Effective workplace communication needs to demonstrate:
- a style that achieves clarity and conciseness
- a tone that achieves politeness, but not humility
- a presentation that is flawless in terms of format and language
Workplace communication takes place, essentially, to get things done between staff in workplace situations. Its practical nature is reflected in the writing style. A common rule on workplace communication states that it should be as long as necessary and as short as possible. This rule applies to letters, memos, reports, e-mails, CVs, meetings and phone conversations. Busy people do not appreciate wordiness; they reserve their praise for communication that is clear, concise and correct.
A clear and concise style is achieved by choosing the appropriate language for the purpose. For example, in academic communication the following sentence is perfectly acceptable:
- There are a number of reasons to account for the recent decline in Hong Kong's economy.
But the effective workplace communicator would phrase this differently:
- Hong Kong’s economy has declined recently due to a number of reasons…
In letters, the effective workplace communicator will avoid wordy and clumsy phrases such as:
- The above mentioned/ captioned post/ product/ service…
and will instead write:
- This post/ product/ service…
The need for both clarity and conciseness does not mean that workplace communication should be abrupt. Indeed, politeness is essential to create and sustain good working relationships. Politeness is achieved by making sure that e-mails, letters, memos, phone calls, etc. all have the right tone. In general, boastful claims should be avoided, as should overly humble statements, for example:
- I have great pleasure in introducing you to our company’s newest and most wonderful product… OR
- I should be most obliged if you would give some of your precious time to consider our company’s newest product…
A neutral expression would be more appropriate:
- I would like to introduce our company’s latest product…
A final and very important characteristic of effective business communication is the accuracy of its language.
In most companies, a message is considered to be 'unmailable' if it contains even a single error in formatting, spelling, punctuation, grammar or register. Careful and detailed editing and proofreading of a written document is therefore essential.
Employers and colleagues will tend to judge a person's abilities and attitudes negatively if they use inaccurate language in workplace communication.
ELC 3504: English for effective workplace communication. (2009). English Language Centre, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.