Guest blog: Why clear expression matters

Guest blog: Why clear expression matters

It has always been a mystery to me why the importance of clear thinking is so little appreciated.

We live by our ability to transmit ideas and information to others, don’t we?  Clear expression is a basic competence.  We are judged by our ability to use words properly and with impact.

“Competitive communication”, as I like to call it, is the sharp end of today’s business world. In any meeting, large or small, the best talkers carry the day.

At the New York publisher McGraw-Hill where I worked for several years, I knew an executive who was prized for his one valuable skill: the ability to sum up a chaotic discussion in about 20 seconds of crystal clarity.  It kept him comfortably installed on the 49th floor, a view on the Statue of Liberty, for a long career.

He understood that if a client or a colleague must wrestle with our meaning to understand it, we have lost the battle for his or her attention. Be alert for listeners peeking at their Apple Watch – or worse, shaking it to make sure it’s still working.

The difference between good expression and muddled speech is not subjective.  Good expression is easy to absorb.  It opens the reader’s mind to communication, to knowledge-sharing. Poor expression does just the opposite.  It blocks ideas like sludge in a pipe.

Poor expression is boring.  Poor expression is confused.  Poor expression is hard work for the listener.  Poor expression never gets digested; it is a waste of everyone’s time.

How do we get from A to B? The process of expression begins with the sifting of shapeless masses of information, then repackaging it in a form accessible to the audience.  Only by executing these two interlinked tasks can we share the result with others.

Successful transmission of ideas and information evolves directly from clear thought, and in the professional world it eventually helps us sway an audience of strangers.

Dealing with the media is a crucial arena for clear exposition. When you are interviewed, you represent your company. Ambiguities, errors or careless speech will serve you badly. Clarity and impact will serve you well.

If you master clarity, you may end up some day with a clear view of the Statue of Liberty.

Article date

September 7th, 2015

Michael Johnson

Michael Johnson is an international writer and journalist based in Bordeaux.

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