Off to a good start

Get your message across effectively with a simple writing model

Off to a good start

WE LIVE in a state of perpetual communication.

Yet, in this era of high technology, where our interactions with people — even those halfway across the world — are often instantaneous through tools like e-mail, it is common to hear that we don’t communicate well enough.

Saying something right is sometimes lost in the name of efficiency.

An e-mail message is fast but it can sound curt when there was no intention to be. A sensitive recipient might take offence when none was intended.

Time is money in this high-speed economy, where efficiency and effectiveness are the key to success. But all too often, the language we use in business is a barrier to effective communication.

Clear or confusing?

Consider the following examples of an introduction to a report:

1.  “Regarding the employee absentee analysis report done last quarter, we found some striking points to address. Namely, the absentee rate, which includes sick leave, annual leave and other leave entitlement, tends to peak around seasonal periods. For instance, during Christmas and the New Year’s Day particularly. We need to do something to level off the absentee rate along the year so the fluctuations stay around an acceptable range.”

2. “Employees make full use of their annual leave entitlement, be it sick leave, annual leave and other leave entitlement, as they utilise it within the calendar year. The issue arises when the pattern of leave application and implementation is concentrated in certain parts of the year, namely around Christmas and New Year’s Day. The question is, ‘How will this impact business performance when we are understaffed at certain periods of the year?’”

In the first example, the message — that is, understaffing during the year-end holiday period — is not clearly conveyed.

The report is merely a transcription of the writer’s thoughts on the matter. It is disorganised, ungrammatical and written in officious language, and leaves the reader confused.

The second example makes the same point but is written in a more coherent manner. The language is simpler, uses active voice and explains the issue logically. This message is easily understood. 

SCQ model

A simple format you can use to communicate effectively, especially in the workplace, is the SCQ model. It is an acronym for situation, complication and question model:

* Situation. This is the sentence where you describe the facts of an issue and the current scenario.

* Complication. After giving the facts briefly, you describe the turn: In the current situation, a complication has risen. Then you go on to list down what happens when things do not go as planned.

* Question. After reading about the situation and the complication, the reader would have formed an impression of what your message is. He would have some questions too, as he reads through your introduction.

If you ask a key question at the end of your introduction and it coincides with one the reader has formed in his mind, then your message is on track.

If, however, the reader’s question is not the same as the one you listed down, then at least it tells the reader about the question you will answer in your message.

Using this simple SCQ model in crafting an introduction will help you present your ideas and sell your message so coherently and logically that they will jump right off the page and into your readers’ minds.

Do note that this model only takes care of the introduction to your business communication.

But it is a critical part because you want to build rapport with your readers so that they will be persuaded to hear what you have to say in the body and conclusion of your report or proposal.

The SCQ model framework can be applied to a variety of situations, as long as there is a message to be communicated across, there is a sender and there is a recipient.

Impress your readers and make their job easier by presenting your ideas coherently in an effective format.

It’s a win-win: Your readers will thank you for saving them valuable time and you will find it easier to sell your ideas. 

Article by Lawrence Chan, a professional speaker and associate trainer with d’Oz International Singapore. For more information, call 6391-3733 or e-mail consultancy@d-oz.com

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