The Written Communication

WHEN ministers are required to write something that will convey information from them to others they must immediately grope with the problem of communicating. So many times a letter, a memo, or a report fails to reach the intended recipient, not because it may be physically lost, but because it isn't clear or doesn't say what the writer intended. . .

WHEN ministers are required to write something that will convey information from them to others they must immediately grope with the problem of communicating. So many times a letter, a memo, or a report fails to reach the intended recipient, not because it may be physically lost, but because it isn't clear or doesn't say what the writer intended.

The obvious purpose of a letter or any other form of written communication is to convey a meaning from one mind to another. Someone has stated it this way: "Write what you wish to say, in the spirit in which you wish it to be received, and in such a way that your reader gathers both the spirit and the facts without effort."

Of greater importance than the mechanics of the written communication is the message. Accurate punctuation, good typing, and good grammatical construction should be servants of the writer, and he should know how to use these; but he should never lose sight of the purpose in using them—and that is to write so that he will be understood in the spirit in which he writes.

Clear writing brings a distinct personal benefit. The more clearly you write, the more clearly you will understand the subject you are discussing. Not a few of today's leaders in all walks of life attribute much of their success to their cultivation and improvement of writing talents. A noted English author, Arnold Bennett, has gone so far as to say, "The exercise of writing is an indispensable part of any genuine effort towards mental efficiency."

Today is a time of both population explosion and knowledge explosion. Everybody wants to learn more and more about more and more. The most effective information medium is still that of the written word. Business and industry have joined the colleges and universities in urging their top men to write, write, write. The reasons for such urging were summed up very well a few years ago by the Royal Bank of Canada in its monthly newsletter: "It is one of the good things about communicating ideas that we can be always improving, sharpening up our wits so as to do the job better. It is sad to come upon someone who has thoughts that are worth while, but who is not learning to express them. Still more to be pitied are those who think they have conveyed their ideas when they haven't."

It is surprising the lengths to which some people will go in an effort to convey ideas, and still fail to communicate. Here is an analogous story to illustrate one communication failure:

There once was an executive assistant who was assigned to survey the work of his organization with the idea of discovering methods of saving. After three months of hard work, he presented the chief executive with a one-hundred page, neatly typed, double-spaced masterpiece (in his opinion) titled "Organization Survey." He was thoughtful enough to have additional copies mimeographed in case the boss should wish to present them to the board.

"Organization Survey" had no organization, no summary statements, nor a condensed list of recommendations. After several weeks of silence, the executive assistant was beginning to wonder just what had happened. Finally he asked the chief executive for his opinion of the report. The chief executive replied that he hadn't got around to reading it.

"But," protested the executive assistant, "you can save more than $100,000 a year simply by following four new procedures that I have recommended!"

"Then why didn't you say so?" countered the chief executive.

The executive assistant could have changed the whole picture just by better organization, by including some summary sections, and by titling the report, "How to Save More Than $100,000 Annually in the Organization." You can be sure that all concerned would have opened the report immediately and read it carefully.

Business lives on reports, memos, and other types of written communications. The business of religious and other non profit entities is dependent upon these. The reason some written reports get fast action is because they are easy to read and understand and thereby are effective. It takes a plan to write a good report. Some of the very best, most-interesting reports are those that are written in a style that is simple and to the point.


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May 1971

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