Communication and Leadership: You Cannot Influence People to Act, if You Are Not Understood
Leaders and managers need to be good communicators. You cannot lead or manage people if your guidance is not understood.
Communication requires constant practice and study. Communication requires succinctness, clarity and momentum to be understood.
Sir Harold Evans, published his book Do I make myself clear?: Why writing well matters in May 2017. The book provides leaders and managers useful tools and insights from the perspective of a lifelong professional communicator.
Evans is editor at large for Reuters. He is a former editor for London's "The Sunday Times" and "The Times". He is a best-selling author on the topic of American History. Evans also received the British Gold Award for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism.
A Checklist for Effective Writing
1. Start writing with nouns
a. Put the doer of things first, this keeps the sentence concrete and focused.
2. Write in the active voice
a. The active voice breathes life into writing. Verbs are strong. The writer gives emphasis to the order of subject, verb then object.
b. A good order for form is: make your statement, followed by supporting statements. Next paragraph, make your statement, followed by supporting statements…etc. If you want to build excitement in the reading; simply reverse the order for impact. Evans used the following example; "and though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing."
3. Ensure your writing is clear
a. Avoid abstract nouns.
i. If you use a word such as, we participated in extracurricular activities, change activities into the actual event e.g. we played baseball…we played football… we danced… etc.
ii. Abstract nouns are known as 'zombie nouns'. Zombie nouns kill verbs. Example from page 140; "The proliferation of nominalizations in a discursive formation may be an indication of a tendency toward pomposity and abstraction". Each emboldened word requires its own explanation. It appears zombie nouns often end in: ion, ity, cy, ty… Bottom line? Use solid nouns.
b. Limit the use of adjectives…adjectives suck the energy from sentences when not relevant.
c. Avoid using modifiers with verbs…modifiers suck the energy from the sentence.
4. Highlight your verbs by limiting the use of adjectives and modifiers
5. Remove unnecessary words
a. All words must have a purpose. Words establish the tempo, direction and focus of the message
6. Breathe life into your writing
a. Vary the number of words used per sentence
b. Use combinations of simple and compound sentences
c. Your writing needs to make a point
7. Kill prepositions
a. Prepositions convolute the message and add unnecessary words. Prepositions steal the reader's time.
b. If you want to lie, appear litigious or bureaucratic, obfuscate information, confuse people, or appear arrogant… feel free to use prepositions and fluff language
8. It's okay to use the same word several times in a paragraph
a. "Let there be light, then there was light" is okay. You don't have to say, "let there be light, then there was solar illumination" … the sentence becomes confusing.
9. Speak in the positive
a. Avoid using would not, will not, was not, did not, do not, is not, etc. These words can counter the momentum and meaning of a message.
10.Ensure your communication is clear and purposeful
a. Harold Evans identified several occasions to use the passive voice.
i. You don't know who committed the action
ii. "the receiver of the action merits more prominence than the doer"
iii. You use tact communicating the action of the doer
iv. When introducing the subject slows down the use of a verb
Evans, H. (2017). Amazon link: http://amzn.to/2EWOvST
Evans, H. (2017). Do I make myself clear?: Why writing well matters.