2 Breakout Session # 204 Po Collins, CPCM, C.P.M., Fellow Senior Manager, Contracts Raytheon Company 24 April 2007 10:45 a.m. Effective Business Communications
3 “When I finished school, I took one of those career aptitude tests, and based on my verbal ability score, they suggested I become a mime.” - Tim Cavanagh, Comedian
4 The Case for Effective Communications What Happens when You’re Misunderstood? Answer more phone calls Write more explanatory emails and letters Make explanatory documents/white papers Litigate Effective communication means you will: Write with more impact Get better results Provide better service
5 Effective Communication in Today’s Changing World Plain Language Writing Pointers E-mail vs. phone Useful Web Sites
6 The Benefits of Plain Language Reaches people who do not read well, or who do not have time to read well Helps all readers understand information Avoids misunderstanding and errors Saves time, because it gets the job done well the first time
7 You Know You’ve Used Plain Language if… Readers can: Find what they need Understand what they read Use what they read
8 What Is Plain Language? 1.Write Like You Talk 2.Common words 3.Short sentences 4.Active voice 5.Easy-to-read layout 6.Logical organization Writing Pointers:
9 1. Write Like You Talk Use “you” and other pronouns Avoid artificial language Sound like yourself
10 1. Write Like You Talk - Pronouns Without pronouns: To establish eligibility for a grant, an applicant must show that the applicant is a Native American and that the present housing of the applicant is substandard and inadequate. With pronouns: To establish eligibility for a grant, you must show that you are a Native American and that your present housing is substandard and inadequate.
11 Caution 1. Write Like You Talk: Caution Avoid regional dialects and expressions Use complete sentences Spoken English is sloppy Written English requires more care than spoken English
12 2. Choose Common Words “I never use a word like metropolis when I can get the same price for city.” - Mark Twain
13 2. Common Words Prefer the plain word to the fancy Use familiar words Avoid jargon
14 2. Common Words: Prefer the Plain Word to the Fancy The front page of the Wall Street Journal is written at the comprehension level of a seventh-grader Short, familiar words convey sharp, clear meanings Word length and difficulty are related Never use a long word if a short word works as well
15 2. Common Words Prefer the Plain Word to the Fancy Instead of: accomplish ascertain endeavor facilitate formulate optimum utilize Use: do find out try help form best use
16 2. Common Words A Case for Short, Familiar Words: In the Lord’s Prayer, there are 66 words - 48 are of one syllable (72%) In “All the World’s a Stage” (Shakespeare’s As You Like It), there are 212 words - 150 are of one syllable (70%) In Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, there are 268 words - 196 are of one syllable (73%)
17 2. Common Words Use familiar words Don’t camouflage words If Spell Check doesn’t like it, there’s a good reason Adapt your word choice to your reader
18 2. Common Words Use Picture Nouns and Action Verbs Select words with the right strength and vigor Select words for precise meanings Verbs are the strongest words, nouns are second Adjectives and adverbs are weak words
20 2. Common Words Noah Webster on the Precision of Words: Webster’s wife caught him in the act of embracing the chambermaid. “Noah,” she said, “I am surprised!” Mr. Webster gazed upon her in mild reproof. “No, my dear,” he replied, “you are amazed. It is we who are surprised.”
21 2. Common Words Avoid Jargon and Acronyms Acronyms and abbreviations must be defined Legal jargon is archaic Explain technical words Avoid trendy buzzwords
22 3. Short Sentences Cut Out Unnecessary Words Avoid cluttering phrases Cut out surplus words Avoid roundabout construction
23 3. Short Sentences Instead of: At the present time For the purpose of In very few cases With regard to Use: Now For Seldom About Cluttering phrases:
24 3. Short Sentences Cluttering phrases Instead of: It will be noted that the records for the past years show a steady increase in special appropriations. Try this: The records for past years show a steady increase in special appropriations.
25 3. Short Sentences Avoid roundabout construction Instead of: Reference is made to your May 10 report in which you concluded that the warranty is worthless. Try this: Your May 10 report concluded that the warranty is worthless.
26 4. Active Voice It emphasizes the action It’s stronger and shorter than passive voice –Avoid passive voice
27 4. Active Voice The test was performed. or ABC performed the test.
28 4. Active Voice When passive voice is appropriate: When you want to avoid accusing the reader When the performer of the action is not known
29 5. Easy-to-Read Layout Keep Paragraphs Short Use white space Separate topics into paragraphs Use lists and tables
30 6. Logical Organization Know your audience Write to be understood Avoid ambiguity
31 6. Logical Organization Know Your Audience Write to everyone who is interested Engage your reader Anticipate the reader’s questions Organize to meet your reader’s needs
32 6. Logical Organization Write to be Understood - Not to Impress Don’t be arrogant Business communications should seek only to communicate Provide enough information for your reader to take action
33 6. Logical Organization Avoid Ambiguity “I was confused by an ad that read: Why go elsewhere to be cheated! You can trust us to do the job.” - Steve Strosser, “The Peter Plan”
34 6. Logical Organization Avoid Ambiguity Carefully place your words Don’t camouflage words Use clear pronouns Avoid double negatives
35 6. Logical Organization Avoid Ambiguity Ambiguous Insurance Claim Statements The guy was all over the road. I had to swerve a number of times before I hit him. I had been driving for 40 years, when I fell asleep causing the accident. In my attempt to kill a fly, I drove into a telephone pole. I was on my way to the doctor with rear end trouble - when my universal joint gave way causing me to have an accident.
36 Email vs. the Phone SituationEmailPhone Is the communication sensitive or proprietary? How important are emotions to the communication? Do you need an immediate response? Is the topic complicated? Does it need in-depth explanation? Is negotiation involved or necessary to the outcome? Do you need a written record of the conversation? Do you need to have a dialogue rather than simply convey information?
37 Email Pointers Start with a salutation. Ask for a response. Use Spell Check & proof read. Treat it like a business letter. Avoid emoticons & Internet abbreviations Create a professional “signature” at the end of the email that includes your name, professional title, business name, phone number, and email address.
38 Email It pays to proofread! “2gay sounds good - all of it. I'll are you Wed at lunch. And yes, you had told me about the New Year's reservation, but it's worth repeating. We always enjoy desert at your place! I'll have a but of nwa to share at lunch. Loplung forward to seeing you then!”
39 Using these tips will help you: Reach people who do not read well, or who do not have time to read well Help all readers understand information Avoid misunderstanding and errors Save time, because it gets the job done well the first time Write with more impact Get better results Provide better service