Introduction to Clear

Delivering Messages That Are Easy to Follow, Understand, and Act On

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The second business communication competency is clear, which means making messages easy for your receiver to interpret and to act on. Being clear is one of the traits almost universally identified by academics, professionals, and employers as a necessity for effective business communication. Whether in a 20-word social media post or a 20-page formal report, being clear is essential to accomplishing your goals. Clear messages are important for several reasons.

First, clear messages are easier to understand and act on. Most business messages directly request or indirectly support some kind of necessary action: questions need to be answered, instructions need to be followed, or decisions need to be made. When your messages are clear, your receivers will be able to understand the necessary information for taking action.

Second, clear messages are easier to scan, read, recall, and reference. People in business read for instrumental purposes—they need to be able to get work done. Because people are busy, they want to scan messages to see what parts, if any, they should pay attention to. If they need to read the whole thing, they want to be able to read it (or skim it!) as quickly as possible. They also want to be able to go back to the message at a later time and read only the parts they need. When you carefully craft your messages to be clear, you help your receivers process your message.

Third, clear messages are more efficient. Think about some of the unclear messages you’ve received and how much time you wasted either rereading the message multiple times to try to figure it out, asking a colleague to help you interpret it, or responding back to the sender with questions of clarification. Also think about how much time you wasted—and how much frustration you created—trying to follow instructions that weren’t clear. Business communication expert Paula Lentz calculates that a company with 1,000 employees can easily waste more than $1.5 million of employee productivity every year just on clarifying internal email messages.[1]

Finally, clear messages are more persuasive. At the most basic level, clear messages persuade people to act simply because they can easily understand what you want them to do and why. At an advanced level, you can use well-crafted, clear messages to persuade your receivers to accept your point of view or to act on your suggestions.

The bottom line is when your messages are clear, you are more likely to meet your instrumental goals as a communicator. As an added bonus, when your messages are clear, your receivers are more likely to see you as being clear-thinking, logical, and intelligent. Of course, that means you need to take the time while you are creating the message to be clear-thinking, logical, and intelligent. This involves paying attention to clarity in three dimensions: the big picture (central idea, bottom line, coherent clustering, logical organization, and stand-alone sense), wording (sentences, word choice), and visual design (formatting).

  1. Paula Lentz, “MBA Students’ Workplace Writing: Implications for Business Writing Pedagogy and Workplace Practice.” Business Communication Quarterly 76, no. 4 (2013), doi:10.1177/1080569913507479.


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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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