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Thursday, January 3, 2008

To Speak or To Write - a difficult choice

I was just thinking about what choice I would pick if someone told me I could either write an article in one issue of a reputed magazine or talk in front of a large gathering at a well-known auditorium. Its like choosing between two sides of a coin - fundamentally they are based on the same thing - a proficiency in the language. However they are radically different in their own ways.

My choice would surely be speaking. Lets take a look at the cons of speaking. not everyone can excel at this art. It requires a fluency in the language. A clear thought process is a prerequisite. A good speaker cannot pause and think about what he's going to say mid-way through his speech. He or she needs to have the ability to look ahead of his or her own words. When writing, one can correct his or her mistakes and prepare several drafts before the end result emerges. The old adage, "Words once said cannot be taken back" is indeed true. The audience will make absolutely no distinction between unintentional words uttered by the speaker and actual ideas that he or she puts forth. Truly, that is the main disadvantage in speaking. The orator should be able to captivate his audience. A long lifeless speech would evoke a poor response in comparison a short, peppy and lively one.

However that very same aspect of speech is a powerful weapon in the hands of a good orator. What writing cannot achieve, speaking can, through its ability to convey emotions, expressions and ideas the way the speaker wishes. A written document cannot influence people in the way that a good speech can. To cite an example of how a good speech differs from a mundane one, consider Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg address. The long speech given by the main orator of the day, Everett, is of little importance. But, the lines that President Abraham Lincoln uttered that day were etched into history. Not necessarily because he was famous, but more so because he had prepared each of those lines with the utmost
care and devotion and with such emotion had he spoken that those words remained forever in the minds of the audience.

The output of an essay or written thesis is entirely dependent on the reader's interpretation, speaking allows improvisation and innovation.

Could Portia have trapped the wily Shylock had she written out why he should back down from his demands? Could Mark Antony have moved the very stones of Rome to rise and mutiny against the conspirators if he had written a treatise on the pros and cons of Caesar's assassination? No, I don't think so.

I stand firm in my belief that the art of oration wins over writing any day. The unquenchable fire that speaking evokes has no substitute.


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