Even with older print technology, reaching an audience daily isn't difficult. With the exception of livestreaming and videos, speakers seldom connect with an audience every day.

    4. You only have to deliver the message once for it to influence people hundreds or thousands of times over a long period.

    Speakers can record videos and have them influence a lot of people over a long period of time, but they're the exception. Most speakers find their work to be ephemeral and volatile, gone like dandelion seeds puffed away by the wind. The written word has staying power. No one now alive has ever seen a performance given by Shakespeare, but millions have read the words he wrote 400 years ago.

    5. You don't have to travel to write.

    To be fair, Zoom has changed this for speakers. Still, most speakers still have to contend with airports and time away from home to do well with their craft. Speaking certainly involves much more scheduling weeks and months ahead. While writers have deadlines, they usually do not involve perhaps hundreds of people left on the hook when your plane doesn't make its connection in time for you to arrive at the event as scheduled.

    6. You can literally work from anywhere.

    On the other hand, if a writer wants to travel it is much easier to do so. Depending on the way you like to write (pen and legal pad? dictate into your phone? type on a laptop?), you can write as easily on a beach in Portugal, in a luxury hotel in the Bahamas, or snowbound in a cabin high in the Great Smoky Mountains. Go where you want, when you want.

    7. You can leverage your time more as a writer, whereas speaking can be trading time for dollars.

    Spend a couple of months writing a useful nonfiction book or engaging fiction book, and its income can contribute to your needs for years. Write 20 or 30 books and it all adds up. Sure, it takes time to write, and it also takes time to promote. But that time is an investment, not a trade.

    Wise speakers also find ways to leverage their time investment, perhaps through creating a course or a video training program. Even at relatively high fees, though, many speakers still are trading time for dollars. If they don't speak, they don't earn. A book for a writer or a course for a speaker is sort of like drop-shipping ideas. You can earn money while you sleep.

    8. You invest little or nothing in equipment.

    You probably already have a legal pad and a pen somewhere. You're in business! Or spend a little bit on a basic computer, a one-time expense. While speaking doesn't require huge investments in equipment either, most speakers spend a decent amount on audio equipment, good video equipment, web sites, livestreaming platforms, sales and bookings software, etc.

    Savvy writers will also establish a platform like a writer's web site, but even those don't typically have to invest as much as a speaker does. For instance, writers likely will not produce a "sizzle reel." Though neither speakers nor writers have to spend a lot to get started, it just takes less of a financial investment to write.

    9. You can communicate really complex ideas more easily.

    Out loud, you run into the limitations detailed in Cognitive Load Theory. Basically, humans can only retain five to seven discrete items in short-term memory. When it fills up, it tends to just empty. So out loud is really, really good for giving context, setting a framework, and inspiring people to want to master detail, but it's not so good for delivery detail that will stick with an audience. Writing is much better for preserving and organizing complex material, and readers have the opportunity to go over it again until they master it.

    10. You don't have to contend with a less-than-dynamic physical presence.

    Really, you can make almost any personality or set of physical attributes work for you as a speaker, but it's much harder for some people. If your natural personality tends toward the dynamism of a potato, it will be difficult to retain the attention of an audience, and it will be hard to train yourself to be authentically engaging. Even though you have no literal voice in print, it's easier to develop the skills that feels like a voice in someone's head when you write.

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