James A. Winans, who graduated from Hamilton College in 1897 and went on to chair Cornell's Department of Oratory and Debate, said "A speech is not an essay on its hind legs." This was Winans' way of saying that writing and speaking are significantly different. One way in which they differ is in the language and sentence structures they typically employ.
A speaker who writes an oral presentation as if it were an essay and merely reads it risks losing the audience. Such a presentation may seem "canned," impersonal and lifeless, stilted and insincere. The language may be so technical and unfamiliar or the sentences so dense that the listeners have trouble following without the text in front of them.
What is more effective in most speaking situations is what is called oral style. Compared with writing, effective oral style is characterized by the following*:
*Adapted in part from Osborn, R.P. & Osborn, S. (1994). Public Speaking. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
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