Differences between written and oral debate
Differences in creating arguments
- The strength of the argument is the sole determinant in written debate whilst speaking style and rhetoric play a significant role in oral debate.
- Oral debates require quick thinking throughout in order to rebut the arguments and counter-arguments (against one’s own case) put forward by the opposition. In written debate there is often far more time to consider the arguments put forward and then to form the rebuttal.
- Arguments can be analyzed in depth in written debates, but one must be listening attentively to achieve the same goal in oral debate. This is equally true for judging a debate, so the arguments have to be more coherent to persuade the judges or the audience.
- In written debates competitors can go and find out how previous debaters have tackled the subject or similar topics. This makes it more important to work out innovative ways of approaching a subject.
- In a written debate arguments can be rewritten several times until you get it just right, something which is impossible in spoken debate.
- Similarly there is no problem of a speaker being too nervous to give a good performance or forgetting the argument.
- In a spoken debate you can emphasize points and parts of points easily. This is more difficult in writing so the argument needs to be better formed.
- Arguments in written debate are far easier referenced and supported by source material than in oral debate. These references are also easier to verify.
- References can be checked by the opposition and their credibility attacked. Is the person who wrote it an expert, an interested party, using good materials him/herself?
- In oral debates the topic is often set in advance, allowing research to take place beforehand, but, as research cannot be done in the debate itself, a broad base of research is needed. In a written debate, however, you can research as points are made, allowing for greater flexibility and depth.
Listening and for non-participants
- Arguments can be lost in oral debate due to the opposition forgetting about them or not listening to them when they were put forward. This is not the case in written debate where one is able to view all the arguments made in the debate at all times.
- Those viewing an oral debate do not have the choice to skip or re-visit arguments made during a debate. This is possible in written debate, however, so the reader has a greater level of freedom.
- Written debates have a long-term record. They can be seen in their entirety potentially forever, as the debate is archived.