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Nonverbal communication is essential when speaking in person. Gestures, facial expression, body orientation, posture, and other physical indicators are crucial when it comes to getting one’s point across. Because few of us can speak with the same eloquence and clarity as scholars from centuries ago, we often rely on nonverbal cues to compensate.

Obviously, nonverbal cues in speech are important. But what about in writing? Is it possible that writers use a modified form of nonverbal cues?

The answer is yes. Few authors of the 21st century rely purely on language. Hundreds of years ago, only the wealthy and religious leaders were able to read. Now, most people in developed countries are able to read and many frequently do so for recreation. Because the general public is now involved in the literary world, writing styles have changed. Although writers did use nonverbal communication in their work, readers were less inclined to notice it. Now that people as a whole are brought together by writing (newspapers, ads, books, online materials, etc), readers are now better equipped to “read between the lines.”

Shakespeare, who frequently used sarcasm and irony in his work, is one of the best examples of early authors who utilized nonverbal communication. Although people enjoyed the fruits of his labor by watching it performed on a stage rather than reading it in a book, the effect was the same. The idea that one could communicate something without actually saying it outright was born.

Writers today frequently use nonverbal communication such as irony and sarcasm. Readers typically enjoy work that is full of meaning that they must interpret themselves rather than pages and pages of description that explains it all for them.

Imagery is another great great component of nonverbal communication in writing. When speaking with someone face to face, it is easy to interpret their attitude, mood, context, and latent meaning. In writing, one must actually describe such things if they are to be portrayed at all. For instance, instead of simply “she was sad,” one might say “she plopped into a chair and buried her face in her hands.”

Nonverbal communication is a bigger part of writing than one might think. A writer can drastically improve his or her work by taking its importance into greater consideration and realizing the effect it has on the reader. Writing is not just about what’s on the surface; it’s about what the reader can make of it.

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