5 Secrets to Communicating with Clarity
As a writer, I love words for their ability to inform, inspire, illustrate, and evoke emotions. Yet few things irk me more than verbosity, whether written or spoken. How many times have you sought usable information from a presentation, article or expert only to be dazed, confused or simply bored out of your gourd by meaningless buzzwords, acronyms and industry-speak?
Years ago, I attended a training conducted by a revered industry expert and corporate visionary. For days leading up to the session, I anticipated the learning and lively discussions that would occur. The topic was intriguing, the timing was perfect, and I just knew THIS would be the training to reinvigorate my career.
I was so wrong.
From the moment the trainer opened his mouth, I knew I’d made a terrible mistake. My eyes glazed over and my palms began to itch. The trainer spent the first half hour rambling about the glory days of his youth. Then he segued into a soliloquy about how Asian customs differ from Western morays. About an hour in, I glanced down at my agenda to be sure I was in the right session. When he FINALLY got on topic, every sentence was laden with lofty language and corporate catchphrases like “knowledge process outsourcing” and “proactive platform integration.” Then there were questionable metaphors like “boiling the ocean.” And what exactly does “opening the kimono” mean?
As I looked around the room, I saw reflections of my own confusion in the faces of my colleagues, and I felt a little better. But boy was I bored.
That guy should have taken a few pointers from The Plain Language Institute.
1. Focus on a few key concepts and structure content logically, from the general to the specific.
2. Find alternatives for complex words, industry, jargon, abbreviations, and acronyms. When no alternatives are available, spell out complex terms and abbreviations phonetically and give clear definitions.
3. Keep most sentences short (16 words maximum), but use varied length to make them interesting.
4. Use active voice instead of passive voice where culturally acceptable.
5. Avoid redundancies. It doesn’t reiterate your point; it only annoys your audience.
Bottom line: The hallmark of a good writer and presenter is the ability to express a thought using the least number of words possible.
So the next time you’re tempted to imbue your composition or presentation with dexterous adroitness, use short, simple phrases instead.