Communicating well

“But with so many words having many meanings communication can be a bit precarious.” Someone left that comment on the Two Roads Communications Facebook page. It’s true. Communication is precarious.

To communicate well is not easy. Look around: There is a lot of lousy communication. To communicate well, one must transfer an idea clearly from a thought into words (or pictures or other forms of art) that others understand. That can be tricky, because we all interpret things differently.

My husband and I have both worked in the communications field. We joke that we communicate well with everyone but each other. Emotion has a lot to do with communication among loved ones. But in business, taking excessive emotion and subjectivity out of communication can improve its clarity. Professional communications therefore strive to create messages that can be clearly understood by all.

Writing should be provocative, creative and concise. It can be those things and still be simple. Be understood clearly. Be done well.

Strunk and White taught us in “The Elements of Style” to “write in a way that comes naturally,” not to overwrite, and to use nouns and verbs. It’s still good advice.

In a local elementary school, students studied the basics of computer coding. Talk about a good lesson in writing. Before they began to learn code, they were asked to write directions in plain English. The directions had to be understood by the reader such that the reader could then follow the directions to get from point A to point B.  (Read more here: Giving directions is a good way to learn how to communicate. Think about giving directions to a young child. You must be clear, specific and concise, all of which are goals for communicating well, too.

In an exercise meant to clarify a branding and marketing message, a group of teachers, communications professionals and administrators gathered together to brainstorm. The goal was to clarify a local private school’s mission in marketing materials and set it apart from other competitors. The aim was to stay away from common terms in the education market, phrases like “academic excellence” and “educating the whole child.” Playing with words, the group began to construct phrases that described the school and its specific mission. After editing, mixing phrases and discussing ideas, then writing and rewriting, the group came up with a marketing tagline that has become a part of the school’s culture: “Wonder leads to knowing.”

The simple words describe both the academic and spiritual mission of the school. They describe the process of natural learning. They communicate well what the school is all about.

Yes, communication is precarious. But that just means it needs a little extra care and attention to be done well.

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