I hope you find my writing and business tips and observations useful. My business and blog are dedicated to helping businesses communicate clearly and reach their potential. Read, subscribe to my newsletter, enjoy!Tash

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Keep it simple…

Dripping tap in a house

Simple but clear – this image tells a story without trying to impress or be more than it is. This makes for good communication.

The purpose of the written word is to communicate.

Sometimes that does include some complexity but I strongly believe it should be kept as simple as possible. Why make people work hard at understanding and increase the risk of misunderstanding?

I recently came across the following:

Email us to inform us about updates regarding your personal information.

And it struck me how some people try to impress and seem ‘professional’ by using complexity when it really isn’t needed. In the example above, why not just write:

Email us with any changes to your contact details.


Using common ground for communicating

South African & Australian scout badgesLast night we had two South African cubs talk to our Australian cub pack. They showed us their uniforms and gave us an insight into how cubs is different in South Africa.

At first glance, their uniform is very different to ours and not everyone would automatically link them both as cub uniforms, nor recognise all the badges. And it quickly became obvious that the Australian and South African opening ceremonies are different, too.

Yet when we spoke and we asked these cubs questions, our common language made it easy to understand each other and relate the differences.

It was also very nice to invest a new cub, explain that the world scout badge is worn by all scouts around the world and be able to point out that exact badge on two non-Australian uniforms to prove the point and link all the cubs.

Knowing the same foundations

Cubs and scouts are all based on the same principles wherever they are in the world, and each country adds its local flavour.

Yet all cubs know Akela is the leader of the pack, start the night with a Grand Howl and earn both interest and ‘progressive’ badges.

That common foundation made it easy for 8 to 10 year olds to understand each other.

A common understanding also helps business people communicate effectively.

It’s important to use the same language (jargon) when talking to suppliers and clients  – do they know what a bleed or a keyword is? what do they mean by the word ‘benefit’ or ‘pension’? when will they deliver something promised ‘soon’ or ‘fast’?

Building a report, even if it is based on non-business connections, can also help business communications. Have you found it easier to work with someone who follows the same sport as you, grew up in the same area or likes the same music as you? This is one of the purposes of small talk when you start a business meeting or relationship.

Do you note and look for common ground with your business contacts? Do you remember those links so you can revisit them later?

Cub differences

For those who are curious, here are some of the differences between Aussie and South African cubs as discovered last night.

progressive cub badges - Australia & South AfricaSouth African cubs work towards progressive badges (gaining one about every 12 months) called the caracal, cheetah, leopard and lion badges. These badges are round and worn on the front of their shirt.

Australian cubs work for their boomerangs (gaining one about every 12 months) called bronze, silver  and gold. The badges are diamond-shaped and worn on the sleeve – put together with another badge they themselves form a diamond.

The highest South African cub badge is the Leaping Wolf; Australian cubs can earn the Grey Wolf.

South African Scouting consists of cubs (7 – 10), scouts (11 – 17 ) and rovers (18 – 30). Aussie scouts are Joeys (6 – 7), cubs (8 – 11), scouts (11 – 15), venturers (15 – 18) and rovers (18 – 26).

Both countries have interest badges for cubs to earn. South Africans earn red badges and Australians earn a green level 1 or red level 2 badge – all are worn on the sleeve.

Cubs in both countries are divided into sixes, each named by a colour. The cub looking after their six is called a sixer. An Australian sixer wears a badge saying ‘sixer’; a South African sixer has two yellow stripes on his or her pocket.

In Grand Howl, all cubs respond to the call of ‘pack, pack, pack’ and run into a circle. The differences are who calls out ‘cubs do your best’ and how the cubs form their parade circle.

South Africa apparently has 11 official languages, compared to Australia’s one, so that would make for an interesting discussion on communication, too!

Does it make sense?

I just read a blog post that jumped topics so I thought I’d give you a quick reminder to watch the flow of anything you write.

In the example I just read, one paragraph was an overview of a business change and the next paragraph commented on how a specific target seemed hard at the start. The target hadn’t been mentioned before so it didn’t make sense to me – a sentence or two in between these paragraphs would have explained the target and made the post flow nicely.

The reminder is to always check you haven’t skipped anything important for someone else’s understanding.

A rose by any other name…

Have you ever noticed how changing one word can totally change a document or someone’s understanding?

I don’t mean where the wrong word is used accidentally (for example, a typing error changing boy to buoy) but where an appropriate word doesn’t work as well as intended.

Sometimes the word doesn’t work because of the audience. For example, I have seen Australian children (and adults actually!) struggle over American books when they write about pacifiers (dummies) and diapers (nappies) – that’s life if the author was aiming at American children, but bad judgement if the author was aiming at Australians.

Often, however, a word is used that has hidden meanings that can detract from what you were actually aiming at.

I recently had a discussion about the word therapist versus counsellor. While both words can describe a person you talk to about issues and (hopefully) get some insights and direction from the sessions. However, people perceive the two words in different ways – do you? Personally, a therapist implies someone who will help fix a problem (compare to a speech therapist or physiotherapist) but a counsellor is more about working through ideas or situations. So which word is best will depend on what message you are trying to give.

Another example is calling goals or targets ‘milestones’ instead of goals. Michelle of Shel Design was struggling with the concept of setting goals – to her, the word goal implied a final step whereas setting milestones was easier as they were just part of her business process and development. In this case, the word goals was appropriate but had certain hidden meanings for people like Michelle – when writing, those hidden meanings are important to consider, too.

When reviewing your writing, consider your use of words – are some of those words going to mislead some of your readers? Are there hidden meanings you haven’t considered?

Use your words wisely!