Clear communication

Why communicators should always start with ‘why’

Working with a series of groups last week, I suddenly understood that the essence of my communication skills training can be summed up in one word – WHY.

When I am preparing people to communicate with media or other stakeholders about a product, a service or a function they nearly always want to start by talking about what the product is for, who the service serves, how the function works.

But all this is meaningless unless you start with why. To take one typical example, a journalist cannot hope to grasp the significance of a new drug for a hard-to-treat disease unless they are first confronted with the unmet need – the suffering that drug is designed to alleviate or remove.…

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Five verbal habits that irritate the hell out of your listeners

When it comes to communicating effectively in media interviews and at meetings we are often our worst enemies. A potentially cogent and powerful argument is undermined by pointless, repetitive and largely unconscious verbal habits that irritate the hell out of our listeners and work against impactful communication. Here are five of the worst offences:

Starting a live media interview with ‘thank you for having me’.

This is not the first time I have blogged about this cringeworthy response, but people continue to produce it so the point merits repetition.…

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A few more words and phrases that (literally!) annoy the hell out of me

I had such a great response to my earlier post on ‘The 10 words and phrases I hate the most’ that I thought it was worth revisiting the topic and adding a few more. Every day I seem to find myself cringing in the face of yet another overworked cliché, grammatical infelicity or pointless euphemism.

So here are my latest pet hates. As before I welcome all your comments and additional suggestions.

Hard-working people/families

It seems that every politician on the planet is targeting its policies specifically at these people.…

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My 10 most hated words and phrases

Okay, I am a stickler for clear, effective spoken and written communication that makes correct and appropriate use of our gloriously rich and subtle English language. But I make no apologies for that. There are some words and phrases that are so overused, misused, clumsy or downright meaningless that I want to lash out whenever I hear them uttered. …

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Exorcise the curse of knowledge

When I was medical correspondent of a national newspaper, some years ago, people used regularly to ask me how I was able to write in such depth and detail about science and medicine when I was neither a doctor nor a scientist. I replied that I was much better equipped than either of those experts to write about these complex areas because, being burdened with very little specialist knowledge myself, I was able to pitch my stories at a level the general public could understand and relate to.

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