Guest Post by Jaclyn Dawn
I teach communications at both NAIT and MacEwan. I love what I teach. However, the expressions on my students’ faces when I introduce the grammar portion of my classes tell me the love isn’t exactly shared.
On the first day of a beginner level course, I listed the assignments that would be due throughout the semester: a business letter, report, and such. A student – let’s call him Johnny – raised his hand.
“I don’t need this stuff. I’m going into business,” he said.
“Hopefully, by the end of this course, you will see otherwise,” I countered. Countering this stance, after all, was one of the course objectives. What he said next was new.
“How you gonna know if my girlfriend is doin’ my homework?”
He made a good point. Next class, Johnny raised his hand again.
“How come online it says assignments are going to be done in class now?” he asked.
“Cheating 101,” I replied. “Don’t tell the prof you’re going to cheat.”
Even if Johnny has a brilliant business mind, his successes will be few and limited if he is unable to communicate his ideas effectively. For instance, our conversation could have gone much differently had he asked a more appropriate question. So, why is a basic communications class mandatory in most programs? Because no matter which course you take in school, which career you seek or enter, all require written and oral communication. A basic communications class works on developing this awareness and these skills.
My students hear me repeat that with all communication we must keep in mind three important factors:
- Purpose – what is our message and why are we delivering the message?
- Audience – who are we delivering the message to?
- Means – how are we delivering the message?
Your approach to selling an innovative product should differ if your audience is a 12-year-old, a group of foreign travellers, or an old friend and if your means is an advertisement, a letter, or a haiku. Your approach to revealing a record low in sales should differ if your audience is a grumpy employer, a nervous employee, or two hundred unsuspecting investors and if your means is an email, a press release, or an oral report.
Good news or bad news? Formal or informal? Oral or written? Your purpose, audience, and means affect how you deliver your message. And, how you deliver your message affects how the audience will react to your message and to you. Thoughtful consideration of tone, grammar, and format does not guarantee clarity and a successful outcome, but it sure helps by minimizing room for miscommunication.
“I see what you’re sayin’ about needin’ good communication and stuff,” Johnny said, lingering after one of the final lectures of the semester. “But, I still don’t like grammar.”
In my defense, not many people do.