Communication means interacting with others to promote understanding and achieve a result of some kind.
There are three areas that matter in communication:
- words – what we say
- tone – how we say it
- body language – how we look when we are saying it
Advantages of Face-to-face Communication
- People can “see what you mean.”
- Eye contact helps you establish if the other person is listening and understanding.
- Your body language can help him believe what you are saying.
Disadvantages of Face-to-face Communication
- You can give away your true feelings.
- You might “wear your heart on your sleeve.”
- The other person may not understand the words you use.
- He may not like the way you are saying the words.
Tips on Listening
- Give your full attention.
- Do not assume what the other person is going to say.
- Do not waste listening time formulating what your response will be.
- Show by eye contact and an interested expression that you are paying attention.
- When listening on the telephone, do not allow distractions in the room to interfere with your listening abilities.
- When on the phone, let your caller know you are listening by making verbal indications such as “M-mm, yes, okay . . . .”
- Make notes if appropriate; when on the telephone, for example.
Types of Questions
- Open questions – These questions will help you the most. Who, what, when, where, and why are the opening words to questions that will give you specific information. You cannot answer Yes or No to an open question.
- Closed questions – These questions will give you the answer Yes or No. They begin with Can you, Will you, Did you, etc.
- Specific questions – These questions clarify facts. These are often used to get numbers, dates, addresses, etc. (For example: Your address is . . . ? and Is the number . . . ?)
Tips on Receiving Calls
- Cultivate a pleasant and interesting telephone voice.
- Greet your caller with “Good morning/afternoon!,” state your name, then ask “How may I help you?”
- Make your caller feel “wanted” by making him aware of who is speaking and by asking him his name—we all like the sound of our own names!
Tips on Taking Messages
- It may be that the person your caller wants is not available. First ask him if you can help. If you can’t, offer to take a message.
- When telling your caller that you will take a message, you should do just that! Say, “I will see that . . . gets the message,” or, “I will pass the message to . . . ,” not “I will get him/her to phone you back.”
The Stages of Preparing Your Letter
You need to identify your objective in sending the letter. For example, is it:
- to give information?
- to promote an action?
- to clarify something?
- to rectify a situation?
- to promote your school?
- The Structure of the Letter
- Letter length should be only one page.
- Try to keep the length of sentences to not more than twenty words each.
- Paragraph length should be no more than four sentences each.
Structure your letter around the following:
- “Dear Sir/Madam” is used if you do not know the name of the person to whom you are writing.
- “Dear Dr./Mr./Mrs./Ms./Miss” is professional and less formal. Ms. is quite correct if you have no indication of marital status.
- In the first introductory paragraph, say why you are writing and mention the date of correspondence received from them, if any (“Thank you for your letter of 10th June 2007.”).
- This is the main part of the letter when you deal with the subject at hand. Decide on the most logical order of the information. Use paragraphs and, if necessary, use sub-headings for each new subject.
- Your letter should say what action is required, when it needs to be acted on (give a deadline), and who should take the action
- Actions should be achievable.
- This paragraph enables you to personalize your letter.
III. Writing the Letter
Writing your letter should be easy as ABC: Accurate, Brief, and Clear.
- Check that your facts are accurate.
- Make sure names are correctly spelled.
- Use words accurately and appropriately.
- Be brief—keep it short. Your reader’s time is as precious as yours. You don’t want to spend hours writing a letter—he/she doesn’t want to spend hours reading one.
- Short sentences are easier to understand.
- 4% of readers understand a 27-word sentence at the first pass.
- 75% of readers understand a 17-word sentence at the first pass.
- 95% of readers understand an 8-word sentence at the first pass.
- Try to keep sentences to less than twenty words.
- Use short words and phrases. The effect is greater.
- Your letter will be clearer if you have used a heading, paragraphed the information in a logical sequence, and used simple language—not jargon.
- Commas are used to separate nouns in a sentence.
- Semicolons are not widely used in the modern letter. It is better to start a new sentence.
- A colon is used when listing information.
- The apostrophe indicates ownership or is used when one or more letters are omitted.
- Develop a “house style” or set of layout rules so that letters from your school will have a uniform appearance and consistent style. You may use different (but still stylistically connected) layouts for different types of letters.
- Checking letters for accuracy before presentation for signature is important for the administrator.
- Check the layout (Does it look attractive? Is it evenly spaced?), the punctuation and spelling (Are they accurate?), and the names/titles/addresses (Are they all correct?)
- Do not use just your computer’s spelling checker to gauge accuracy. It will not pick up on words that are correctly spelled but wrongly placed.
- Read the letter aloud or get someone else to read it out to you while you check your own copy. It can be difficult to see errors in letters you have typed yourself.
Make sure you have the correct number of copies.