Oral or Verbal: What’s the Difference?



Today, I was working on editing a script and came across the use of oral. I pondered whether it would have been more appropriate to use verbal. After some investigation, I concluded that they may be used interchangeably. English is defined by word usage much more often than by definitions.

However,  for standard business English and report writing, here’s how it breaks down.

Oral: Strictly by mouth. Having to do with that cavity where we shove our food and other things.
an oral agreement and an oral contract are spoken only. Oral surgery is a procedure performed on or in the mouth. An oral fixation is a craving to put something in one’s mouth (one of my grandsons is developing an oral fixation since he’s started teething). Also, oral sometimes has salacious connotations, so many people replace it with verbal. Nevertheless, it is still perfectly correct as standard English usage.

Verbal: Putting something into words–either spoken or written.
a verbal agreement or a verbal  contract is written or spoken. Also, verbal is the characteristic of an action word. Verbal is now the more popular word to describe anything that has to do with speaking.

To summarize: Oral and verbal have become interchangeable in general usage. However, if you are writing in a formal environment, you may gain points by using them according to the formal definitions in bold above.

For help in putting your best word forward. Contact me at dmariemarks@gmail.com and check out my blog posts. See more here.

About The dutty is "the ground," the foundation, the earth--just like words are part of the foundation on which I build my life.

Reason for being: To tell stories and help writers and others with a message to put their best word forward.
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