Archive | October 2014

The 7 Cs of Communication A Checklist for Clear Communication

Think of how often you communicate with people during your day.

You write emails, facilitate meetings, participate in conference calls, create reports, devise presentations, debate with your colleagues… the list goes on.

We can spend almost our entire day communicating.

So, how can we provide a huge boost to our productivity? We can make sure that we communicate in the clearest, most effective way possible.

This is why the 7 Cs of Communication are helpful. The 7 Cs provide a checklist for making sure that your meetings  , emails  , conference calls  , reports  , and presentations   are well constructed and clear – so your audience gets your message.


According to the 7 Cs, communication needs to be:

In this article, we look at each of the 7 Cs of Communication, and we’ll illustrate each element with both good and bad examples.

  1. Clear

When writing or speaking to someone, be clear about your goal or message. What is your purpose in communicating with this person? If you’re not sure, then your audience won’t be sure either.

To be clear, try to minimize the number of ideas in each sentence. Make sure that it’s easy for your reader to understand your meaning. People shouldn’t have to “read between the lines” and make assumptions on their own to understand what you’re trying to say.

Bad Example

Hi John,

I wanted to write you a quick note about Daniel, who’s working in your department. He’s a great asset, and I’d like to talk to you more about him when you have time.

Best,

Skip

What is this email about? Well, we’re not sure. First, if there are multiple Daniels in John’s department, John won’t know who Skip is talking about.

Next, what is Daniel doing, specifically, that’s so great? We don’t know that either. It’s so vague that John will definitely have to write back for more information.

Last, what is the purpose of this email? Does Skip simply want to have an idle chat about Daniel, or is there some more specific goal here? There’s no sense of purpose to this message, so it’s a bit confusing.

Good Example

Hi John,

I wanted to write you a quick note about Daniel Kedar, who’s working in your department. In recent weeks, he’s helped the IT department through several pressing deadlines on his own time.

We’ve got a tough upgrade project due to run over the next three months, and his knowledge and skills would prove invaluable. Could we please have his help with this work?

I’d appreciate speaking with you about this. When is it best to call you to discuss this further?

Best wishes,

Skip

This second message is much clearer, because the reader has the information he needs to take action.


  1. Concise

When you’re concise in your communication, you stick to the point and keep it brief. Your audience doesn’t want to read six sentences when you could communicate your message in three.

  • Are there any adjectives or “filler words” that you can delete? You can often eliminate words like “for instance,” “you see,” “definitely,” “kind of,” “literally,” “basically,” or “I mean.”
  • Are there any unnecessary sentences?
  • Have you repeated the point several times, in different ways?

Bad Example

Hi Matt,

I wanted to touch base with you about the email marketing campaign we kind of sketched out last Thursday. I really think that our target market is definitely going to want to see the company’s philanthropic efforts. I think that could make a big impact, and it would stay in their minds longer than a sales pitch.

For instance, if we talk about the company’s efforts to become sustainable, as well as the charity work we’re doing in local schools, then the people that we want to attract are going to remember our message longer. The impact will just be greater.

What do you think?

Jessica

This email is too long! There’s repetition, and there’s plenty of “filler” taking up space.

Good Example

Watch what happens when we’re concise and take out the filler words:

Hi Matt,

I wanted to quickly discuss the email marketing campaign that we analyzed last Thursday. Our target market will want to know about the company’s philanthropic efforts, especially our goals to become sustainable and help local schools.

This would make a far greater impact, and it would stay in their minds longer than a traditional sales pitch.

What do you think?

Jessica


  1. Concrete

When your message is concrete, then your audience has a clear picture of what you’re telling them. There are details (but not too many!) and vivid facts, and there’s laser-like focus. Your message is solid.

Bad Example

Consider this advertising copy:

The Lunchbox Wizard will save you time every day.

A statement like this probably won’t sell many of these products. There’s no passion, no vivid detail, nothing that creates emotion, and nothing that tells people in the audience why they should care. This message isn’t concrete enough to make a difference.

Good Example

How much time do you spend every day packing your kids’ lunches? No more! Just take a complete Lunchbox Wizard from your refrigerator each day to give your kids a healthy lunch and have more time to play or read with them!

This copy is better because there are vivid images. The audience can picture spending quality time with their kids – and what parent could argue with that? And mentioning that the product is stored in the refrigerator explains how the idea is practical. The message has come alive through these details.


  1. Correct

When your communication is correct, it fits your audience. And correct communication is also error-free communication.

  • Do the technical terms you use fit your audience’s level of education or knowledge?
  • Have you checked your writing for grammatical errors? Remember, spell checkers won’t catch everything.
  • Are all names and titles spelled correctly?

Bad Example

Hi Daniel,

Thanks so much for meeting me at lunch today! I enjoyed our conservation, and I’m looking forward to moving ahead on our project. I’m sure that the two-weak deadline won’t be an issue.

Thanks again, and I’ll speak to you soon!

Best,

Jack Miller

If you read that example fast, then you might not have caught any errors. But on closer inspection, you’ll find two. Can you see them?

The first error is that the writer accidentally typed conservation instead of conversation. This common error can happen when you’re typing too fast. The other error is using weak instead of week.

Again, spell checkers won’t catch word errors like this, which is why it’s so important to proofread everything!


  1. Coherent

When your communication is coherent, it’s logical. All points are connected and relevant to the main topic, and the tone and flow of the text is consistent.

Bad Example

Traci,

I wanted to write you a quick note about the report you finished last week. I gave it to Michelle to proof, and she wanted to make sure you knew about the department meeting we’re having this Friday. We’ll be creating an outline for the new employee handbook.

Thanks,

Michelle

As you can see, this email doesn’t communicate its point very well. Where is Michelle’s feedback on Traci’s report? She started to mention it, but then she changed the topic to Friday’s meeting.

Good Example

Hi Traci,

I wanted to write you a quick note about the report you finished last week. I gave it to Michelle to proof, and she let me know that there are a few changes that you’ll need to make. She’ll email you her detailed comments later this afternoon.

Thanks,

Michelle

Notice that in the good example, Michelle does not mention Friday’s meeting. This is because the meeting reminder should be an entirely separate email. This way, Traci can delete the report feedback email after she makes her changes, but save the email about the meeting as her reminder to attend. Each email has only one main topic.


  1. Complete

In a complete message, the audience has everything they need to be informed and, if applicable, take action.

  • Does your message include a “call to action,” so that your audience clearly knows what you want them to do?
  • Have you included all relevant information – contact names, dates, times, locations, and so on?

Bad Example

Hi everyone,

I just wanted to send you all a reminder about the meeting we’re having tomorrow!

See you then,

Chris

This message is not complete, for obvious reasons. What meeting? When is it? Where? Chris has left his team without the necessary information.

Good Example

Hi everyone,

I just wanted to remind you about tomorrow’s meeting on the new telecommuting policies. The meeting will be at 10:00 a.m. in the second-level conference room. Please let me know if you can’t attend.

See you then,

Chris


  1. Courteous

Courteous communication is friendly, open, and honest. There are no hidden insults or passive-aggressive tones. You keep your reader’s viewpoint in mind, and you’re empathetic to their needs.

Bad Example

Jeff,

I wanted to let you know that I don’t appreciate how your team always monopolizes the discussion at our weekly meetings. I have a lot of projects, and I really need time to get my team’s progress discussed as well. So far, thanks to your department, I haven’t been able to do that. Can you make sure they make time for me and my team next week?

Thanks,

Phil

Well, that’s hardly courteous! Messages like this can potentially start office-wide fights. And this email does nothing but create bad feelings, and lower productivity and morale. A little bit of courtesy, even in difficult situations, can go a long way.

Good Example

Hi Jeff,

I wanted to write you a quick note to ask a favor. During our weekly meetings, your team does an excellent job of highlighting their progress. But this uses some of the time available for my team to highlight theirs. I’d really appreciate it if you could give my team a little extra time each week to fully cover their progress reports.

Thanks so much, and please let me know if there’s anything I can do for you!

Best,

Phil

What a difference! This email is courteous and friendly, and it has little chance of spreading bad feelings around the office.

Note:

There are a few variations of the 7 Cs of Communication:

  • Credible– Does your message improve or highlight your credibility  ? This is especially important when communicating with an audience that doesn’t know much about you.
  • Creative– Does your message communicate creatively? Creative communication helps keep your audience engaged.

Key Points

All of us communicate every day. The better we communicate, the more credibility we’ll have with our clients, our boss, and our colleagues.

Use the 7 Cs of Communication as a checklist for all of your communication. By doing this, you’ll stay clear, concise, concrete, correct, coherent, complete, and courteous.

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How to write a summary in English

You may have to write a summary to prove that you have read and understood a text or article in English – or a number of texts and articles.

Tips for writing a summary

  1. First, read the text or article to get a general idea of the subject matter as well as the author’s attitude.
  2. Then read through a second time to identify the main points – either paragraph by paragraph, or heading by heading / sub-heading.

Identify the topic sentences. These are usually the first sentences of each paragraph. They give the main idea for the paragraph (with the following sentences supporting this main idea). Also look for the concluding sentence in the paragraph, as this often summarises the paragraph.

  1. Now write the main idea of each paragraph (or section) in one sentence. Use your own words, rather than the author’s words. This is important: if you copy what the author has written, you risk writing too much!
  2. Start pulling out key facts or findings from the text which support the author’s main idea (or ideas). You may need to either summarise these (if there are a lot of them) or decide which are the most important or relevant.

However, if you are summarising a number of texts or articles, start to look for common themes running through all the texts. Are the texts broadly in agreement, or do they have different points of view or findings? Choose only a few supporting details to illustrate similarity or contrast.

  1. When you have written all your sentences, you should be able to get a good overview of the whole text. This overview can be your introduction to your summary. In your introduction, you’ll also need to give the author’s name and the title of the text you are summarising.

Your summary should now look like this:

Text / author information
Your overview (the introduction)
The single sentences summarising the main ideas, with the key facts or figures that support the ideas.

  1. At this point, you’ll need to organise all the information in the most logical way. You might also have repeated ideas or details that you’ll need to delete.
  2. Don’t forget to includelinking wordsso your reader can easily follow your thoughts. This will help your summary flow better, and help you avoid writing short sentences without any connection between them.

Important points to remember

Don’t copy the article. Instead, paraphrase. For example, “the author claims / states / suggests …”
If you quote directly from the original text, use quotation marks. (Minimise how often you do this.)

Don’t give your opinion.

Edit what you write. Check your English grammar, spelling and punctuation mistakes.

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Business English: Making Appointments

Being able to make, change and cancel appointments is an important skill in business English. Here are some expressions you can use to do this concisely and clearly.

Asking for an appointment

(formal situations)
I would like to arrange an appointment to discuss….
Please would you indicate a suitable time and place to meet?

(neutral)
Would it be possible to meet on (date) at your / our offices to discuss…?

(informal)
Can we meet (up) to talk about…?

Suggesting a time

(neutral)
Would Tuesday suit you?
Would you be available on Tuesday?

(informal)
What about…?
Let’s say…

Agreeing to an appointment

(formal)
Thank you for your email. I would be available to discuss…. on (date) at (time and place)

(neutral / informal)
Tuesday sounds fine. Shall we say around (time) at (place)?

Saying a time is not convenient

(formal)
Unfortunately, I will be away on business during the week of July 6 – 11, so I will be unable to meet you then. However, if you were available in the following week, I would be glad to arrange a meeting with you.

I will be out of the office on Wednesday and Thursday, but I will be available on Friday afternoon.

Cancelling an appointment

(formal)
Unfortunately, due to some unforeseen business, I will be unable to keep our appointment for tomorrow afternoon.

Would it be possible to arrange another time later in the week?

(neutral)
I’m afraid that I have to cancel our meeting on Wednesday, as something unexpected has come up.

Would you be free to meet early next week?

Apologising

I apologise for any inconvenience. (formal)
I’m sorry about cancelling. (informal)

Asking for confirmation

Please confirm if this date and time is suitable / convenient for you. (neutral)
Can you let me know if this is OK for you? (informal)

Writing to someone you don’t know

If you don’t know the person, you’ll need to give some background information about yourself or your company.

I am… and I would be interested to meet you to discuss…

I would be grateful if you could indicate a convenient time to meet during this week.

I look forward to hearing from you.

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Rights and responsibilities at work

Just starting a job? Here are some useful words and phrases to describe your rights and responsibilities at work.

Most employees and employers will sign a contract, which sets out terms and conditions, salary and holiday entitlements, along with procedures forgrievances or dismissal. As contracts are legally binding, both sides should comply with these procedures and with the terms of the contract.

In some countries there is minimum wage legislation (meaning workers cannot be paid under this limit), as well as health and safety laws to protect employees from industrial and workplace accidents. Many workers (though often not those in “sensitive” sectors) can join a union, which (in return for an annual membership fee) will help to protect the workers’ rights and will negotiate pay increases for its members, or ballot (organise) strikes.

Over the last 100 years or so, workers, unions and politicians have fought for an increasing number of rights, such asanti-discrimination (making it illegal for employers to discriminate against workers on the basis of their gender, religion, sexuality or disability); maternity (and paternity) leavesick leave, and pension contributions. Some practices (such as child labour) are illegal in many countries, although the fight against exploitation still continues. A big issue now in the UK is that of unpaid internships (where graduates work for nothing except the chance to gain experience).

If employers fall foul of employment law (i.e. break the law), employees can take their employers to court to win damages. For example, this could occur for cases of unfair dismissal (illegally sacking someone), or constructive dismissal (where the employee is forced to resign).

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How to write better English

If it takes you twice as long to write something in English as it does in your own language, then try these tips.

Before you start

Ask yourself “Why am I writing?” By thinking about the purpose of your text (perhaps you want to explain something, or ask something etc) you can choose the most appropriate vocabulary and level of formality.

Who are you writing to? Who is your reader, and what is their level of knowledge or English? Choose your language carefully and avoid words and expressions that are too technical or complicated.

Plan before you write. Prepare for writing by making a plan, and looking up all the words you need before you start writing.

A plan helps you keep a clear focus and helps you avoid repetition. Just jot down the points you want to make and order them into logical paragraphs. Remember that paragraphs shouldn’t be too long. In fact, in certain types of writing, such as emails, your paragraphs can be one sentence long.

It’s quicker to look up all the words you need before you write so you don’t interrupt your “flow” of writing.

What to write

Say why you are writing in the first sentence. Use phrases such as “I am writing to enquire about…” so that your reader understands why you are writing. If you’re replying to someone, you can write “Thank you for your email.”

Use standard greetings and endings. Most letters begin with “Dear Mr X” or “Dear Ms X” and should end “Yours sincerely” (or in American English, “Sincerely yours”). If you know your reader quite well, you can be less formal with “Dear (first name)” and end “Best wishes” or “Best regards”. If you absolutely have to write “Dear Sir” end with “Yours faithfully” rather than “Yours sincerely”.

In emails you can start with the first name “Jane”, or precede it with “Hi”. If you are writing to a number of people, you can leave out the greeting. To end an email you can write “Best wishes”, “Kind regards”, “Thanks” or in British English “Cheers”.

Use a closing expression in letters such as “Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of further assistance.” In emails you can write, for example, “Many thanks for your help.”

In letters, write the date out in full: 7 June 2006 or June 7, 2006. Avoid using abbreviated dates such as (7/6/2006) as although British speakers will understand this as 7 June, Americans will understand it to be July 6.

Extra tips

Use linking expressions to connect ideas and sentences. Words such as ‘and’, ‘but’, ‘therefore’, ‘however’, guide your reader through your ideas and make your writing easier to read. See also Linking Words in our Grammarsection.

Be careful of referring words such as ‘this’ and ‘it’. Make sure they refer to the right word or phrase.

Write as concisely as possible. Don’t make your sentences too long, as they might become difficult to read. Avoid more than two ideas in any sentence.

Follow this word order principle to keep your sentences concise:

Subject – Verb – Object – Manner – Place – Time
(Who — Does—What— How— Where- When)

“Please could you send us the confirmation as quickly as possible.”

“The Managing Director will visit the factory on Monday 10 July at 10 am.”

Edit what you write. Use your computer spell-check, but check for grammatical mistakes yourself.

Edit out unnecessary words and phrases and avoid old-fashioned words such as “hereby”, “herewith” and above-mentioned”. Rather than writing “We hereby enclose a brochure”, get to the point with “We are enclosing a brochure.”

Read what you have written out aloud. Is it easy to read, or are the sentences too long? Have you put in enough punctuation?

Get someone else to check what you have written. Another person may see something that is unclear or a mistake.

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Applying for a job in English

Here’s some essential English vocabulary for a job hunt.

Job searching

There are many ways of finding out about a job. You could spot a job advertisement in the newspaper, or in a trade publication. In the UK, you could see avacancy in the Job Centre. You could also see alisting on an online job board, hear about an opening from a friend or colleague, or more rarely, be contacted about a position from a recruiter orheadhunter.

Applying

If you’re interested in a company, you could write aletter of speculation. For jobs you see online, you might fill in an application (form). Frequently, though, you reply to an ad with your CV (resume in American English) and a covering letter.

If you are shortlisted, you might be called in for an interview (an in-person or face-to-face interview). You might also have a phone interview.

The hiring manager or someone from the HR department will talk to you to find out if you can do the job, if you want the job, and whether you will fit in with the team. An interview is also your opportunity to find out if the company is a good match for you.

If they like you (and you like them) you’ll probably need to supply references, which are checked by the company. Then a firm offer can be made, and you can start negotiating salary and other benefits.

Tips for success!

Tailor (or customise) your CV for the role you apply for. Don’t just send out the same CV for each job. Make sure you proofread it for grammar and spelling mistakes.

Be the first to hear about a vacancy or opening
Develop your network of contacts. Attend industry events (such as fairs or conferences), be a member of industry organisations. Work your contacts: ask them for information or advice, and do the same for them.

Build your reputation in the field. Participate in discussions, give talks, publish papers or articles. Take part in online discussions via forums and blogs to come to the notice of thought-leaders in your industry.

If you are specialised enough, with hard-to-find skills and experience, develop your relationship with recruiters in your field. Help them to find suitable candidates for vacancies they’ve been hired to fill, and you will be valuable to them.

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Vocabulary and phrases for making presentations in English

Overviews

After you give your opening statement, you should give a brief overview of your presentation. This includes what your presentation is about, how long you will take and how you are going to handle questions.

For example, a presentation to sales staff could start like this:
“Welcome / “Hello everyone.”

Opening statement
“As you all know, this company is losing its market share. But we are being asked to increase
sales by 20 – 25%. How can we possibly increase sales in a shrinking market?”

Overview
“Today I am going to talk to you about how we can do this. My presentation will be in three parts. Firstly I am going to look at the market and the background. Then I am going to talk to you about our new products and how they fit in. Finally, I’m going to examine some selling strategies that will help us increase our sales by 20%. The presentation will probably take around 20 minutes. There will be time for questions at the end of my talk.”

Useful language for overviews

“My presentation is in three parts.”
“My presentation is divided into three main sections.”
“Firstly, secondly, thirdly, finally…”
“I’m going to…
take a look at…
talk about…
examine…
tell you something about the background…
give you some facts and figures…
fill you in on the history of…
concentrate on…
limit myself to the question of…

“Please feel free to interrupt me if you have questions.”
“There will be time for questions at the end of the presentation.”
“I’d be grateful if you could ask your questions after the presentation.”

The main body of the presentation

During your presentation, it’s a good idea to remind your audience occasionally of the benefit of what you are saying.

“As I said at the beginning…”
“This, of course, will help you (to achieve the 20% increase).”
“As you remember, we are concerned with…”
“This ties in with my original statement…”
“This relates directly to the question I put to you before…”

Keeping your audience with you

Remember that what you are saying is new to your audience. You are clear about the structure of your talk, but let your audience know when you are moving on to a new point. You can do this by saying something like “right”, or “OK”. You can also use some of the following expressions:

“I’d now like to move on to…”
“I’d like to turn to…”
“That’s all I have to say about…”
“Now I’d like to look at…”
“This leads me to my next point…”

If you are using index cards, putting the link on the cards will help you remember to keep the audience with you. In addition, by glancing at your index cards you will be pausing – this will also help your audience to realise that you are moving on to something new.

Language for using visuals

It’s important to introduce your visual to the audience. You can use the following phrases:

“This graph shows you…”
“Take a look at this…”
“If you look at this, you will see…”
“I’d like you to look at this…”
“This chart illustrates the figures…”
“This graph gives you a break down of…”

Give your audience enough time to absorb the information on the visual. Pause to allow them to look at the information and then explain why the visual is important:

“As you can see…”
“This clearly shows …”
“From this, we can understand how / why…”
“This area of the chart is interesting…”

Summarising

At the end of your presentation, you should summarise your talk and remind the audience of what you have told them:

“That brings me to the end of my presentation. I’ve talked about…”
“Well, that’s about it for now. We’ve covered…”
“So, that was our marketing strategy. In brief, we…”
“To summarise, I…”

Relate the end of your presentation to your opening statement:

“So I hope that you’re a little clearer on how we can achieve sales growth of 20%.”
“To return to the original question, we can achieve…”
“So just to round the talk off, I want to go back to the beginning when I asked you…”
“I hope that my presentation today will help you with what I said at the beginning…”

Handling questions

Thank the audience for their attention and invite questions.

“Thank you for listening – and now if there are any questions, I would be pleased to answer them.”
“That brings me to the end of my presentation. Thank you for your attention. I’d be glad to answer any questions you might have.”

It’s useful to re-word the question, as you can check that you have understood the question and you can give yourself some time to think of an answer. By asking the question again you also make sure that other people in the audience understand the question.

“Thank you. So you would like further clarification on our strategy?”
“That’s an interesting question. How are we going to get voluntary redundancy?”
“Thank you for asking. What is our plan for next year?”

After you have answered your question, check that the person who asked you is happy with the answer.

“Does this answer your question?”
“Do you follow what I am saying?”
“I hope this explains the situation for you.”
“I hope this was what you wanted to hear!”

If you don’t know the answer to a question, say you don’t know. It’s better to admit to not knowing something than to guess and maybe get it wrong. You can say something like:

“That’s an interesting question. I don’t actually know off the top of my head, but I’ll try to get back to you later with an answer.”
“I’m afraid I’m unable to answer that at the moment. Perhaps I can get back to you later.”
“Good question. I really don’t know! What do you think?”
“That’s a very good question. However, we don’t have any figures on that, so I can’t give you an accurate answer.”
“Unfortunately, I’m not the best person to answer that.”

What can you say if things go wrong?

You think you’ve lost your audience? Rephrase what you have said:

“Let me just say that in another way.”
“Perhaps I can rephrase that.”
“Put another way, this means…”
“What I mean to say is…”

Can’t remember the word?

If it’s a difficult word for you – one that you often forget, or one that you have difficulty pronouncing – you should write it on your index card. Pause briefly, look down at your index card and say the word.

Using your voice

Don’t speak in a flat monotone – this will bore your audience. By varying your speed and tone, you will be able to keep your audience’s attention. Practise emphasising key words and pause in the right places – usually in between ideas in a sentence. For example “The first strategy involves getting to know our market (pause) and finding out what they want. (pause) Customer surveys (pause) as well as staff training (pause) will help us do this.”

Don’t forget – if you speak too fast you will lose your audience!

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