Writing a speech and writing an essay are two different experiences. While both the speech writer and the essay writer communicate information to a live audience or reading audience, the steps the writers go through to create the final version require varying methods, such as the choice of diction and dramatic effect.
Speech writing requires that a writer communicates a specific theme or topic to an audience. She uses a tone in her writing that produces an emotional effect on the audience. A presidential speech, for example, often uses a particular diction, full of patriotic, hopeful, grave or uplifting tones. While an essay also relies on tone for dramatic effect, the essay writer has less of a demand to please all members of her audience than the speech writer. For example, if you write a personal essay about a life-changing trip, you do not need for every person to admire your essay and the tone in which you compose it --- it is more written to make a point than to win over an audience. In general, a speech appeals to a specific audience in a certain place and time, while an essay communicates with a general audience.
Each essay format --- narrative, expository or personal --- follows a basic structure. It usually includes an introduction with a thesis statement, body paragraphs and a conclusion that synthesizes the information. A speech also has a particular format, with an introduction, examples and a conclusion, but the speech writer will often restate a point at the end of each section of the speech to ensure the audience is "with" him or her. Because the essayist understands that the writer can reread the last paragraph, or reread the entire essay again, he does not need to reiterate statements. Rather, an essay's structure relies on smooth transitions to the next theme.
Giving a Speech
The speech writer "performs" or delivers his speech in a way that gives his ideas, or themes, a particular meaning. For example, Martin Luther King wrote his "Dream" speech in the first-person "I" voice to produce an emotional impact on his listeners. In essay writing, a writer connects with her audience, whether live or on the page, without trying to win them over with her delivery.
Reading an Essay
An essay presenter only needs to look up from his paper every few minutes, while a person delivering a speech must deliver by memorization, only occasionally glancing at the page or screen. While an individual can read an essay either in an impassioned and enthusiastic or a sad and grave tone, the audience, in general, is more interested in hearing the quality of writing and information than the delivery, as they are for a speech.
- Scholastic; Speechwriting With Karen Finney and Lou Giansante
- Inc.; Writing and Organizing a Winning Speech;Patricia Fripp; October 2000
- The University of Hong Kong Centre for Applied English Studies; Characteristics of Different Types of Essays
- Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences; Essay Structure; Elizabeth Abrams; 2000
Noelle Carver has been a freelance writer since 2009, with work published in "SSYK" and "The Wolf," two U.K. literary journals. Carver holds a Bachelor of Arts in literature from American University and a Master of Fine Arts in writing from The New School. She lives in New York City.