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Discover the secrets to effective business writing and crafting messages that others want to read and act on. Judy Steiner-Williams, senior lecturer at Kelley School of Business, introduces you to the 10 Cs of strong business communication and provides you with before-and-after writing samples that give you the opportunity to apply each principle and sharpen your communication skills. Judy also points out common grammar and writing mistakes and shares special considerations for formats like emails and reports.
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- Concrete terms refer to objects or events that are specific, they give exact information and don't require your reader to try to guess your meaning. Effective business writers use those specific meaningful words, rather than vague words that are open to multiple interpretations. Look at these words what do they mean? some, several, many, a few, a lot Let's test their meaning. Get several chairs set up and bring a lot of the blue handouts to the meeting.
Several could range from three to 50. A lot could mean 10 to 100. As you can see, those vague words are meaningless and create communication breakdowns. Have you ever written to a subordinate or received from a superior the message: get the report to me as soon as possible? Did your subordinate get it to you when you really wanted it? Or were you chastised by your supervisor because you were late? What if the message had said please send me an electronic copy of the Wilson report number 223 by 5 pm Friday, March the 30th? That's concrete and removes all doubt of what is being requested.
Has your boss ever told you or have you ever said to your subordinate you need to work harder or you need to work on being a better team leader? How will you know when you are successfully working harder? Or, when you are more effectively leading your team? Each of us interprets those statements differently. Let's look at how those could be written with more concrete language. You need to arrive to work on time and contact six clients each day. Now you know what was meant by work harder.
Concrete wording for a better team leader might be: taking a course on team dynamics will help you learn how to get everyone involved in team meetings. Other vague terms are: In the near future. A large amount. Quickly. They said. Identify of vagueness in this example. They said that in the near future a large number of employees will be let go. Someone needs to do something quickly to keep that from happening. The vague words in the sentence are they, near future, large number, someone, do something, and quickly.
Here's the same sentence with the vague words changed to concrete words. Our company CEO announced that the workforce will be reduced by 20 percent by the end of the year unless each department eliminates all over time. To make your writing more concrete and less likely to result in miscommunication follow these steps. Start by questioning every statement that doesn't include specifics, soon, for example. Look for words that can easily have multiple meanings such as, work harder.
For those words that cause the reader to have to imagine what you mean such as make, this report better. Your readers may interpret those words and phrases very differently from what you had in mind. Using concrete language results in fewer follow-up messages to ask for something to be clarified and in less frustration because everyone understands the message.
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