Empower Why communication matters

Link & Learn

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

Powerful communication matters. This book can help you communicate your best ideas to your most important audiences.

  • Write for Impact. Clear and concise writing gets noticed and leads to action.
  • Be a Top Hire. Demonstrated communication skills improve your job prospects.
  • Become a Leader. Powerful communication enables you to inspire and guide others.
  • Stay Connected. Well-crafted messages keep you visible (in a positive way) on social media.

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

Section One Write for Impact

Communication is the heart of the professional world. Short emails, complex reports, private chats, impassioned pitches, formal presentations, and team meetings circulate information and ideas, define strategy, and drive decisions.

Professional 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

Plain language is a term used to describe clear, concise writing. To revise traditionally dense, hard-to-understand text, many private and public organizations follow plain-language principles. Below is a public-sector example from PlainLanguage.gov.

FEMA’s Winter Preparedness Safety Tips


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.


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

Here is a corporate example from Infor, Inc.'s 2018 10-K filing.

Infor's Competitive Strengths


Our customers are often reluctant to change enterprise software vendors because full enterprise software suite implementations are disruptive, time-consuming and require large initial outlays of financial and human resources. Our industry-specific software products are deeply embedded in our customers’ everyday business processes. Our continued investment in our products and services, our development emphasis on products that are versatile and adaptable to other software and platforms that complement our offerings, together with our focus on customer service and support, have resulted in high renewal rates. In addition, our business is not capital-intensive.


Our enterprise software renewal rates are among the highest in the industry. Customers like the versatility and adaptability of our platform, and we pride ourselves on customer service and support.

The Professional Audience

Your audience determines your writing style. When composing, keep the following points in mind:

Section TwoBe a Top Hire

Employers are hungry for people who can think and communicate clearly. A 2019 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 this book.

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:

Bad 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 Picture

Jason Fried

Founder of Basecamp, author of ReWork

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 other leadership competencies, including even seemingly unrelated ones like technical competence or strategic development. Powerful communication is a skill—and a habit—that enhances other leadership skills.

“Leaders are not just born. Sure, some people are born with strong competencies and strengths for leading in certain situations, but leadership can also be developed. That means everyone can strengthen their skills and abilities to lead and influence.”

—Dr. Susan Madsen

Formal education and on-the-job training help you deepen your technical knowledge in your chosen field. However, if you never learn to pitch a new idea to your team, persuade a stakeholder, or clarify data for a client, your influence will be blunted and much of your effort wasted. In short, your ability to lead will be stymied.

Hone your communication skills to 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. People spend the majority of their waking time in activities that involve connecting with other people. Such activities require communication.

Professional communication includes 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 professional communication will not only help you increase your workplace skills and employable value, but also help you 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 our new strategic direction?

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

Back to Top

In Conclusion

By practicing concise and direct communication, you’ll become more effective on the job, more employable, more influential in your organization, and more connected to others.

Let’s get started.

Creative Commons license

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

Learn More

Please let us know.

Bold citations are referenced in the chapter text.


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

Jean-Etienne, Joullié, et al. "The Language of Power and Authority in Leadership" 2021. Leadership Quarterly 32 (4).

Burning Glass Technologies. “The Human Factor” (PDF file). November 2015. Accessed August 2022.

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.


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

Hertz, Noreena. 2021. The Lonely Century: How to Restore Human Connection in a World That’s Pulling Apart. New York: Currency.

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.


sec.gov. "2018 Form 10-K for Infor, Inc." Accessed May 2022.