Why? Be a Skilled Communicator

Contents

  1. Write for Business
  2. Be a Top Hire
  3. Become a Leader
  4. Stay Connected

Link & Learn

Some paragraphs throughout the course will be marked as examples, activities, required reading, or optional tips

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To access the previous PDF version of the online textbook, click here. Note: The PDF version will not reflect any updates or changes.

This will be one of the most useful courses you’ll take in college.

Writing and communicating well matters. In this course, you’ll learn how to communicate your best ideas to your most important audiences.

  • Write for Business. Clear and concise writing gets noticed and leads to action.
  • Be a Top Hire. Demonstrated communication skills improve your job prospects.
  • Become a Leader. Effective communication skills help you lead.
  • Stay Connected. Appropriate communication helps you stay connected in your networks and relationships.

Get ready to explore ways to manage projects and people, design great-looking documents, and present your ideas clearly and confidently.

How do top executives spend their working hours?

CEOs spend approximately

80%

of their time communicating.

Source: London School of Economics Executive Time Use Project

Section OneWrite for Business


Communication is the heart of business. Short emails, complex reports, private chats, impassioned pitches, formal presentations, and team meetings move information and ideas around an organization, define strategy, and drive decisions.

Business communication is concise, direct, clear, and compelling.

Alumni Advice

“Communication is a huge part of my work. In my management communication course, I learned the art of being concise, clear, and influential in my writing and speech. These skills are crucial to having impact in any job.”

Cailey Akagi

Operations Analyst

Cisco Crisis Response Team

Write to Be Understood

Clear and Concise Writing

All writing styles, including business writing, can be written clearly without losing meaning. Plain language is a term used to describe writing that is clear and concise. Many businesses and governments are revising traditionally dense, hard-to-understand text using plain-language principles. Below is an example from PlainLanguage.gov.

FEMA’s Winter Preparedness Safety Tips

Before

Timely preparation, including structural and non-structural mitigation measures to avoid the impacts of severe winter weather, can avert heavy personal, business and government expenditures. Experts agree that the following measures can be effective in dealing with the challenges of severe winter weather.

After

Severe winter weather can be extremely dangerous. Consider these safety tips to protect your property and yourself.

“A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.”

—William Strunk and E. B. White

The Business Audience

Your audience dictates your business writing style. Keep the following points in mind when composing:

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Section TwoBe a Top Hire


Employers are hungry for people who can think and communicate clearly. A 2018 report by analytics firm Burning Glass Technologies identifies 14 foundational skills for the digital economy. Three of these skills – communication, critical thinking, and communicating data – are core elements of the management communication curriculum.

Hire the Best Writer

Employers are eager to hire good writers because clear writing demonstrates clear thinking. Read about bad business writing in this Harvard Business Review article:

Required readingBad Writing is Destroying Your Company’s Productivity.

A 2020 survey reveals that written and verbal communication skills are in the top five attributes employers are looking for when hiring new college graduates (see the accompanying graphic).

Employers Want Good Communicators

Top responses employers gave when asked what attributes they look for when hiring new college graduates:

  1. Problem-Solving Skills: 91.2%
  2. Ability to Work in a Team: 86.3%
  3. Strong Work Ethic: 80.4%
  4. Analytical/Quantitative Skills: 79.4%
  5. Communication Skills (Written): 77.5%
  6. Leadership: 72.5%
  7. Communication Skills (Verbal): 69.6%

Source: National Association of Colleges and Employers

“If you are trying to decide among a few people to fill a position, hire the best writer. . . . Clear writing is a sign of clear thinking. Great writers know how to communicate. They make things easy to understand. They can put themselves in someone else’s shoes. They know what to omit. And those are qualities you want in any candidate. Writing is making a comeback all over our society. . . . Writing is today’s currency for good ideas.”

Jason Fried

Founder of Basecamp, author of ReWork

Back to Top

Section ThreeBecome a Leader


You become a leader by using your communication skills to learn from people, coordinate their efforts, share knowledge, communicate high standards, and inspire.

In their book The Extraordinary Leader, researchers Zenger and Folkman report that communicating “powerfully and prolifically” enhances leadership competencies, including even seemingly unrelated ones like technical competence or strategic development. Powerful communication is a skill—and a habit—that enhances all other skills.

“Anyone who claims to be a leader must speak like a leader. That means speaking with integrity and truth.”

—Kamala Devi Harris, 49th Vice President of the United States

In your other classes, you’ll spend long hours deepening your technical knowledge in your chosen field. However, if you leave college unable to pitch a new idea to your team, persuade an investor, or clarify data for a client, your influence will be blunted and much of your effort wasted.

Hone your communication skills and you will be able to powerfully contribute solutions to your workplace and enhance your own career.

Alumni Advice

John Lewis said, “If you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have a moral obligation to do something about it.” This sounds pretty weighty, but I have found that the first best steps toward leading lasting change are listening and communicating.

Anthony Bates

Anthony Bates

Managing Director
Sorensen Center for Moral and Ethical Leadership
Brigham Young University


Section FourStay Connected


Human connection is valuable to health, safety, peace, and success. We spend the majority of our waking time in communication activities, driven to connect—and stay connected—with other people.

Part of good business communication involves understanding another’s point of view, delivering bad news clearly but diplomatically, maintaining trust through ethical and honest messaging, and using language to encourage and motivate a team.

Your study of business communications will not only help you increase your workplace skills and employable value, but will also help you to live well, understand others, stay connected, and accomplish your goals.

You can use these skills in every area of your life . . .

Relationships: You look upset. Want to talk about it?

Neighborhood: Empty lot cleanup party this Saturday at 10 a.m. Bring a rake. Donuts provided!

Colleagues: Does everyone understand the new reporting policy?

City: The new bond is an essential tool for improving our transit system for the following three reasons . . .

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In Conclusion


By practicing concise and direct communication, you’ll become more effective in business, a more sought-after hire, a more influential leader, and a more connected human being.

Let’s get started.

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Bold citations are referenced in the chapter text.

Articles

Bernoff, Josh. “Bad Writing Is Destroying Your Company’s Productivity.” Harvard Business Review, September 6, 2016. Accessed August 2021.

Jean-Etienne, Joullié. The Language of Power and Authority in Leadership

Burning Glass Technologies. “The Human Factor” (PDF file). November 2015. Accessed August 2021.

Harris, Lynda. “The Cost of Bad Writing.” NA Business + Management 29, no. 8 (2015): 15. Accessed August 2021.

Morgan, Blake. “Why Every Employee At Your Company Should Have Communications Training.” Forbes, January 24, 2018. Accessed August 2021.

NACE. “Key Attributes Employers Want to See on Students’ Resumes.” January 13, 2020. Accessed August 2021.

Plain Language: Improving Communications from the Federal Government to the Public. May 2011. Accessed August 2021.

Wiens, Kyle. “I Won’t Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar. Here’s Why.” Harvard Business Review, July 20, 2012. Accessed August 2021.

Books

Garber, Peter R. 50 Communications Activities, Icebreakers, and Exercises. Amherst: HRD Press, 2008. PDF e-book. Accessed August 2021.

Strunk, William, and E. B. White. The Elements of Style. New York: Longman, 2000.

Zenger, John, and Joseph Folkman. The Extraordinary Leader. New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2009.