Concreteness—One of Six ‘C’ Qualities of Effective Communication
The ‘C of Concreteness’, one of six Cs which represents the six (6) qualities of effective communication, calls for senders to make messages concrete by providing specific details, such as sources of information that receivers may need or want.
Concreteness means conveying a message with precise terms. Concrete presentation has its own importance in any form of communicationOpens in new window; be it written, oral, visual or audio-visual. A concrete message is easily understood by the receiver.
As a message sender, you build mental pictures for your receivers through your use of words. The receivers’ backgrounds influence their perceptions of your words. Thus, words have different meanings for different people. If you said, “Tyronne was an effective guard,” a basketball coach might think that Tyronne quickly moved the basketball down the court. A bank official might think that Tyronne remained alert and watched for any unusual activity in the building.
Use words or phrases that have definite meanings to convey a concrete message. The following steps will help you compose concrete messages:
- Establish contact with the receiver.
- Use precise modifiers.
- Avoid opinions or generalizations.
- Provide specific details.
Concreteness in written messages compares with exactness in spoken messages. When a young boy catches a fish and tells his friends about the event, he uses his hands, postureOpens in new window, and words to describe the size of the fish. Even more hand gesturesOpens in new window illustrate the struggle he had in pulling the fish into the boat.
When the boy writes to a relative, he may include with the fishing story recollections of other family incidents. Those recollections help the reader visualize the fishing adventure. You can use the same approach to establish contact with readers. When you write a message, build on shared personal or business backgrounds. Business communicationOpens in new window often involves mutual experiences, such as the following situations:
If you do not have an experience in common with the receiver, establish contact and build a concrete message through these techniques:
Dynamic verbs show action and motion, whereas static nouns name objects and ideas. Modifiers (adjectives and adverbs) add meaning and intensity to other words. When you use adjectivesOpens in new window and adverbsOpens in new window, you add strength and color to nounsOpens in new window and verbsOpens in new window.
You probably would receive three different answers if you asked three people the question “What is a good price for a printer?” Each person would have a different interpretation for good, and you did not give adequate information about the type or speed of the printer or about how much you were willing to pay.
Business writing uses Standard English rather than formal English. Formal prose is usually reserved for academic and literary writing. Overuse of formal vocabulary makes a business writer sound pretentious.
When people ask for your opinion, think about what information they need before you respond. If you have a negative opinion or if you do not agree with their position, exercise caution. When you are not sure what information they really want, ask for clarification. The following examples demonstrate the differences between opinions and requests.
Generalizations, vague or sweeping statements, often appear in written messages when the writer is attempting to persuade readers.
Effective messages contain specific details that are clear to both the sender and the receiver. Show concern for the receivers by providing specific details, such as sources of information your readers may need or want.
Suppose Charles Grant, senior vice president of Dolphin Corporation, called the editor of the corporate newsletter and discussed submitting an article for the next edition. The editor, excited that the senior vice president was interested in preparing an article, readily accepted the offer and provided the submission deadline. The editor, however, did not indicate how long the article should be, nor did he explain what word processing format should be used.
Imagine the editor’s reaction when the vice president submitted the article the day before the final proof was scheduled for delivery to the printer. The article exceeded the word count that had been allocated in the layout; also, the vice president had not keyed the manuscript in the correct format. Since the vice president was attending a sales meeting with clients in Japan, he was unavailable for consultation.
If the editor had provided the vice president with information about what the text length should have been and what word processing format was needed, the resulting panic could have been avoided. Also, the vice president should have asked for specific details. Complete details would have saved time and concern for all parties.