3.2 Clarity: using plain English
Plain English is a term used to describe clear, concise use of the English language that avoids unnecessary jargon or complication. The use of plain English is essential for effective written and spoken communication that takes place in organisations. It is often tempting to elaborate or extend the text, in order to provide additional information. Consequently, the communicator is always required to focus attention on the most important points, and to cut back any superfluous language. Plain English forces you to think more clearly about the content of the message, including the central arguments that are being developed. Using fewer words
Writers often find it difficult to believe that their text is open to further editing. There are three main techniques for shortening an existing draft.
Writers can remove fillers, hedges or redundant words. Fillers such as, of course are fine to use in conversation as they give you some extra time to think about what you say, but they can be omitted without affecting the message. The writer needs to replace any long-windes word groups with shorter noun groups. Long word groups can be a sign of insecurity on the part of the writer or speaker. People try to compensate for their lack of confidence in the message content by expressing it in grandiose terms. You can also switch from passive to active voice. The original address is written entirely in the 'passive' voice. This means that it takes the form 'object-verb-subject', rather than the active form, 'subject-verb-object'.
Using 'pictures' if possible
There is a popular saying that 'A picture paints a thousand words'. This is true of many organisational messages, where it is more effective to substitute images for spoken or written words. The term 'picture' can be interpreted very loosely for this purpose.
3.3 Style, grammar, presentation
Organisations often use different types of communication for different purposes. For example E-mail may commonly be used for communication among employees, but official communication may need to take the form of a printed letter. The style of these written forms of communication will vary. Some grammatical errors have very limited effect on communication. Sometimes using the wrong style, inorrect grammar or wrong presentation can result in misunderstanding, which can lead to costly and unnecessary problems in organisations. Furthermore, inaccuracies send meta messages, in addition to the main message that you are aiming to convey. For example, grammatical errors and omissions indicate that you, and the organisation that you represent, are careless and lack credibility and that you do not respect the recipient enough to check correspondence.
Beyond plain English? Using language creatively
Languages are living phenomena, and the English language is particularly vibrant, as it is in such widespread use across the globe. Today approximately four times as many people are communicating in English as a second language as English as a first language, and incraesingly communications in English involve no native speakers. New words and expressions are created all the time, while others are becoming redundant, losing their original meaning and fading away. The sheer richness and variety of expression can be of great value to the communicator; however, it also poses major problems. The essential requirement in effective communication is to generate shared meanings between sender and receiver. The dynamic nature of language lends it additional richness, but can also be a source of confusion. Pragmatics refers to the study of how we use language in social situations and how our choice of certain words influences how the receiver interprets our meaning. This includes the exploration of how we know what forms of language are appropriate and acceptable.
Metaphors, figurative expressions and idiom
Metaphors are words that are used in a creative rather than a literal way. They are often used as part of a figurative expression. Metaphors are also used to make abstract ideas more concrete. Metaphors are often found in the language of organisations. Metaphors can be used to give your messages greater impact. However, they are also a potential source of confusion if audiences are unfamiliar with the resulting figurative expression. Idiom refers to distinctive ways in which ideas are expressed in a particular language. The English language now includes a rich variety of local idioms. The expressions that people use and those that they understand, depend largely on where they acquired the language in question. Sometimes idiomatic language becomes more widely adopted.
Clichés and empty language
Cliché refers to words and expressions that have become so over-used that they lose their original meaning. Empty language consists of words, often including clichés, which are used purely for effect. The bussiness community is particularly prone to adopting and then over-usng fashionable terms, which are often slipped into a sentence for cosmetic effect rather than to convey anything meaningful.
Euphemism - the deliberate disguise of meaning
A euphemism is an innocuous word or phrase that is used to disguise or reduce the impact of an unpleasant reality. Hence, instead of saying that people have died, people may refer to them as having left us, or passed away. Euphemisms are a common feature in all forms of persuasive communication. However, if the primary objective is clear expression, they are best avoided.
Jargon and specialist terminology
Jargon refers to distinctive vocabulary or specialist terminology that is used by specialist groups, bit which may be unfamiliar to wider audiences.
3.5 Spoken English: additional communication issues
Most of the language issues discussed in previous sections can be applied equally to writen and spoken English. This section introduces two additional issues that are particularly relevant when English is spoken: the importance of emphasis and its connection with paralinguistics; and the non-verbal behaviours that are associated with the process of speaking.
Inflection and emphasis
Inflection in spoken English is where the speaker changes the pitch of her voice to place emphasis on particular words. Authors may achieve a similar effect in written language by altering the typeface. People who are very familiar with a particular spoken language are able to detect subtle variations in emphasis, and therefore in the meaning that the speaker is trying to convey. However, non-native speakers may miss some of these signals. The difference in meaning can be dramatic.
Paralinguistics: the role of non-verbal signals
Paralanguage refers to the range of sounds and other signals that people use to surround their spoken words. This includes sounds that are similar to actual words, intakes of breath, sighs, pauses and silences. Paralanguage has a very important function in all kinds of spoken language, including speeches, oral presentations and conversations. Paralanguage is one of several forms of non-verbal signalling, including eye contact, facial expression and gesture, that are used to reinforce words, and to introduce subtle differences into their meaning. These signals are also subject to cultural variations, which can on occasion lead to the mis-interpretation of oral messages.
3.6 Language and organisation: narrative and discourse analysis Language is both a medium of communication and a framework for understanding human experience; techniques such as discourse analysis can be used to deconstruct narratives, revealing their constitutive role.