Learn, Do Not Copy!

The written word versus the spoken word

This page is designed to answer the following questions:

NOTE: Although this page has been marked as complete, it has not yet been peer-reviewed or quality-assured, therefore it should be considered a ‘first draft‘ and any information should be fact-checked independently.

For this assessment criterion, you will explore the accurate interpretation of both the written and spoken word and analyse why it is crucial to effective communication in the management and delivery of care provision.

Interpretation vs misinterpretation

Although we may think that the words we say and write are clear, it is always worth spending a little time considering how they may be interpreted by others.

Face-to-face communication helps to prevent misunderstandings because body language and facial expressions can help to express meaning as well as swift feedback to acknowledge understanding. This is an example of implicit communication because words do not always need to be used to express meaning (e.g. eye contact and a nod can indicate that you are listening).

Explicit communication is direct, clear and concise and is much better suited for written communications because it reduces the likelihood of misinterpretation – because written communications are not face-to-face, meaning can not be inferred from body language or other visual or auditory nuances.

Languages, pitch, tone, inflection and its potential impact on others

It is not only the words themselves that are important for effective communication but also how they are presented. For example, if you are explaining the vision and strategy of the organisation to your team, a lack of passion or confidence could result in the words appearing as disingenuous.

Record keeping and reports

All records, documentation and reports should be written in an honest, factual and objective way to avoid miscommunication. Unless professional judgment is required, any personal views and opinions should be omitted.

In addition, all records should be complete, accurate, legible and up-to-date. This reduces the likelihood of ambiguity, bias and misinterpretation.

It is also important to note that official records are legal documents and may be referred to in the event of an allegation or investigation. If you work in local government or for the NHS, written information (including emails) can be requested by the public as part of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, so it is important to remain professional with all written communications.

Digital communication (email, texts, social media etc.)

As with all written communication within the workplace, emails, texts and social media posts can all be used as evidence, when required, so we must always be mindful of the way that we express things.

Although email and texts are quick and efficient, without the context of paralinguistic communication, such as body language and tone of voice, there is a risk of them being misinterpreted. For example, if a team member asks you a question via text and you quickly reply ‘No’ because you are busy with something else, the team member could interpret the blunt one-word reply as you being cross with them for asking.

Some other caveats of using email and social media were considered previously when we looked at methods and models of communication.

Future recommendations to inform best practice

Best practices for communication within your organisation and between other agencies will be documented in policies and procedures. However, over time these will adjust and improve as new information becomes available.

Future recommendations to inform best practice could come from internal or external sources. For example, if your organisation receives a justified complaint because an existing method of communication did not work correctly, it may be reviewed and revised. Or your own research and evaluations may lead you to make recommendations for improving existing communication systems.

External resources may also inform best practice, such as new studies, research, legislation and guidance from regulatory bodies. For example, the Health Foundation provided a set of useful communication approaches based on hundreds of empirical research studies and the Care Quality Commission published guidance about communication with individuals with autism and learning disabilities for use by their inspectors.