The art and science of clear communications: Business Writing Skills with Nick Read
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
When he made that statement back in the dark ages of 20th century, Albert Einstein could likely never have predicted how true his words would become.
In today’s technology-driven, screen-filled, multi-tasking world, the need to
“explain it simply” is not just an admirable communications goal, it is fundamental to business success.
So says Nick Read, a corporate communications professional who will facilitate the University of Auckland’s forthcoming Executive Education course, Business Writing Skills.
“The principles of effective communication haven’t changed since we were cavemen and women. What has changed is the sheer volume of written communication we have to deal with every day. So we write in haste and read in haste,” say Nick, noting that on average, we spend less than four minutes on each of the 123 business emails we deal with daily.
Research shows a staggering 70 percent of mistakes in business are due to poor communication. A third of emails go unopened. Only 50 percent of emails survive past the first screen. Only a quarter of remaining readers will go beyond screen three. It’s little wonder poor communication can lead to increased stress, poor decision-making, muddied audit trails, legal disputes and business losses.
So, what can be done to ensure our communications are effective? And how to help them stand out amid the constant clutter of content?
Clear communication, says Nick, can be achieved using a mix of evidence-based tools, techniques and strategies. His Business Writing course responds to the demands of busy writers and readers. A 5-step process helps writers turn their scrambled thoughts into a clear, concise easy-to–read message. Tips like making subject lines compelling, putting key messages up front and creating clear signposts help guide the busy reader. Tidying up those irksome spelling, punctuation and grammar glitches are also part of the workshop.
The course also includes strategies that focus on how our brains interpret information.
“Neuroscience confirms that we do not think clearly or logically most of the time. Our thoughts are made up of connected fragments of pictures, memories, emotions,” says Nick, who says that when we are stressed and busy, we are not able to think clearly and strategically.
“Habits of thinking make it difficult for us to think differently. Neuroscience helps us to create strategies for keeping ourselves resourceful, for thinking outside the box and communicating clearly.”
If this approach sounds daunting, fear not. Nick maintains that, once habituated, these “thinking strategies” lead to faster, easier and more effective communications.
But if you’re still looking for nuts and bolts tips, rest assured – they are also on the agenda. Participants submit writing samples, before and after the course, and they are coached on how to make their writing more readable.
After taking the course, attests Nick, it is not unusual for low readability scores of around 15 to soar to 50-60 or higher.
Ultimately, says Nick, the most compelling reason to learn to write clearly is its positive impact on professional (and personal) relationships.
“So much to write, so little time. We know our readers don’t have time to untangle our messages to understand them easily. And we can’t demand that audiences read what we have written. But we can help ensure that what we’ve written is clear, concise and easy to understand.”
No doubt, Einstein would agree.
Register for the Executive Education Business Writing Skills course here.