Difference Between Spoken and Written Language

Main Difference – Spoken vs Written Language

Language can be mainly divided into two main aspects: spoken language and written language. There are many differences between spoken and written language. Spoken language involves speaking and listening skills whereas written language involves reading and writing skills. The main difference between spoken and written language is that written language is more formal and complex than spoken language.Difference Between Spoken and Written Language - infographic

What is Spoken Language

Spoken language is the language we speak. It is often spontaneous and transient. Spoken language is used for interactions; the two speakers or the listener and the speaker are often in the same place. Thus, they can correct any mistake they make and change their utterances as they go along.

With the exception of scripted speeches, spoken language tends to be full of incomplete sentences, repetitions, interruptions, and corrections. Speakers also use gestures, tone, pitch, volume, etc. to create additional meaning in spoken language. Unless the conversation is recorded, there is no record of the spoken language conversation that took place.

Some forms and informal grammatical structures are also specific to spoken language. For example, words and phrases like ‘my bad’, ‘y’know’, ‘busted,’ ’ain’t’ etc. which are sometimes used in spoken language, are rarely used in written language.

Main Difference - Spoken vs Written Language

What is Written Language

Written language is the language we use to write. The main two language skills used in written language is reading and writing skills. Written language is not transient like spoken language; it tends to be permanent since there are written records of it.

Once you have written something, it is not very easy to change it. Another interesting thing about written language is that the reader and writer are usually communicating across time and space, unlike in spoken language.

Written language is typically more formal, complex and intricate than spoken language. It may contain longer sentences in complex tenses. However, some forms of written language like instant messages and informal letters are closer to spoken language. Written language can make use of features like punctuation, headings, layouts, colors, etc. to make a message clearer. Since written language does not receive immediate feedback, it should be very clear and unambiguous.

Difference Between Spoken and Written Language

Difference Between Spoken and Written Language


Spoken Language involves speaking and listening skills.

Written Language involves reading and writing skills.


Spoken Language is older than written language.

Written Language is not as old as the spoken language.


Spoken Language is more informal and simple than written language.

Written Language is more formal and complex than spoken language.


Spoken Language is mostly used between two people who are in the same place.

Written Language promotes communication across space and time.


Spoken Language can use tone, pitch, volume, etc.

Written Language can use heading, punctuation, layouts, etc.


Spoken Language is temporary since there are no records.

Written Language is permanent since there are records.


Spoken Language contains repetitions, incomplete sentences, interruptions, corrections, etc.

Written Language is often grammatically correct and may contain long sentences in complex tenses.

Image Courtesy:

“2004-02-29 Ball point pen writing” By Ildar Sagdejev (Specious) – Own work (GFDL) via Commons Wikimedia

“Two young people demonstrating a lively conversation” By Ananian – Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Hasa

Hasanthi is a seasoned content writer and editor with over 8 years of experience. Armed with a BA degree in English and a knack for digital marketing, she explores her passions for literature, history, culture, and food through her engaging and informative writing.