The Ten Tenets of Effective Communication (Part 3 of 3)

The final installment of the tenets that enable you to sharpen your communication

As previous entries have discussed, your communication must focus on the needs of your audience (not on you). Understanding your audience and making sure they receive and act on the information in the manner you intended is paramount to effective communication. Toward this end, we continue our discussion of the ten tenets of effective communication, focusing on the last four tenets:


  • Correct
  • Timely
  • Well designed
  • And it builds goodwill too

Correct. A correct document complies with the basic rules of writing: grammar, punctuation, mechanics, spelling, word order and usage, and sentence structure. Incorrect writing slows readers and confuses them.

Given too many of these kinds of errors, readers begin to question the validity and accuracy of your writing, and wonder if you were also this careless in researching, analyzing, and presenting your findings. Readers begin to doubt your professionalism, which in turn compromises your arguments, conclusions, and recommendations.

There are dozens of books on the basics of writing. Find one you like, keep it nearby, and refer to it often.

Timely. Few things in life are as useless as information that is no longer beneficial, that is not timely. I once returned home from a cancelled flight to a voice message sent 40 minutes before departure telling me of the cancellation. Not only was this information useless, it proved costly—the airline issued refunds to thousands of passengers on the numerous flights cancelled that day and gave us all vouchers for a free flight.

Another aspect of timeliness: your reader must be able to understand and act as quickly as possible on the information. Your style, organization, and visual design all help toward this goal.

Well designed. An executive chef once said to me, “Food must look and smell good, for it must pass the eyes and nose before it goes into a mouth.” Much the same argument can be made about a written document.

How a document looks speaks loudly about its acceptance because, even before a word is read, you are communicating. Professional looking, well designed documents engender positive impressions and get noticed. Choose fonts wisely, as they evoke different reactions. Just because you can ‘drop shadow’ or ‘outline’ text, don’t do it. And keep to just a few fonts to avoid that busy look. While you want to impress with your document design, keep within acceptable standards.

Build goodwill. We have all read words that touched us, or that repulsed us. In business writing, strive to create a positive reaction. Carefully consider those who comprise your audience, then ‘speak’ to those people when you write. Make that personal connection with your words and you build goodwill, not only for yourself, but for your organization and profession—exactly our goal when we write these position papers for you to read.

The ten tenets. Taken together and diligently applied, these ten tenets ultimately demonstrate respect for your audience. By employing these ten tenets in all your writing, you can create positive relationships, ones that can endure.

–Rich Maggiani

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