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Oral, Written, Verbal

April 2009
Spot the Error

After suffering through numerous misunderstandings stemming from verbal agreements, Carl decided to confirm all of his agreements in writing.

Here is another instance in which you can prove yourself smarter than a dictionary. The dictionary will tell you that one definition of verbal is spoken rather than written, but that’s poor usage. The precise definition of verbal is consisting of words. Consequently, the meaning of “verbal agreement” is a bit ambiguous. Is it spoken or written?

Here’s a guide to help you differentiate between oral, written, and verbal:

  • Oral – Use when referring to spoken words (Oral agreements are legally binding.)
  • Written – Use when referring to words committed to paper (To reinforce her claim against the unscrupulous contractor, Meredith presented the judge with a written agreement signed by the defendant.)
  • Verbal – Use when distinguishing between communications with words and other forms of communication (Because toddlers have limited verbal skills, they often throw tantrums to express frustration.)

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