Two ingredients for successful communications: Clarity and Simplicity

Fri, 09/04/2020 - 09:36
by Renée VanderHagen, CPCU

In our industry, our letters/emails become a product for the Company, and may often become exhibits in depositions and trials. So here are a few ways to strengthen this important skill. 

Two ingredients for successful communications:  Clarity and Simplicity

CLARITY- the right words for the occasion

•             Transition words like “however,” “indeed” “additionally,”  “moreover”,  “in any event” break up the flow of a sentence.  Like a hiccup.  Use them sparingly.

•             A text filled with long sentences will cause the reader to lose the point of it all.  Use short sentences to make your points resonate, and use an occasional longer sentence to create a flow.  Example from the article below:

This sentence has five words. Here are five more words.  Five word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous.  Listen to what’s happening.  The writing is getting boring. It’s like a stuck record.  The ear wants some variety.

Now listen. I vary the sentence length and the words sing.  It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony.  I’ll use short sentences.  And I’ll use medium length sentences.  Sometimes when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him or her with a longer sentence.  It will be one that burns with energy and builds with all the sound of a crescendo, the roll of drums, the crash of cymbals- sounds that say: listen to this because it’s important.

SIMPLICITY – Less is more

•             Eliminate concessions of belief or opinion.  Totally eliminate “I believe”  “I think”  because by virtue of you writing it, the reader knows it’s your thought, belief or submission.

•             Dial back your emotions.  Your emotion is not going to come through on paper and make your message any more persuasive by using words like “absurd,” or outrageous,” or “ridiculous.”

•             To help make a point(s), leave off words like “really”, “very”, “absolutely,” “Certainly,” “Definitely,” “with regard to,” “needless to say.” As the article states, most of these words are trying to tell the reader how absolutely, certainly, definitely serious you are.  Needless to say, eliminating these and your message becomes more crisp.

Since coming across this article on Law360 recently, “7 Keys to Drafting Effective Legal Briefs,”  I have used some of these points and noticed a difference in how my letters and emails sound.

Try them for yourself, and see if your letter or email sounds better to your ear.  If so, then it’s better for your reader, too.

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