Why do we need written communication

Written communication

Written communication refers to the transmission of messages in the form of written characters via a medium such as paper or monitors such as mobile phone, television or PC screens. There are no limits to the bandwidth over which medium or which channel these characters can be transmitted.


Reading is the most important aspect of written communication. The ability to read is important for full integration in all areas of social life. However, there are problems with reading. Many people can neither read nor write. In 2011, around 7.5 million adults between the ages of 18 and 64 in Germany (source see below) were able to read individual sentences, but could not understand any coherent texts. That means they are functionally illiterate. Reading makes different demands on the recipient of a message than verbal communication.

Differences between written and oral communication

When learning a foreign language, a small vocabulary of 1500 to 2000 words and the mastery of the most important grammatical rules for word formation and sentence order are sufficient to be able to express yourself verbally understandably. To understand a text, one needs to know around 15,000 words and have a thorough understanding of the grammar of the language in question. Reading therefore requires extensive knowledge and understanding of a language. An additional obstacle is the lack of an option to ask the author. In oral communication, questions can be asked about what has been said and explanations can be given; this is not immediately possible when reading a text (unless you are in a chat communication or similar). Written texts should ideally be easy to understand and understand directly by the reader. Whether a reader can read and understand a text depends not only on the reader's skills and prior knowledge, but also on the sender's ability to formulate, including his ability to express himself.

Hamburg understandability model

In order to analyze and optimize the comprehensibility of texts, a group of scientists under the care of Schulz von Thun developed the 'Hamburg intelligibility model', in which they established four intelligibility characteristics:

  • simplicity
  • Structure and order
  • Brevity and conciseness
  • stimulating additives

If the extent of these four characteristics can be determined in a text, the intelligibility of the text is measured in this way. The relevant feature is simplicity. This is achieved if the words come from the basic vocabulary and short sentences are formed without interleaving. In addition, technical terms should be avoided or at least explained and the facts should be clearly explained. The characteristic structure / order relates to the structure of the text. It is recommended that headings are used, as well as visual highlighting with bullet points or similar. The characteristic brevity / conciseness advises to avoid unnecessary repetitions and to concentrate on the essentials. As a basic principle, "As much as necessary, as little as possible." Can be seen here. In order to increase the motivation of the reader and to maintain interest, stimulating additions such as pictures can be used. Later on, cognitive empathy was emphasized as the basis of reading comprehension. The author of a text should put himself in the perspective of the addressee in order to make his text easier to understand. The question of the target group that is being addressed is also highly relevant here.

See also

Text, text linguistics, text understanding


  • Study - The Time. (2011, March 2). Education: 7.5 million Germans are illiterate. The time. Retrieved from http://www.zeit.de
  • Bodmer, F. (1997). The languages ​​of the world. History - grammar - vocabulary in a comparative representation (5th edition). Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch.
  • Pörksen, B. & Schulz von Thun, F. (2014). Communication as an art of living: philosophy and practice of talking to one another. Heidelberg: Carl Auer System Verlag.
  • Schulz von Thun, F. (2007). Talking to each other: questions and answers. Hamburg: Rowohlt.