Communicate Evidence Clearly

Once you have your evidence selected, it is time to communicate that evidence clearly. In addition to using the Clear and Concise competencies covered in chapters 3 and 4, here are two basic skills every business communicator needs to master when communicating with evidence: presenting quotations and using numbers.

Present Quotations

One of the evidence presentation styles you may be most familiar with from academic writing is quoting. Quotations can be used to express expert opinions, testimonials, and other forms of textual data. The purpose is usually to confirm a particular point. Some of the ways you may see quotations used are in product endorsements, market predictions, and support for a particular course of action.

To quote evidence, follow three steps. First, state your claim. Second, identify the source and necessary content of the quotation. Third, present the quotation either verbatim (which means word for word) or paraphrased (which means put into your own words).

New software tools for data visualization can hinder good design. According to Scott Berinato, an expert on data visualization and the author of the book Good Charts, new software “reinforces the impulse to ‘click and viz’ without first thinking about your purpose and goals,” which in turn, “leads to charts that are merely adequate or, worse, ineffective.”

New software tools for data visualization can hinder good design. Scott Berinato, an expert on data visualization and the author of the book Good Charts, explained that because new software is so easy to use, many people end up with suboptimal charts because they jump into building their visualizations without identifying their communication goals first.[1]

Use Numbers

Because business communicators use numbers extensively, it is important to make numbers as easy as possible to read. Below are some basic rules for using numbers. The list is far from complete, but it should give you a good start.

Declare Units
It is important for your receiver to know what units you are talking about. Units refer to things such as currency, time, and sizes. You cannot safely assume that people know what units you are using. The U.S. Metric Association (2009) has a webpage dedicated to highlighting costly business mistakes that were made by not paying attention to metric units. So you will need to be specific if you are talking about U.S. dollars or Canadian dollars, weeks or months, gallons or liters, etc.

Round Numbers (Usually)
Generally, rounded numbers are easier to understand and recall than exact numbers. Especially when you are dealing with estimates, exact numbers add more detail than is necessary. For instance, if you recommend remodeling the outdated lobby of your credit union, it will be easier for decision makers to process and remember a $320,000 estimate than a $319,674.16 specific figure. Even reported (not estimated) numbers can be rounded for more clarity. Reporting that you had almost $2 million in sales or that office supplies cost $4,500 is sufficient for most communication purposes.

Of course, sometimes precision is necessary. For example, a 0.1 or even a 0.01 difference in an interest rate can mean thousands of dollars in interest over the life of a loan or investment. When precisions in necessary, use exact numbers.

Follow Conventions
In addition to different kinds of documents having conventions, there are conventions in business for how to display numbers. The conventions focus on presenting numbers as clearly as possible. The following Communication Tip shows some common U.S. business conventions.


Communication Tip: Common Conventions for Working with Numbers




Separate 000s with a comma 7150




Use symbols and numerals instead of word two million dollars

1,250 euros

fifteen percent

$2 million



Replace 000s with notation when thousand or more[2] 5,200,000,000 units


5.2 billion units


Omit trailing zeros $750.00

1,400.0 square feet


1,400 square feet

Express fractions with decimals instead of words or formatted fractions Ten and a half hours

6 ¼%

10.5 hours


Express time in hour:minute format OR
Use AM/PM designation to signal time
3 o’clock



7:00 or 7 PM

Indicate AM/PM, especially for ambiguous times AND indicate time zone when receivers may be in different time zones than you or each other 6:30


6:30 a.m.

3:15 ET/2:15 CT

  1. For more information on designing goals-oriented data visualizations, check out Scott Berinato’s publications: Scott Berinato, Good Charts: The HBR Guide to Making Smarter, More Persuasive Data Visualizations (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business Review Press, 2016); and Scott Berinato, “Visualizations that Really Work.” Harvard Business Review 94, no. 6 (2016): 92-100.
  2. Business communicators sometimes use letter abbreviations to notate units, especially in number-intensive contexts such as sales or budget meetings. However, you must be cautious because there is some inconsistency in how the abbreviations are used. You will sometimes see thousands notated with a lowercase k (metric letter for kilo) and sometimes with an uppercase M (Roman letter for mille or thousand). You will sometimes see millions notated with the letter M (short for million) and sometimes MM (to distinguish it from the M for thousand). These inconsistencies introduce ambiguity around the letter M. While $9k is clearly $9,000 and $9MM is $9 million, $9M could be either $9,000 or $9 million. The important thing as a business communicator is to be consistent with your usage and to seek clarification when interpreting numbers with these notations.


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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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