A lot has changed since the first written communication appeared on a cave wall about 9,000 years ago. Instead of carving marks and symbols on rocks, we send quick messages on our phones. But while the means of written communication have changed, its purpose hasn’t: effectively conveying information.
Communication is an integral part of any relationship, whether it is between two individuals or a business and its customers. With more people using the written word (and emojis in some cases) to share thoughts and information, it is vital to use the right approach to ensure your message clearly comes through.
Whether communicating for business or personal reasons, it is important to know and understand your audience before writing a single word. Is it an email to a potential client or a quick update to a co-worker? To ensure the communication is effective, they each have their own style, tone and word choice.
What goes into an effective communication? In the early 1950s, Scott M. Cutlip and Allen H. Center developed the 7Cs of communication in their book, “Effective Public Relations.” Decades later, clear, concise, concrete, correct, coherent, complete and courteous are still good rules to follow when writing.
- Clear: When writing to someone, be clear about your goals and messages. To produce a clear message, minimize the number of ideas in each sentence and make sure it’s easy for your reader to understand. For example, if you want the reader to do something, make sure you clearly state what action you’re looking for.
- Concise: Stick to the point and keep it brief. More isn’t better in communication — if you can say something in two sentences versus four, stay with two.
- Concrete: Provide solid details (but not too many) and vivid facts to solidify your message.
- Correct: Make sure your information is not only accurate, but also error-free. Communications laden with errors are distracting and undermines credibility. I am surprised daily by how many grammar, spelling and punctuation mistakes I see. Always read over your message carefully before hitting send.
- Coherent: Keep your content logical and connected to the main topic.
- Complete: Provide your audience with the information they need. If you want them to take action, include all the relevant information so they can do so.
- Courteous: Keep your communication friendly, honest and open. Do not use a passive-aggressive tone and keep your reader’s viewpoint in mind.
In addition to those 7Cs, I would like to add one more piece of advice. Get visual. Studies show people better understand and retain information presented visually rather than just reading words. Think about how visual communication plays a role in how people remember and retain the information that was given.
The right tools can make a vast difference in improving your communication’s efficacy and getting your recipients to take the desired action.
Communications Manager MaryBeth Matzek has more than 25 years of journalism experience.