Written Communication

Start Free Trial

What are some examples of how written communication has changed over time?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

A good example of changes in written communication is in the length or brevity of that communication. Before electricity brought technological advances, all written communication was done by hand writing.  Personal letters were constructed to include as much information as possible with small writing, cross writing and recross writing (writing on a page a second time at a 90 degree angle to the first lines, then a third time at a 45 degree angle). Until the mid-1800s, letters were charged twice to be carried: to the sender by page and to the recipient for delivery. After the mid-1800s, letter costs were by weight, not page. Nothing deterred long letters as letters preserved from important historical figures, such as George Washington, show.

Later, as electricity allowed the use of telegraphy, messages got shorter as they were charged by the word and each word had to be laboriously tapped out by hand; old telegraph messages are notoriously short and abbreviated. As the ground, sea, and then air mail services became faster and more efficient, letters started to become less important as telephones became common in private homes.

Finally, with the advent of email and cellular text messaging, written communication can be as long or as short as desired; emails have no limit on their length or content, but also require fewer skills in spelling and grammar than when writing by hand since they may be informal. Text messages have become the de facto mode of written communication for most of the world, with its own rules of grammar. Similarly, micro-content programs such as Twitter encourage the communication of complex ideas in extremely short messages.

"Letter Writing Before Penny Post." The British Postal Museum and Archive

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team