The words we use and the grammatical structure of how we use those words can impact our communication success in school, work, and our personal lives. Here are some tips to help you improve your verbal skills.
Choose Words Appropriate for Your Audience and the Communication Context
Your word choice should be determined by the audience you are communicating with and the communication context. Choose words that will have meaning to your listeners and that are appropriate for the situation. For example, using profanity in a classroom discussion might be understood by your listeners, but would be inappropriate for the setting. Using “textspeak” on a class discussion board or an email to your instructor would be inadvisable because textspeak is too informal. Be aware that many words may have both denotative and connotative meanings, and that you need to choose and use words consciously and strategically. Always avoid biased language, which is inappropriate for all contexts.
Define Unfamiliar Terms
Even when you are careful to craft your message clearly and concisely, some of your receivers may not understand every word you say or write. As a conscientious communicator, you know it is your responsibility to give listeners every advantage in understanding your meaning. Yet your presentation would fall flat if you tried to define each and every term—you would end up sounding like a dictionary! The solution is to be aware of any words you are using that may not be familiar to your receiver, and provide clues to meaning in the process of making and supporting your points. Give examples to illustrate each concept. Use parallels from everyday life. Rephrase unfamiliar terms in different words.
Choose Specific, Concrete Words
Check for Understanding
In this chapter, we discussed the definition of verbal communication and the various rules that govern language. To be an effective verbal communicator, it is important to understand that many words have both denotative and connotative meanings. Some words, such as slang, jargon, idioms, and colloquialisms, should be avoided in academic writing or speeches because they are too informal and are likely to be confusing to some audience members. However, no matter how carefully you choose your words, the meaning of words can vary from person to person. ("Meanings are in people, not words.")
The words you use can impact how others will see you and perhaps how they see one another. It is important to use language ethically. Always avoid biased wording that stereotypes and demeans others.
Finally, this chapter discusses ways of improving verbal communication to increase the likelihood that our messages will create the desired effect on our listener or reader.