English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Can I use "verbally" to refer to textual communication? For example, can I say "Verbally encourage this behavior" meaning "Encourage this behavior in writing"?

share|improve this question
Good question! As @Henry says, you can't really use either of the obvious candidates verbally or literally. Effectively, we don't have an easy way to express this in writing apart from using "in writing" itself. – FumbleFingers Sep 23 '11 at 14:32
up vote 6 down vote accepted

It would be unwise.

I suspect most people might understand verbally to mean orally, while those with a more classical education might understand verbally to mean with words from the Latin verbum as opposed to drawing pictures or giving a hug.

So if you mean "in writing", then use that phrase to avoid misunderstanding; literally may also be misunderstood.

This may contrast with other languages. For example in French law, a procès-verbal is a detailed written document.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.