Communication Skills

Communication Skills

Communication.  What is communication?  If you think about it, communication is a two-way process.  Information is sent out from one source and it must be received by another entity. 

Not all communication is understood.  Not all communication that is “received” is actually read and understood.  You can consider a full email message box as an example.

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All of the emails in your email message box are forms of communication.  How many of them do you skip over without opening?  How many of them do you open and skim, rather than read completely?

If you are like the majority of us, then you will be avoiding or missing many different communications.  So, you should be able to see that not all communications that are SENT are actually RECEIVED – and if they are received, the messages are not always successfully transmitted.

So, here is the dilemma.

You have the need to communicate with someone.  This site has a focus on writing as the communication medium – so the topic here will be written communication.

Communication Skills - Types of written communication include the following:

  • Letters
  • Memos
  • Email
  • Reports (both formal and informal)
  • Presentations using the computer (PowerPoint perhaps)

In all of the above, if the message is not clear and easy to read, chances are that the reader will not read it, and your communication will fail.

So, the best advice is to put yourself into the reader’s position.  

  • Emphathize with the reader in all that you do.  
  • Think about what the reader wants to read and get right to the point.
  • If you have good news, break that good news immediately.
  • If you have negative news, defer the negatives to the second paragraph – but then, write only with positives.  Instead of telling the reader what you cannot do, tell the reader what you can do.

Changing the negatives to positives will serve you well in everything you do! 



Communication Skills

Business Letters.  Keep the letter to one page.  If you have a long story to tell, prepare the story as a separate document, and provide the short one-page cover letter to accompany the long story.  That cover letter will prepare the reader – not bog him down.

Proofread for accuracy in all regards.

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Memos.  Internal office communication must be clear.  Include all the necessary information – dates, subject lines, and so on, so that your message will be clear and will be easy to read.

If you try to make the important information jump from the page in all you do, you should be successful.  You can make that happen by excellent, simple, and clear formatting.  Keep it simple!

Your format should be a professional one.  Write in short sentences and short paragraphs so that the reading and understanding are easy.

Proofread for accuracy in all you do.

Emails.  The subject line must be clear – as must the message.  Avoid writing one long email in one long paragraph.  That format - or lack of format - makes the reading ever so difficult.

Limit the email to one topic - not more than one - or you will lose the reader quickly.

Keep emails short.  Because of the nature of the medium, the email reader may not display the whole message on the screen without the need for scrolling.  So, make sure the readers can read the whole message – and will actually recognize that they’ve got the whole message – by keeping it short.

Attachments in emails.  Avoid attaching large files.  Don’t clog up the recipient’s email message box.

Large files.  Avoid large files.  If you have a large file to transmit, consider an alternate method – not email.  There are options, like Dropbox that may be very helpful and appropriate.

Reply and Reply All.  Be careful and wary of the "Reply All" option.  If you are writing to everyone who received the first email, then "Reply All."  But if you are replying only to one person, then simply click "Reply." 

Be oh-so-careful when sending emails.  The "send" is very quick - and if you click when you don't mean to click, you can end up regretting a whole lot!  So, be careful!

Reports.  Follow the prescribed format for reports.  Reports should be professional, of course, but they also should be easy to read.  That ease of reading can be achieved with format:

  • Proper spacing (generally single)
  • One blank line between paragraphs
  • Use of side headings to guide the reader’s eye
  • Two blank lines before a side heading
  • More information can be found at …

Presentations.  If you have a slide presentation, remember that it is PowerPoint – not PowerParagraph.  Each slide should be separate and limited to one topic.

  • Make the important information jump from the page.
  • Make the information very easy to read and understand.
  • Use builds.
  • Avoid animations that detract and slow the presentation.

Feedback.  Feedback is important.  If you receive an email, respond to it immediately.  It's a matter of courtesy.  Don't wait.  Make it a short personal response.

Thank you for your email.  I will review and return your messages as soon as possible.

To Do List.  Then, put the item immediately into your ToDo List so you don't forget to respond to the email in detail later.  Stay organized.

If you receive many emails on a daily basis, then you will need that all-important To Do List so that you can stay on top of your obligations.

There is nothing worse than suffering through someone's poor communication skills - sending a note to someone - and getting no response.  You wonder if the email was received.  (You may even wonder if you actually did send the email!)  Did the message get put into the junk mail folder?  Was it ignored?  You can know the answers to that only if you receive feedback.

Avoid the automated response, which can be very annoying.  Also, avoid the "reader requests a read receipt" which also can be irritating.

Communication Skills in Summary - Valuable Links

When you consider the reader/audience, then you can improve your communication skills immensely.  Not only will your message be sent, it will be received and understood – the whole purpose of communication!

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LINK - Return from Communication Skills to Professional Business Writing.

LINK - Click this link to locate an excellent course in business writing.