Be Brief and Complete

Before you start slashing paragraphs out of your written messages and slides out of your presentations, let’s pause for a moment to clear up a common misconception. Although the word concise is usually interpreted as simply meaning short or brief, a more accurate definition is “brief and complete.” Both are necessary to be effective.

It’s easy to see why complete messages that are too long are a waste of valuable time. But brief messages that are incomplete can be just as problematic. If you compose a message that has few words, but doesn’t have all the information your receivers need, it will take longer for them to take action or reach a decision. They may spend unnecessary time figuring out what information is missing, reaching out to you (and possibly others) to request clarification, and doing research on their own, all of which slows down progress. Other times, they may simply push your issue aside and work on other matters for which they do have complete information, which stops progress. Even more troubling, if you leave out essential information that goes undetected, they may ultimately take the wrong action or make bad decisions, which reverses progress.

So you can see that sacrificing completeness for the sake of brevity isn’t going to get the job done. As a communicator who is sending effective messages, you will need to include as many words as necessary to make the message complete, but no more. It takes a set of special skills to present that information in as few words as possible.

There are two major sets of strategies that you can practice to become a more concise communicator. The first set of strategies deals with strategically selecting content. The second set deals with reducing wordiness.


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Business Communication: Five Core Competencies Copyright © 2023 by Kristen Lucas, Jacob D. Rawlins, and Jenna Haugen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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