Clarity

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In today's fast-paced world, clear communication has become more important than ever. With information overload and constant distractions, ensuring your message is understood and resonates with your audience is crucial for achieving your goals. This is where clarity, one of the 6Cs of effective communication, comes into play.

The Power of Clarity: 7 Tips for Crystal-Clear Communication

Why is Clarity Important?

Clarity refers to the ability to express your thoughts and ideas in a way that is easy for others to understand. It involves using concise language, avoiding jargon, and organizing your thoughts logically.

When your communication is clear, your audience is more likely to:

  • Pay attention: A clear message is easier to follow and retain, keeping your audience engaged.
  • Understand your intent: They can accurately grasp the meaning behind your words and avoid misinterpretations.
  • Take action: A clear call to action motivates your audience to respond in the desired way.
  • Remember your message: Clear communication leaves a lasting impression and makes your message more memorable.

Compromising on the clarity of expression can create communication barriersOpens in new window. A messageOpens in new window that is clear takes into account the intellectual, emotional, and perceptual levels of the intended receiver. It prioritizes conveying a thought rather than impressing the receiver.

In the following examples, the statements at the top lack clarity as they aim to impress the receiver. In contrast, the clear statements below are crafted to express the thought effectively.

To impress:

According to surveys conducted by experts in the field, data consistently shows that worker satisfaction, a truly worthy goal of any enterprise is increased together with a correspondent increase in net profit by prudently investing in a superior on-the-job training program.

To express:

Surveys consistently show that investment in on-the-job training increases profits and improves worker satisfaction.

Important Hint! 
  • Revise messages and make changes accordingly to enhance clarity.

Sometimes, you may feel reluctant to make changes in messages that you create. However, strive to form the habit of rewriting to improve clarity.

Principles of Clarity

Use the following points to check messages to ensure you adhere to the principles of clarity when expressing your thoughts:

  • Select appropriate words.
  • Place words in an orderly sequence.
  • Limit the use of 'it' and 'there'.
  • Position phrases correctly.
  • Position clauses correctly.
  • Keep sentences short.
  1. Select Appropriate Words

    Selecting appropriate words to convey ideas in the form of a message is crucial as it enhances understanding between sender and receiver.

    Words that look alike or sound alike should be avoided because they tend to cause confusion.

    Verify word meanings in a dictionary to avoid offending or misleading a reader. When preparing spoken messages, use a dictionary to verify pronunciations.

  2. Place Words in an Orderly Sequence

    Having your messages read aloud can prove helpful to reveal unclear word placement. If after you reread the statement the present words order sounds awkward or unconvincing, try a different word arrangement.

    When English is the primary language, the pattern of subject before verb usually provides the clearest sequence.

    The remarks “Baked is the bread” and “Scrambled are your eggs” sound awkward. Both statements place the verb before the subject, and the order appears illogical.

    In the following examples, notice how placing the subject before the verb makes the sentences easier to read and understand.

    Unclear Word Order
    • Enclosed is your check.
    • Hot was the tea.
    Clear Word Order
    • Your check is enclosed.
    • The tea was hot.
  3. Handling Pronoun Confusion

    When using a pronoun, make sure the pronoun restates the intended reference, the antecedent. Change the word order or word choice when any confusion exists between a pronoun and an antecedent.

    Sentences containing expressions such as his or hers, he and she, or him or her are confusing to readers. Try rewriting the sentence with a plural antecedent and plural pronouns.

    The following examples illustrate how to correct unclear pronoun references:

    1. Unclear Antecedent:
      • Shigeko spoke with Angela while she completed the travel voucher.
        (Does she refer to Shegeko or to Angela?)
      Clear Antecedent:
      • Shigeko completed the travel voucher while she spoke with Angela |or:
      • While completing the travel voucher, Shigeko spoke with Angela.
    2. Unclear Antecedent
      • Pronouns should not be used in definitions because they have unclear meanings.
        (They could refer to pronouns or to definitions.)
      Clear Antecedent
      • Definitions containing pronouns may have unclear meanings. |or:
      • Pronouns used in definitions may have unclear meanings.
  4. Limit Use of "It" and "There"

    ItOpens in new window, an indefinite reference, often causes the reader to search for a correct meaning or relationship.

    With a minimum of effort, you can state exactly what you mean and limit the use of it.

    By being specific, you also may shorten your message. Compare the following sentences:

    Indefinite “It”
    • It is recommended that you register early.
    • After the program ends, it is time for you to leave.
    Improved Clarity
    • Please register early.
    • After the program ends, you may leave.

    Reducing the Use of "There"

    Just as removing "it" from sentences often improves clarity, so does reducing the use of "thereOpens in new window."

    When used correctly, the word "there" refers to a specific place. Note how both clarity and brevity improve when "there" is eliminated in the following examples:

    Indefinite “There”
    • There are six steps you can use to ensure message clarity.
    • There will be a display of traditional Kimonos in Building 71 on June 11.
    Improved Clarity
    • You can use six steps to ensure message clarity.
    • Traditional kimonos will be displayed in Building 71 on June 11.
  5. Positioning Phrases Correctly

    HumorOpens in new window can be an asset in messages. However, you want the reader to laugh with you, not at you. Incorrectly placed phrases can create unintended humor, cause misunderstanding, and reduce your credibility.

    Correctly positioned phrases reduce the chance of unintended humor, as shown in these examples:

    Incorrect Positioning
    • Victor ordered rugs for the new apartment of various colors.
    • The book was found in Michiko’s office with full-page illustrations.
    Correct Positioning
    • Victor ordered rugs of various colors for the new apartment.
    • The book with full-page illustrations was found in Michiko’s office.
  6. Positioning Clauses Correctly

    The words "which" and "that" frequently introduce a clause. If the sentence is clear and correct without the clause, the clause is nonrestrictive and should be set off with commas.

    When the clause is needed for clarity or correctness, the clause is restrictive, and commas should not be inserted.

    "Which" generally introduces a nonrestrictive clause, and "that" generally introduces a restrictive clause.

    Correctly placed clauses make the meaning clear. Incorrectly placed clauses can create confusion, as shown in the following examples:

    Incorrect Positioning
    • Julia returned the support cast for her injured leg that she bought.
    • Please place your donation in the jar, which is appreciated.
    Correct Positioning
    • Julia returned the support cast that she bought for her injured leg.
    • Please place your donation, which is appreciated, in the jar.
  7. Keeping Sentences Short

    State your message in as few words as possible. Lengthy sentences often cause readers to lose the intended meaning. Most sentences range from 13 to 30 words; the average sentence contains 16 words.

    Short sentences are forceful and emphatic. However, they can become choppy unless you write thoughtfully.

    Combining words into sentences that show concern for the reader and are easy to understand helps maintain courtesy and clarity with brief sentences. The next C quality, Conciseness, discusses techniques for writing concise messages.

Conclusion

Clarity is not just about speaking clearly; it's about ensuring your message is received and understood exactly as intended. By incorporating these tips into your communication style, you can enhance your effectiveness and achieve your communication goals. Remember, clear communication is not just a skill; it's a powerful tool that can help you connect with others, build relationships, and achieve success in all areas of your life.

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