The purpose of communication is the dissemination of information, not to look smart or to deceive people. So, whether you are giving a presentation or writing a report keep your audience in mind. Here are seven simple questions you should ask yourself:
- What is it that I intend to say?
- What images do I want to invoke?
- What words best describe those images?
- How can I make it shorter?
- What does my listener hear, my reader read?
- What images do my words invoke?
- How are these images interpreted?
Plain language is preferable to technical jargon. Avoid acronyms at the cost of length. Also keep in mind that everybody loves a well-developed story. And storytelling is an art that you have to practice, practice, practice.
Example: The sarcasm trap
When I was a graduate student I went to talk to one Professor Pedersen. While I was waiting for him to finish a letter, I looked out the window.
"Nice weather," I commented.
"Thank you," Professor Pedersen said.
I was puzzled. Fortunately, Pedersen went on to explain that the pullover was a recent purchase.
What had happened?
Two things: Not only did Pedersen misunderstand my words, "nice weather" had become "nice sweater", he also misinterpreted my inflection, assuming that a graduate student would not deride a professor's clothes.
What was intended as a scornful comment about the weather had been interpreted as an honest compliment on a piece of garment.