It is essential for small business owners and managers to develop effective written communication skills and to encourage the same in all employees. The information age has altered the ways in which we communicate and placed an increasing emphasis on written versus oral communications. The ever-increasing use of computers and computer networks to organize and transmit information means the need for competent writing skills is rising. Craig Hogan, a former university professor who now heads an online school for business writing, receives hundreds of inquiries each month from managers and executives requesting help with improving their own and their employees' writing skills.
Hogan explains, in an article entitled "What Corporate America Can't Build: A Sentence," that millions of people previously not required to do a lot of writing on the job are now expected to write frequently and rapidly. According to Dr. Hogan, many of them are not up to the task. It has companies tearing their hair out. They found that a third of employees in the nation's "blue chip" companies write poorly and are in need of remedial writing instruction.
The need to develop good writing skills is only highlighted by the fact that in the information age, it is not uncommon to have business relationships with customers and suppliers that are established and maintained exclusively through the use of written communications. In this environment, "the words we write are very real representations of our companies and ourselves. The key to communication, of course, is to convey meaning in as accurate and concise a manner as possible. People do not read business memoranda for the pleasure of reading.
Understand how to communicate complex information to lay audiences
They do so in order to receive instructions or information upon which to base decisions or take action. Therefore, highly literary prose is not desirable in business writing.
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Overly formal prose may also be counterproductive by seeming stand-offish or simply wordy. A style of writing that is too informal can also convey an unintended message, namely that the subject matter is not serious or not taken seriously by the sender. A straightforward, courteous tone is usually the best choice but one that may not come naturally without practice.
The basic process of communication begins when a fact or idea is observed by one person. That person the sender may decide to translate the observation into a message, and then transmit the message through some communication medium to another person the receiver. The receiver then must interpret the message and provide feedback to the sender indicating that the message has been understood and appropriate action taken. As Herta A. Complete Exercise 1 to test your understanding of when to use transitional words to enhance meaningfulness in your paper. The Exercise 1 Feedback provides an idea of how the paragraph might be improved.
Many graduate students struggle to write with precision. You may need to eliminate words that distract from your intended meaning and choose words that clearly communicate that meaning. Conciseness or economy of expression. Many writers, even those who have been at it for a long time, find it challenging, sometimes almost impossible, to say things effectively, even when they specifically set out to do so, without using so many extra and unnecessary words.
Did you catch my illustration of this point? As a result, their meaning becomes lost. Take a moment to read through Section 3. Precision and Clarity. Many writers also find it challenging to use language effectively to communicate exactly what they mean. Section 3. Here are some pitfalls that graduate students commonly encounter:. As a test of your understanding of these concepts, complete Exercise 2. Exercise 2 Feedback provides my suggested changes. You may find additional ways to improve this text. Using structuring skills is another way to enhance the meaning and flow of your paper.
These skills are used predominantly to connect paragraphs or sections of your paper to one another. The structuring skills in Table 3. The person reading your paper should be able to see the logical sequence of arguments by simply reading the topic sentences key points of each paragraph and the structuring skills used throughout your paper. I will now review the literature on feminist approaches to change, followed by a discussion of how these approaches differ from humanistic strategies.
Transition A transition is a short statement that signals a change in topic or direction in a paper. This review of the change process leads naturally to a discussion of how outcomes are measured within each model. Summary Summaries include a statement or statements that review or pull together the essence of several paragraphs or sections of a paper.
Summaries often occur at the end of a paper or at a transition point within the paper. Summaries encapsulate the arguments presented, rather than listing them again. They help the reader capture the bottom line and serve to wrap up a particular portion of a paper. Each of the methods described above is based on the underlying assumption that human nature is basically good and that change is possible.
Based on the description of the change processes above, I conclude that feminist theorists most often place the locus of change at the systems level. This contrasts dramatically with the assumption of the primacy of self in the humanistic therapies described in the first section of the paper.
For example, placing a summary at the end of a section, followed by a transition or an overview of the next section, provides additional clarity and flow. Each of the techniques outlined in this section targeted change at the level of the individual client. The next section will focus on intervention strategies that expand the target of change to include systems e.
Complete Exercise 3 to apply these concepts to a sample text. The Exercise 3 Feedback provides one example of how structuring skills can improve the flow and meaningfulness of the text. Be sure that your responses provide a similar structure. You should also avoid paragraphs that contain only one sentence, like this one, because they float in space without meaningful connection to your argument. Think of each paragraph as a sandwich! You should be able to read the first and last sentence of each paragraph in your paper and understand the thesis and key arguments presented.
If you cannot, then you need to include additional structuring skills. Check this out by reviewing only the structuring skills from Exercise 3. You will notice that I have deliberately not used standard formats for the structuring skills e. At the outset, you may find it easier to follow these formats, but you will discover that your paper is more enjoyable to read if you vary your style. Verbs are one element of a sentence that can either increase or decrease meaning. The APA Manual also specifies a number of editorial expectations for your use of verbs and verb tenses.
In Chapter 1 , the issue of intellectual honesty was introduced, and you were cautioned to treat the work of other writers respectfully. You must also carefully choose verbs that accurately reflect your information source see APA Manual Section 1. When you are drawing on research studies to support your points, it is appropriate to simply list the sources after each of your assertions.
However, in many cases, journal articles and other information sources reflect the opinions or hypotheses of the authors. In such cases, be careful to select verbs that indicate to the reader the nature of the original information. Students often struggle with verb tense in their papers.
How To Improve Communication In The Workplace
Read Sections 3. Table 3. In most cases, you will not be reporting on your own research, so the procedures and results may not apply. You are also not expected to provide an abstract for most course assignments. Past Refers to an event, action, or circumstance at a specific time the past Withrow noted that female participants tended to respond more frequently than male participants. Participants completed a series of self-assessment questionnaires. This methodology was effective in soliciting consistent response patterns from participants. Results Past Results of your study occurred in the past Each group responded to the questionnaire within the timeframe provided.
Conclusions Present Refers to your current thinking about the issues and invites others into that discussion This study shows evidence of a connection between worldview and preferred intervention strategy. Several implications arise from the differences in perceived well-being among these groups. The purpose of selecting and consistently using specific verb tenses is to facilitate effective communication. In most cases, when you are reporting on published research, you will be speaking in the past tense, because these were arguments made by these individuals at a particular point in time.
If you need further information about how to write in a particular verb tense, please see the Athabasca University English Grammar Handbook — Verbs. Follow the patterns outlined for various components of your paper. Switching verb tense within a paragraph or section will interrupt the flow of your paper and may reduce effective communication of your meaning to the reader. You also risk misrepresenting the nature of your information sources.
How Good Are Your Communication Skills?
The way you structure your sentences can have a dramatic effect on how well your paper reads. Remember, writing is about communicating meaning. Very simply, poor sentence structure can distract or confuse the reader, and your meaning may suddenly be lost. Composing a clear and meaningful sentence involves organizing the various components of your sentence properly. If you are like most graduate students, it has probably been a long time since you have reviewed basic grammar rules.
Even the parts of a sentence may no longer be easy for you to identify. Review the definitions in Table 3. He is a happy cat personal. George enjoys lounging on the window, which faces the street relative. Verbs Actions, occurrences, states of being He moves slowly action. He has become less energetic over time occurrence. However, he is content state of being. Adjectives Describe or modify nouns or pronouns quantity, quality, etc.
He is a lazy cat and the only cat in the house. Adverbs Describe or modify verbs, adjectives, other adverbs, or groups of words where, when, how, etc. Oddly , George moves even more slowly when a very plump spider quietly crawls down the wall. Prepositions Connect nouns or pronouns to other components of a sentence Three baby spiders crawl along behind the plump spider. Conjunctions Link words, phrases, or clauses: Coordinating conjunctions link equally important elements George wiggles and squirms, but he can not get his paws to move coordinating.
Correlative conjunctions also link equally important elements Neither his front paws nor his back paws budge. Subordinating conjunctions link less important elements to the main element George is very surprised because he is usually not this slow! Modifiers A word or group of words that adds information about another word or phrase: Adjectives or phrases that act as adjectives Cats that suffer from such paralysis are rare acts as an adjective. Adverbs or phrases that act as adverbs George is brave i n every other situation acts as an adverb.
You will have difficulty following the grammar rules in the APA Manual or other writing resources if you do not understand these basic elements of sentences. For further information, or for definitions of terms not appearing on this list, see the Athabasca University English Grammar Handbook — Basic Grammar: Parts of Speech. You may find yourself getting feedback that you are not writing in complete sentences. To create a sentence, you must include both a subject a noun or pronoun and a verb. When you start a sentence with a subordinating conjunction or a relative pronoun , you must ensure it is still a complete sentence.
The following are not sentences even though they may contain a subject and a verb. Complete Exercise 4 to make sure you have a good understanding of how to structure a complete sentence and to ensure you have the vocabulary necessary to follow other guidelines for effective writing. Check your responses with Exercise 4 Feedback. You may also want to review examples of how to correctly form more complex sentences through the Purdue University Online Writing Lab — Sentence Punctuation Patterns.
The basic principle is that both the subject and the verb must be either singular or plural. Where errors occur is typically in mistaking a noun the subject as either singular or plural. Read Section 3. There are several basic principles that you should follow to ensure congruence between nouns and pronouns , as outlined in Table 3. As with most disciplines, English grammar is rooted in Western worldviews that have traditionally treated gender as a binary concept: one is either male or female.
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Gender diversity e. This is resulting in a slow but critical transformation in language use. I believe that health practitioners should be taking responsibility for our deliberate use of language to support of cultural diversity and social justice. Here are a few tips for doing so:. As health care practitioners, we are bound by our codes of ethics to not only do no harm but also to place primacy on the emotional, psychological, social, and physical well being of our clients.
Our choice of language can inadvertently cause harm to clients of nondominant sexual orientation or gender identity. It is our responsibility to raise our awareness of cultural diversity and to use inclusive and anti-discriminatory language in all of our written and verbal communications. If you are unfamiliar with gender identity issues and the implications for language use, have a look at the following resources:.
Review the section on Components of a Sentence above to remind yourself of what modifiers that function like adverbs or adjectives look like. Without understanding what a modifier is , it is hard not to misplace them. Restating the sentence in active voice helps resolve the problem: Without understanding what a modifier is , I find it hard not to misplace them. Complete Exercise 5 to test your understanding of how to properly structure your sentences.
Review Exercise 5 Answers for corrections. Remember, the rationale for refining your writing is to communicate more effectively. Most instructors will not go searching for misplaced modifiers or lack of agreement between your nouns and pronouns. Instead, they will read a sentence and not be able to discern what you are trying to say. So, whether they point out the grammatical errors or not, your meaning has been lost and with it your success on the assignment! If you require more in-depth writing support, I strongly recommend that you purchase the Fowler and colleagues handbook listed in the references.
Notice that, in the previous sentence, everything after which a relative pronoun could be removed, and you would still know what your instructions are! This is a subordinate element of the sentence. Tables 3. Notice, that in some of the examples in Table 3. It is important that separate parts of a sentence have a similar construction and for a similar pattern to be used to organize groups of words. Notice that the previous sentence would be easier to read if my pattern was consistent: It is important that separate parts of a sentence are constructed and that groups of words are organized using a similar pattern.
Next consider the general principles in Table 3. Complete Exercise 6 to test your understanding of subordinate elements and parallel construction, then check your responses with Exercise 6 Answers. For further information about common errors that impact the clarity and meaning of sentences, please see the AU English Language Handbook — Common Sentence Faults.
Spelling something incorrectly is one way to lose marks on papers, and it is completely avoidable. You can access it online quickly and easily. I have also compiled a list of commonly misspelled words in Table 3. I have been trying to affect verb your writing skills. Never miss a course! Add as "Interested" to get notified of this course's next session.
Go to class. Start now for free! Sign up. Overview Understand how to communicate complex information to lay audiences In a time when experts are all too often ignored or misunderstood, communicating complex information accurately to inexperienced audiences is a prized skill. What topics will you cover? Three different explanation models: quasi-scientific, transformation and elucidating Barriers to effective explanations including myths The importance of audience analysis in effectively communicating complex ideas Using analogies to explain abstract ideas.
Effective organization in oral presentations Infographics. Creating organisational structures. Producing charts which enhance audience understanding. What will you achieve? By the end of this course you will be able to: Use different methods to overcome the barriers that most audiences face when learning complex information Apply practices for organizing and explaining ideas orally Design presentation slides for improved audience understanding Communicate complex ideas or material to various audiences.
Taught by Dr.