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How to Improve the Way I Speak

How to improve the way I speak

How to improve the way I speak

It is important to be able to speak and to write clearly.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make, at work, is to use ambiguous language.

It is especially naughty to give ambiguous instructions.
An ambiguous instruction is any instruction that is so worded that it could easily be interpreted in MORE than one way.

For example, if I wrote, "When you come to the meeting, would you please make sure you bring the relevant documents with you?" Can you see that the phrase, "relevant documents" is an ambiguous phrase?

Another example: If you read the following sentence; "I didn't say he kicked his dog": Then does that mean

"I did not say he kicked HIS dog?"

Or does it mean

"I did NOT say he kicked his dog".

It is ambiguous.

Another example: If I said, "Please would you do this task for me, as quickly as is practicable?" Can you see that that wording is open to multiple interpretations?

  • Does it mean that you should do the task quickly?
  • Or does it mean that you should do the task soonest.

Here is the phrase I want to get into your memory:

Whatever CAN be misunderstood, eventually will be misunderstood, by somebody.

And therefore: Vagueness in language is a vice.

Clarity in language is a virtue.

Clarity is a virtue

Please strive always to be as clear as you can be in terms of your verbal expression.

It will pay you handsomely if you were to invest an extra effort in defining your meaning up front, and making sure that your original message is fully and properly understood, as opposed to being lackadaisical in language and giving a brief, but incomplete description of what you want.

As a result the other person misinterprets the meaning of your original message and goes off and does the wrong thing. When you discover the misunderstanding you blame the other person for doing it wrong.

But whose fault was it really?

The fault was in the faulty language used by the instruction-giver.

Communication - Clear Communication : How to improve the way I speak

How to improve your clarity

1. Quantify your message using numbers

Don't say, "See you later". Put a number on it.
Don't say, "Send it to me A.S.A.P." Put a number on it.
Don't say, "Send me some over". Put a number on it.
Don't say, "You were late for the meeting". Put a number on it.

If you can quantify your message, then quantify your message.

2. Define your terms by giving a greater level of explanation

Don't say "Come to the meeting appropriately dressed" and leave your message undefined. You need to give a greater level of explanation. Just a line or two, will do it.
What do you mean by, "Appropriately dressed?" Just a line or two, will do.

What is included in the class of appropriately dressed and what is definitely excluded from the class of appropriately dressed.

You might say, "Please wear a shirt and tie, and NO jeans."

3. Illustrate by a concrete example

If you are trying to explain something that is abstract, then give a definition and then illustrate your definition by one or two concrete examples.

For example:

You might be talking about leadership. You would need to do two things.
You would need to give a definition of leadership and then you might illustrate leadership by giving a concrete example of your definition. Thus:

"A leader is a member of a team that is primarily responsible for setting and communicating a clear goal and who is then able to motivate other people to act to achieve the goal.
Example of leadership would be: JFK setting the goal for NASA to put a man on the moon, and inspiring the American public to pay for it".

4. Invite questions from the listener

Ask your listeners to ask any questions that may occur to them. You are better off answering ten questions, now, before they start work on the project, and gain clarity NOW, than you are to wait until later when you realise they misunderstood your original message and have built it wrong.

Always spend as much time as is necessary to achieve full mutual understanding before you start the job. Invite questions from the listener.


It is important to be able to speak and to write clearly.
Whatever CAN be misunderstood, eventually will be misunderstood, by somebody.
Vagueness in language is a vice.
Clarity in language is a virtue.

How to improve your clarity

  1. Quantify your message using numbers.
  2. Define your terms by giving a greater level of explanation.
  3. Illustrate by a concrete example.
  4. Invite questions from the listener.

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Do you ever think to yourself, "I know what I mean, but I can't explain it"? You need to be able communicate facts, feelings, information and ideas, in a clear, professional and confident manner. If you want to learn more about our communication skills training, please click here.

About the Author: Chris Farmer


Chris Farmer is the founder of the Corporate Coach Group and has many years’ experience in training leaders and managers, in both the public and private sectors, to achieve their organisational goals, especially during tough economic times. He is also well aware of the disciplines and problems associated with running a business.

Over the years, Chris has designed and delivered thousands of training programmes and has coached and motivated many management teams, groups and individuals. His training programmes are both structured and clear, designed to help delegates organise their thinking and, wherever necessary, to improve their techniques and skills.

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Further Reading in Communication - Clear Communication

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