What is the importance of the 7 Cs of effective communication?
Call me biased (after all, I run a writing blog), but I think communication is the best thing we have going for us as a species. Think about it: we couldn't have built the Coliseum or the Pyramids if we hadn't been able to communicate plans to a large number of people. Laws don't work, culture doesn't exist, and businesses can’t succeed without us being able to share our ideas with each other. While most animals have body language and simple vocalization, we have words.
You may not be trying to create a wonder of the world, but effective written business communication probably means a lot to you in your job role. Do humanity proud by keeping the seven Cs in mind: completeness, conciseness, consideration, clarity, concreteness, courtesy, and correctness.
What are the 7 Cs of effective communication?
To begin, your writing should provide all the information your reader needs to understand you. To do that, you need to consider what they know, and don't.
Applying the completeness principle:
Consider writing a business proposal. Presumably you want the prospective client to say, “yes!” and sign up for your services and products. To reach that outcome, however, your proposal needs to include all the information required by the audience to make a decision. That includes basic information like price and product description; it also means information about benefits and competitive differentiators, so they understand why to choose your proposal over a competitor’s. An incomplete proposal is much less likely to make the sale.
Broadly paraphrased, Occam's famous adage states that things should be as simple as possible, but no simpler. In this context, it means not using more words than necessary to convey meaning, but not cutting out so much that your communication suffers.
Applying the conciseness principle:
Academic, technical, and scientific writing often struggle here. To sound more professional and academic, writers use unnecessarily wordy phrasing. For example, use “decide” instead of “make a decision.” Why write in three words what can be said in one? For more specific suggestions, read our “Strategies for Succinct Writing” and “5 Ways to Say More in Fewer Words.”
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But conciseness is about more than just wordcount; it’s also informational. Think carefully about how much context and explanation you really need to include in your papers and documents. Depending on your audience, it might not be as much as you think. As Occam might say, write everything you need to, but no more.
7 Cs of Effective Communication Video Tip: Avoiding Wordiness
Understand your target audience before you write. Answer the questions they have and account for gaps in their knowledge. Make the topic's relevance clear to your target reader(s). In short, consider your reader.
Applying the consideration principle:
Consideration here means asking questions and thinking critically about your readers before you start writing, so you can ensure the document’s content will be tailored to their needs. For example, ask yourself:
- Who is the intended reader for the document?
- What is the reader's interest in this document?
- What are the reader's expectations of the document?
- How will the reader use the information?
- What kind of information will move the reader to act?
Be definite, don't prevaricate, and don't ramble. The most information-packed writing isn't informative if it can't be understood!
Applying the clarity principle:
As we’ve written before, clarity has four central pillars: precision, specificity, familiarity, and necessity. In other words, your written statements should be precise and specific (rather than generic and abstract), using language that’s familiar to your readers. It should also include only what is necessary to convey your meaning; conciseness is itself a vital part of clarity.
The principle of clarity can be transformative. One of our clients discovered that focusing on clarity could render their written reports and analyses more understandable to a larger audience, so that “any report or protocol [would] be clear enough that other microbiologists can understand or even recreate [our] projects.”
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Use facts to back up your assertions and use words with unambiguous meanings.
Applying the concreteness principle:
Ultimately, concreteness is about credibility and strengthening the writing’s usefulness for the reader. If you’re writing about the impact of COVID-19 on an industry, for example, get specific to be taken more seriously. Don’t just say, “More people than ever are using drive-thru to get food.” Instead, write that “drive-thru usage jumped 26% in 2020 as a result of changes in customer behavior, according to American market research firm The NPD Group.” This kind of concrete information is clearer, more credible, and more persuasive when making an argument.
Be mindful of the attitude your readers will have toward your work, and the attitude your readers expect your work to have toward them. Some readers expect a formal tone, while others would feel alienated by one.
Applying the courtesy principle:
Respect your readers! If you fail to engage your readers in the way they want and expect, you’ll push them away and undermine your own success. It’s even worse if you’re facing some kind of PR problem. A dismissive, callous tone can turn a public relations challenge into an outright crisis, as even large companies like Yahoo! and UPS have learned the hard way. For some specific examples, read our article about “Communication Shipwrecks.”
7 Cs of Effective Communication Video Tip: Understand Your Reader
A simple rule: avoid errors!
Applying the correctness principle: