Sometimes when business communicators talk about “style and tone,” we say that business communication should have the 3 Cs: clear, concise and correct. This was expanded on in the 1952 book Effective Public Relations by Cutlip and Center into 7 Cs:
- And courtesy.
Other scholars have thrown in other C words like credibility, context, capability etc. (Are you feeling confusion and consternation about the letter C yet?)
This is good advice. Sometimes, however, miscommunications still happen because the writer forgot to consider their audience. What seems clear and coherent to a nuclear physicist might not seem that way to a general audience. What seems concise to someone passionate about a topic might seem long-winded to those just looking for basic information. So, to understand style and tone, we need to apply the communication models we explored in the last chapter and constantly ask what our audience needs.
In most workplaces, the biggest constraint is time. Every day, an estimated 300 billion emails are sent worldwide. One study found that the average office worker received 121 emails a day. If every email took just an extra minute to read because it was confusing, each person would waste 2 hours a day.
So how can we ensure that we help our audience save time? Plain language.