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The 5 Cs of Communications: Tip 2 - Clarity

Tuesday, August 03, 2010


Many of us need to communicate in some capacity in our professional lives. Sometimes it's oral, and sometimes it will show up in print or online. Regardless, we can always improve our efforts.

Volumes have been written on the subject of communications, and there is only so much that can be said in a blog. This is #2 in a series of simple tips that can be applied to help you grow in your ability to write or speak.


If you're like me, you really don't like it when a speaker or a writer leaves you wondering what they were trying to say.

Our aim, as communicators, is to deliver content in a way that can be easily understood. So we have to pay attention to the idea of CLARITY. Consider the following points:

STRUCTURE: Is there an orderly progression of ideas that makes sense? People need to know how each point fits in the overall structure. They don't want to get lost in a bunch of ideas that seem difficult to categorize. A lot of worthwhile information can get lost in an unorganized approach. Planning the structure of your communication will help you avoid that. This step can take a lot of effort, but it will help you and your audience if you pay close attention to this element. "Spontaneous" might be easier for you, but not for them.

CONVENTION: Using a consistent font and layout convention makes it much easier for a reader to process information. Be sure to use indents the same way throughout. You can use different fonts, but be consistent. If you use a different font for a topic header, do it consistently.

ANALOGIES: Make sure you use analogies that work well. Analogies often break down and don't fit perfectly, but that's not a problem. Just make sure that the main idea is a good parallel. Don’t leave the audience wondering how it fits. You also have to keep in mind that an analogy that works in your culture of origin might not work somewhere else. When I was speaking in the Philippines, for example, I later found out that one of my analogies actually worked against the point I was trying to make.

COLLOQUIALISMS: Be careful about using jargon that some people might not understand. If people have to spend a moment trying to figure out what you mean, they might miss the next important thing you have to say. If it's in print they can go back and read over it, but why make them go through the effort?

ILLUSTRATIONS: Stories that paint a vivid picture can help your audience grasp the subject matter. But make sure you don't get your audience lost in detail. This is especially true in print. In public speaking you have an opportunity to spend a little more time on the story and draw them in. You can use hand gestures, cadence and tonal qualities to really connect with them.

LOOSEN UP: If you're not careful, your effort to be clear can make your communication stiff and clinical. Consider the context and audience to know how formal or informal you can be. Sometimes I struggle with a balance between being too stiff and sounding like a creative writing assignment.

Communications Tip 1: Context
Communications Tip 2: Clarity
Communications Tip 3: Be Concise
Communications Tip 4: Be Complete
Communications Tip 5: Be Compelling
Communications Tip 6: Proofread

Steve Smart works with busy entrepreneurs who want to improve their marketing efforts. check out the rest of the posts on communications tips.

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