Have you ever stopped to consider the value associated with written communication? While our society has become so driven by the visual and the verbal, it is written communications that provide daily direction to us as individuals and to our society as a whole.
Consider these elements of value provided by written communication:
• Written communications INFORM. Would you be pleased to know that the pilot of your jetliner is going over the preflight checklist from memory? Or the pharmacist is ignoring your physician’s orders and guessing which medicine you require? Or your employer failing to notify you in writing of an important change in your medical benefits? Obviously, we need written communications to provide information and facilitate understanding. We read newspapers, books, and magazines. We decide on what to eat from reading a menu. We make purchases based upon written specifications and reviews. With the veritable explosion of information now available to anyone with an internet connection, we can become informed on virtually anything/everything.
• Written communications PROVIDE CLARITY. While any form of communication can be confusing or ambiguous, as a general rule written communications provide more clarity than verbal instructions. Written communications, as opposed to the verbal form, can be referred to repeatedly if one’s memory is less than stellar. Presidents send our armed forces to war with written orders. Military commanders develop plans and issue their own written orders. Rules of engagement are provided in written form to combatants. Clarity is typically better served in writing.
• Written communications PROVIDE A BASIS FOR AN ORDERLY SOCIETY. Our laws are developed, interpreted, and communicated to citizens in written form, from Supreme Court decisions to posted speed limits to search warrants. Our public entities and private companies publish written codes of conduct to establish standards of acceptable behavior. Our games are guided by written rules of play (imagine how players and fans would react if game officials ad-libbed the rules and the home team lost!).
• Written communications are TIMELESS. Moses didn’t rely on his memory for the Ten Commandments. We have the documents of our nation’s history-the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Eisenhower’s message on the eve of D-Day-that are preserved and revered in their written form. Letters we write to friends and loved ones are saved and appreciated for years, perhaps even generations.
Surely you’ve heard the phrase, “Put it in writing.” So often, the written form of communication is the most effective way to educate and inform. There is indeed often great value in “putting it in writing.”