How to Improve the Clarity of Your Message
There's no surprise that clarifying the meaning of your messages helps reduce, and even eliminate, wasted time and frustration. If you want to maximize your time, efficiency, and effectiveness in your business, it's important that readers go away with the message you intended for them to receive. But readers can easily misinterpret the meaning of your message. Then add a few distractions and a super-busy schedule (the life many of us lead), and readers may not even question their initial reaction to the message.
To improve the clarity of your message, whether it is an email or a service agreement, the first step is to consider what type of written document or message it is. Some forms of communication don't require much detail while others demand it. Text messages, for instance, are typically quick, and each message can be added to a compilation of messages. Email messages or letters, on the other hand, require more details because more time passes between correspondence, typically.
When we misuse a form of communication, we are risking wasting the recipient's time, as well as our own.
For example, a coworker of mine was exchanging emails with a client the other week. They were talking about his project and in a reply email, my coworker asked him if he were out. He wrote back and said he was out of the office. That wasn't what she meant. She really meant, "are you out of product?". So, more emails were exchanged.
This example was a reminder to me that we need to be as clear as we can whenever we are writing, whether it is an email to a client, an instruction for an assistant, or a message to our target audience. While we tend to rush through things in our modern world, we need to remember that the recipients of our messages live in their own distracted worlds where many things vie for their attention.
When it comes to email, by the time the recipient reviews your email, he has already moved on to other tasks and has become distracted from what you and he have already discussed. He may or may not take the time to review the rest of the email exchange, and if you fail to clarify upfront, you may find yourself clarifying later.
Once we have assessed the level of clarity needed, we then need to ask ourselves if the recipient could easily misinterpret what we mean. Is there any room for misinterpretation? If so, how can we write it so that it is clear?
One way to make it easier to improve the clarity of our message is to set it aside. Work to clarify your message by adding details, then set it aside for a few minutes (or a few days). Go back to it later and fix any points that are still unclear. Instead of asking "are you out?", ask "are you out of paper?" Say exactly what you mean. And if you are writing an email on a smartphone that has an auto-correct feature, review your message with a close eye.
Top Photo Credit: Topfer
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