by Jessica Barker
While working on a paper, have you ever thought to yourself, “This would be so much easier if I could just discuss the topic, rather than write about it”? If you have, you are not alone. Recently, I spent some time working with students in an FYE class, and a number of them expressed that that they felt much more comfortable discussing than writing. When this comment first came up, I didn’t quite know how to respond. However, after sitting in on a graded discussion, I realized something—speaking and writing aren’t actually that different from one another!
Speaking and writing are both basic forms of communication, so the skills needed to have a fruitful discussion are similar to the skills needed to write a successful paper. This became clear to me while I was working with the FYE. At the beginning of class, the professor asked the students to brainstorm a list of discussion strategies in preparation for the graded discussion. As the students brought up different discussion strategies, I noticed I could use many of these same strategies in my writing.
The students mentioned the following discussion strategies to take note of:
- The importance of supporting ideas with quotes from the reading,
- The value of connecting your comments to other’s comments.
- The benefit of listening to others’ ideas.
We regularly apply these three skills to both our casual conversations and our academic discussions, which are tools that help us communicate effectively.
Like many writers, I include these skills in my writing for the same reason. Writing, like talking, is just another form of communication. When I write, I
- include evidence from different sources in order to back up my points,
- use transition words to move from one idea to the next, and
- expose myself to a variety of sources to develop a well-informed argument.
All of these strategies help me successfully communicate my ideas with the reader, just as they help me communicate with my peers in a discussion.
So why are these similarities important? Well, for starters, being able to see the similarities between writing and speaking can help us to rethink the way that we approach the writing process. It can be useful to think of writing as a conversation, because that mindset puts the focus on communication, and when we focus on communication, we tend to strive for clarity. In some cases, writing is literally part of a conversation because some papers, like research papers, can add to a scholarly conversation within a particular field. This is something that one of my professors mentioned to me during my freshman year, and it has stuck with me ever since!
Thinking of writing as a way of communicating could give you a greater sense of purpose, or improve the clarity of your writing, so give it a try next time you start to dread the idea of writing.
Jessica Barker is a junior from Massachusetts studying both theater and sociology.