Understanding Series

Effective communication

Topic status automatically displays here - do not remove.

Add me to your favorites!Bookmark this topic  Print me!Print this topic

By Colin Ramsden, March 2006.

xyzEffective communication is THE primary number one mission of technical writers. A communication is defined in the Macquarie Dictionary as "the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs".

Communication can be one way, or two (providing the means for feedback and error correction). Most technical writing is necessarily one way, and feedback (if any) is received much later, usually well after the writing has been published and distributed. This means that the technical writer must be particularly vigilant to ensure their communication is effective.

Without some form of feedback, the effectiveness of your communication cannot be accurately determined. In my experience, many—all too many—technical writers send their communications off into a black hole, and make the grand assumption that because they never hear of any complaints, that they must be doing well. Nothing could be further from the truth.

For your communication to be effective, your viewpoint (your individual view formed from your thoughts, opinions and information) must be conveyed from inside your head into another person's head, so that they can see your viewpoint. (You don't necessarily have to agree with each other, just be capable of seeing the other person's viewpoint.)

Communication can take many forms, and from a technical writing viewpoint, is not restricted to just writing and reading. Communication can involve one or many means including:

Miscommunication is all too easy. Miscommunication is where the communication was NOT effectively communicated. The message was not properly understood. The viewpoint was not effectively conveyed and is not clearly seen in the head of the person receiving the communication.

Many factors can influence a communication and cause it to be ineffective. The sender may not have clearly described the concept or idea properly or fully, the communication medium may not be suitable or appropriate for information transfer, and the receiving person may not be receptive, may not understand the concept, or may not have or take the time to receive and process the communication message fully.

This is all the more reason for the technical writer to be particularly careful in their choice of message content and structure, their choice of message packaging and delivery means, and their choice of appropriate methods for seeking and receiving feedback. In many cases, the technical writer is isolated from their ultimate message recipients, so needs to actively seek feedback through other means, often involving third parties. This is not a preferred situation, but is still better than no feedback at all.

When you isolate yourself from feedback, you are conducting a one way conversation. If you don't listen, there is no chance that you can hear. It is up to you to create the feedback channel, and to listen to it. It is up to you to make your intended audience aware of its availability, and encourage them to make appropriate use of it.

Don't be afraid. Not all feedback is negative. Nearly all feedback is useful in one way or another.



Who am I? > find out more

See Also

Jump across to separate topic Effective Managers | Jump across to separate topic Technical Writing | Jump to site home page Lotech Solutions' Tips, Tricks, and Procedures

Back to Top