The difference between writing and speaking. A study.

At The Writer, we’re forever telling people to write like they speak. But is there really a difference between written and spoken language?

A few months ago a couple of us went to a talk organised by The Language Consultancy Association and came across Sketch Engine, a collection of language corpora.

Here’s what we found when we put our theory to the test.

Words people mostly write

Commence – came up 17.5 times more in the written English corpus

Obtain – 9x

Ensure – 7.5x

Purchase – 7x

Receive – 4.5x

Dynamic – 4x

Prior – 2.5x

Deliver – 1.5x

However – never came up in speech, came up 12,267 times in writing

Leverage – never came up in speech, came up 52 times in writing

Words people mostly say

Get – came up 14 times more in the spoken English corpus

But – 3x

Make sure – 3x

Start – 3x

Before – 1.5x

Buy – 1.5x

Give – 1.5x

The result’s clear. People don’t really say ‘commence’. They say ‘start’. They don’t really say ‘obtain’ or ‘receive’, they say ‘get’. They don’t say ‘however’, they say ‘but’.

Businesses should follow suit.


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on Jan 03, 2012

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