Five Golden Rules to Communicating Effectively

I know that there are many rules to communicating well. I have not always embraced the rules I highlight below but certainly, I have begun to see the value in these golden rules : it works!
1. Keep it short
I used to write far more lengthily. I felt that I had so much to say, and it was important to say what needed to be said well. That took many words. The truth is also that writing briefly takes real skill and requires you to be clear of your intended message, which sometimes, is not something easily done. Sometimes, you spend the time writing to slowly arrive at your point.
But keeping it short is key to getting the message read.
i. People are busy and have neither the time nor inclination for essays, except the ones they choose to read.
ii. With so much data coming at us, our communication is just one more thing clogging someone’s inbox, phone or facetime. If we keep it brief, it is far more likely to be tolerated.
iii. In this overstimulated world, I find that the level of distraction has increased. It is hard to hold anyone’s attention for very long nowadays anyway. So, brevity is a definite boon.
2. Cull, cull, cull.
When communicating via writing, the first draft should be a free-for-all. Just go for it. Write what comes to mind; don’t worry about flow, sentence structure, placement or context. The main thing is to empty your mind onto the paper.
The second draft should be to check:-
  • spelling and turn of phrase;
  • for context;
  • to see if there is any ambiguity;
  • to ensure that the meaning I intend is the meaning that is likely to come across.
The third draft should be to cull. Take out unnecessary words, anything descriptive, anything that adds more words without necessarily adding more value. The aim here is to cut down on the words used.
The fourth draft should be to ensure you have one primary message. In fact, there should not be too many things communicated because it will get lost in the copy. As people read, they may react and develop opinions about what they are reading. The more you write, the more these are likely consequences.
Therefore, if you are aiming for your message to have a particular effect or consequence, everything you say/write should be written with that aim in mind. Anything that can detract from that, is not adding value and should be removed. You can always follow up in another email or via the phone.
3. Make the most important point upfront
I didn’t always follow this rule in the past :sometimes, you have a point but need a story to create the mood or scene. Starting with your point upfront can kill the momentum you may be trying to build.
But I guess the thing to keep in mind here is “What exactly is the purpose of your letter/email?” Your purpose guides how you write and what comes out first.
If you write your most important point first, you ensure that :
1. it is received because the reader doesn’t need to trawl through a lot to get to it;
2. it’s not hidden in between long paragraphs where it may or may not be understood as the important point;
3. if they choose not to read on, at the very least, they understand the most important thing from your communication.
4. Use bullet points to reduce long form copy
Sometimes, it is hard to be short and succinct. You need to make multiple points. When doing this, I find that putting my arguments down in bullet point help because :
  • visually, it is easier to read;
  • it reduces the need to write a lot of copy;
  • it helps separate the various points which may not be so clear if you write in long paragraphs.

 

5. Be clear what your message is
When you have something negative/difficult/critical to say or something that you believe may not be well received, it helps to be extra clear about your message. You may feel you need to tone down the message, get more flowery with your words, or just soften the blow but be aware that these may work against you.
In doing so, you may appear to vacillate or be unclear which will only lead to confusion or misinterpretation. Keep in mind that when someone is reading something you have to say, they read it with their context, their frame of reference in mind, not yours.
They are therefore, reading with their issues, front and centre. As such, they are unlikely to see things as you see it unless you expressly point it out to them.
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About rowena morais

Media Communications and Editorial Specialist. With my strong professional network of contacts, I help individuals and organisations, particularly those within Human Resource and Technology, strengthen their skill-base and brand through compelling writing, beautiful design, content marketing and publishing. Let's talk.

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