Blind John has difficulty articulating the words verbally to tell Sally how much he loves her

Mute John has difficulty _______ the words in writing to tell Sally how much he loves her

Also do you say the words or his words as he can't think of them.

Another example to simplify the context.

Tom is 12 years old. His teacher tells his parents he is very good at articulating verbally ideas but has difficulty ..... the words to paper.

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  • 1
    Personally, I would have said composing the necessary words to tell Sally... – WS2 Oct 24 '16 at 8:07
  • Both your examples sound unnatural to me. If blind John has difficulty articulating the words verbally, that means he has trouble pronouncing the words, which I don't think is what you are going for. I would use find in both cases: he has difficulty finding the right words to tell Sally/write to Sally how much he loves her. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 24 '16 at 8:24
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    @JanusBahsJacquet The verb articulate has more than one meaning, only one of which is synonymous with pronounce. And I am sure that blind John's difficulty was not with his pronunciation, but with articulating - meaning having or showing the ability to speak fluently and coherently. (Oxford Dictionaries) – WS2 Oct 24 '16 at 14:26
  • @WS2 Perhaps it's just me, but I cannot force articulate into that sense when used transitively with the words as the object. If the sentence had been “Blind John has difficulties articulating how much he loves Sally”, then that is the obvious meaning—but it's a very stretchy stretch to me to apply that meaning to “articulating the words”. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 24 '16 at 14:31
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    @JanusBahsJacquet The OED provides several examples, including, 1952 R. Ellison Invisible Man xiii. 221 We need a good speaker... Someone who can articulate the grievances of the people.. But interestingly it quotes another sense of articulate, meaning "to express or convey, especially through non-verbal means". 2006 Independent (Nexis) 24 Nov. 24 This period of European cultural history, when paintings were articulating the first expressions of sexual liberation. But I still think that compose would be a better word for mute John to write. – WS2 Oct 24 '16 at 14:52

Less formal would be putting the words on paper. More formal would be composing a text.

Put on paper1 means:

Fig. to write something down.
‘You have a great idea for a novel. Now put it on paper. I'm sorry, I can't discuss your offer until I see something in writing. Put it on paper, and then we'll talk.’

Compose2 means:

Phrase (a letter or piece of writing) with great care and thought.
‘the first sentence is so hard to compose’


1 The McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs © 2002
2 The Oxford Dictionary of English by Angus Stevenson © 2010

  • lots of good answers given but I guess composing seem to fit the example I gave the best – dfmetro Oct 24 '16 at 20:37

It's still articulating, no matter how it's achieved.

Why can't a mute think of words? Helen Keller was blind, deaf and dumb but she eventually learned to speak (and gave public lectures).

American Sign Language: articulation

Wikipedia: Helen Keller

  • I'm not trying to convey the words for thinking. That is why I compared it with articulated (verbally) to get the writing equivalent. – dfmetro Oct 24 '16 at 6:55
  • I see. I sort of assumed that you were talking about sign language (although you did day "write"). How about expressing? – Mick Oct 24 '16 at 6:58
  • Both very goods answers. Expressing and articulating. Thanks. – dfmetro Oct 24 '16 at 20:36
  • articulate : "able to express ideas clearly and effectively in speech or writing" "clearly expressed and easily understood" –MW – Mazura Oct 24 '16 at 23:47
  • Some people have learning disabilities which differentially affect their ability to articulate their thoughts in speech vs. in writing, so you might want two words to distinguish between these cases. You could use "articulate" for the verbal side since it is connotated with oral speech, especially if used in contrast with a word like "compose." But it might be better to find a different word that doesn't apply to both speaking and writing. – N. Post Oct 25 '16 at 12:10

You could use committing the words to paper which means to write down: but also carries the connotation of making the statement definite, or of committing oneself to a position or course of action.


If you want to emphasize the mechanical difficulty of the action, penning.

If you want to emphasize the intellectual act of putting the thought into words you could use composing.

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