Oral vs. verbal

Here’s the traditional distinction: Verbal applies to things that are put into words, whether written or spoken, while oral pertains to the mouth, to medications taken by mouth, and to things that are spoken.

English authorities have traditionally urged against using verbal in reference to spoken things—for example, verbal/oral communications, verbal/oral reports, and verbal/oral warnings—but verbal is increasingly used in these phrases, perhaps in part due to oral‘s prurient associations. But oral is still a good word, so one does not have to follow the trend toward favoring verbal. Still, using verbal in the newer way is not wrong, as it is sanctioned by common, widespread usage and is by no means new.

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