What Does That Mean?

In What Happens in Vagueness, Stays in Vagueness, Clark Whelton describes his struggle to hire capable, college-level interns.

The sticking point? He wants people who can write well, speak well and perform on the job.

His observations struck an exposed nerve. I’d recently had a series of convoluted discussions with a “freshout,” a recent college grad new to the work world. Our discussions on website improvements followed a consistent pattern:
Freshout: “So, like, the developer, you know, will take care of that stuff.”
Me: “And by ‘stuff’ you mean …?”
Freshout: “How the site operates. Speed, image display and stuff like that.”
Me: “And by ‘speed and stuff like that’ you mean …?”
Freshout: “You know, it will, like, load faster. Perform better. That kinda thing.”
Me: “Ok. It will load faster on users’ computers. And by ‘perform better’ you mean …?”
And so it went, through endless permutations, until we finally waded through the swamp of vagueness and pinpointed specifics: The web developer would handle technology. The marketing communications team would handle everything else.

This process was a laborious but timely reminder.

Language shapes thought and thought shapes action. Muddled language creates muddled thought. Muddled thought produces muddled action. Muddled action also produces results, but are they the results we wanted? Needed? Intended? Valued?

Many factors in business (and life) are outside our span of control. Communication is one function we can control. Clear, precise and substantive communication represents a remarkable opportunity to leverage a readily available but widely underutilized competitive advantage.

And what does that mean?

When you communicate effectively, you reap tangible rewards: Greater efficiency. Increased effectiveness. Improved sales. Reduced costs. Streamlined processes. Compact supply chains. Expedited delivery channels. Higher profits. Stronger relationships, and more.

Why not make the commitment to communicate clearly, wisely and well? Do so, and you’ll be building a shorter, smoother, straighter path from where you are today to where you want to be next week, next month, next year.


What Happens in Vagueness Stays in Vagueness (Clark Whelton)
Cost of Communications (Charlie Puissegur)
No Time for Translation (Mike Gugger)
Do Writing Skills Still Matter?
Reality Check
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