"A Word Fitly Spoken"

Almost all of us have heard the phrase, “It’s not what you say, but how you say it.” When we speak to someone, nearly half the impression they obtain from the communication (about 45 percent) derives from the tone and inflection of our speech. A relatively small amount (about 7-10 percent) is conveyed by the actual words we use. The remainder is visual (facial expression, gestures, body language, etc.). There’s one factor, however, that makes writing different from speaking.

When we read something, almost all of the meaning is carried by the words, because there isn’t any vocal character or visual aid (unless there are illustrations) to help in the interpretation. The is why writers tend to be more selective about their words than speakers. The speaker, however, has other tools with which to work.

The Far Eastern tongues such as Mandarin, Cantonese and Japanese, rely on vocal inflection and tone to distinguish words from each other. The same set of sounds in these languages may mean one thing if uttered with a rising pitch, and something different if spoken with a descending tone. That’s why these languages are written pictographically rather than alphabetically. A phonetic spelling alone is insufficient to indicate what the words mean.

The Scriptures caution us about “how” we say what we say.

See here.

Mike Riley, Gospel Snippets

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