clear communication

Saying No: A beginner’s guide

No, non, nada, nyet—how we say no in different languages. Nein is the German word for no. Nein sounds the same as the English word nine, which means one less than 10. According to researchers, nine is also the number of times kids expect to ask their parents for something before getting it. Nine. Can…

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Subject Lines: Explicit is good when you’re writing email

Clear, precise language in email subject lines increase the chance that people will read and respond to your message. Specific subject lines help readers understand: What you want If they can help you—was this sent to the right person; do they have an answer? What priority to give your message—how important and time-sensitive is this? How…

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Teaching & Training Skills: How to present information

I once had a prof who was a total geek; she loved her subject so much that she overwhelmed us with information. While her enthusiasm added interest, it was exhausting. Worse, it was incoherent. Even those of us who took copious notes were unsure of the key points. The instructor failed in 3 ways: She didn’t…

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How to Write Clear Instructions: 6 easy steps

Use lists where possible. Use a separate point or sentence for each action. Make the text large enough for visually impaired readers. How do you know it’s big enough? Test it. Know your audience—who will be reading these instructions and in what situations? Write inclusive instructions; make them simple and clear enough for lower literacy…

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Clear Writing for Teachers: 7 Items to Include in Course Descriptions

The basis of good teaching is clear communication; telling your participants what they need and want to know in a way that they can easily understand. One item that teachers and trainers often forget to clearly communication is the course structure. Making the course structure clear allows participants to relax and focus on learning. Here’s how…

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Teaching & Training Tips: Successful assignment briefs

Good for you. You started your course or program by telling everyone what they need to know about the course, and where to find that information when they need it. Now it’s time to talk about assignment briefs. Assignment briefs document everything students need to know about the assignment. A brief should be a complete,…

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Secrets to Successful Communication

The art of communication is the language of leadership. James Humes Leaders need to speak and write well. No matter how brilliant you are, if we can’t understand you, your leadership fails. Plain Language can help you communicate skillfully and successfully. What is Plain Language? Plain Language is an approach to speaking and writing that…

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Is Your Document Clear? A Checklist

This is a brief checklist to help you make sure that your document is easy, enjoyable, and rewarding to use. Layout—does this look readable and informative? __ Easy to see where to start. __ Paragraphs are short. __ Blocks of text are broken up by white space. __ Bullet points are used where appropriate. __ Type…

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Plain Language: Can You Draw A Picture Of Your Sentence?

In the quest for clarity, I’ve devised a simple test: Can you draw a picture of it? If you can easily turn your words into images, it’s a safe bet that those words are clear, simple and efficient. Imagine drawing this sentence: I walked to the store with my big ugly dog and bought oranges. Easy, right? The…

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Attractive & Efficient: Is your infographic successful?

An infographic is a magical combination of words and images that together convey information more efficiently than just text. Done well, infographics save your reader time and energy. But beware—infographics are harder to make than you might think. Unsuccessful infographics might be nothing more than harmlessly decorated text, where the images don’t add much to the…

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Apostrophes, Contractions And Plurals (Oh My)

Apostrophes are running wild. They’re often used incorrectly or absent when needed. Some writers seem to insert them randomly, as if hopeful that a few might land in the right place; a prophylactic peppering of punctuation. For the sake of clarity and your readers’ sanity, here’s a cheatsheet on when, why and how to use…

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Activate Your Verbs!

Active verbs make speaking and writing clear, efficient, and more interesting. Active verbs are usually easier to understand, which is important for international audiences. Wordy and inactive: Better: They made a commitment. They committed. (or They committed to…) They reached a decision. They decided. The program has ceased to operate. The program ended. Her cake was…

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7 Swift Steps To Better Communication

Identify your goal—what exactly do you want your audience to know or do? Identify your audience—who are they, what do they need to know, what do they already know, what’s their preferred method of communication? Outline your message—are the important points included and in a logical order? Respect your audience—you are using moments of their…

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3 Great Speaking Tips (and my dad for free)

You know how, um, like, the kids talk these days? Sadly, it’s not just kids—many of us undermine ourselves with speech habits that make us seem uneducated, unprepared and unsure. Breaking those nasty little habits will improve your education, career, and relationships. Try these 3 simple exercises: Speak in full sentences. Can you say two complete…

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Business Writing Success: A quick & easy method

Is writing at work a challenge? You want to seem professional and competent but with so many other tasks competing for your attention, it’s hard to find the time to write well. And when you do get started, distractions and delays make it hard to finish. These 3 simple C’s will help you start quickly,…

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