There are principles which, although they are not actual acts of communicating, define conditions for making a successful communication. These principles that will be discussed here are:
- Ancillary activities in written communication, and
- Guides to effectiveness of communication.
We imply here that, according to the No. 1 item, certain activities support (are supportive of) written communication. So, this item No. 2 recommends principles which should be observed if we are to make a success of our attempt at communicating, whether orally or in writing.
The unit is evidently what you might call an “omnibus” or “octopus” unit. So, much as it is important that you should know something about the topics discussed, we shall be very brief in our discussion of them in order not to overload your work. Indeed, we shall essentially list the principles involved as (besides the need to avoid overloading your text) you are, from your other English Language courses, probably already familiar with the ideas being referred to. (If you need fuller explanations of the ideas, please, see Okenimkpe, 2004, Chapters Six and Twelve of Volume I).
It is my hope that you will appreciate the importance to effectiveness of communication of the principles which we are highlighting in the unit.
You will need about three hours for studying the unit. Be sure to understand every point that it makes. You can prove to yourself how well you have understood the unit by doing the Self-assessment Exercises (SAEs) efficiently. You must also diligently answer the Tutor-marked Assessment Questions (TMA) in a thorough manner and send your answers, as directed, to the university for your tutor’s evaluation.
Ancillary Activities in Written Business Communication
In a previous article “Elements of Communication” (or the “Communication Package”) presents certain tools or skills of writing as Extrinsic and Intrinsic tools or skills. These tools or skills essentially represent what we are referring to here as ancillary (supportive) activities in written business communication (indeed in any written communication). The Intrinsic tools or skills themselves are divisible into two categories, namely Mechanical (or Rote) and Cognitive (or Language) tools or skills. These skills are derived from (or linked to) two characteristics or qualities ascribed to all types of written communication. These are the extrinsic (i.e., lay-out) qualities of written matter and the intrinsic (i.e., content) qualities of written matter. So, Intrinsic Skills are for imparting into written matter their intrinsic qualities, while the Extrinsic Skills are for imparting the extrinsic qualities into written matter. We can again reproduce for closer focus on the tools or skills for constructing written matter.
Extrinsic Skills aim at neat appearance and tasteful arrangement of written matter for the purpose of achieving eye appeal. They are essential elements for imparting ”sellability” into all forms of written communication. Some of the skills involved in achieving the quality of “sellability” or attractiveness of presentation include the following:-
(i) Wide Margins (on all sides of the paper: right, left, top and bottom). New computer technology in graphic communication, such as the word-processor and the desktop printer, is extending the frontiers of graphic presentation to almost infinite limits.
(ii) Appropriate Line-spacing: Besides the general attractiveness which suitable line-spacing and these other extrinsic traits give to written matter, suitable spacing also makes for easy reading.
Also, the new technologies in graphic production have wide possibilities for use of varied sizes of line-spacing.
(iii) Use of Conventional Formats in Written Matter: In general terms, we refer here to such established formats as those of the letter and the internal memorandum which, of course, may have minor variations from firm to firm. Also, firms have their own prescribed formats for such routine (Control or Periodic) reports as on regional sales, income and expenditure, bonus and over-time liabilities, and so on. Observing these conventions is a crucial necessity. There is abundant room for innovation and creativity in reports and similar kinds of continuous writing, but such initiatives should not be exercised with regard to the use of established formats. Changes in such formats can only cause irritation and waste of time.
The three elements which we have been discussing (margins, line-spacing and formats), taken together prevent a crowded, ungainly presentation of written matter, such as reports and also prevent what is referred to as “print fright” – the threat, repulsion or aversion which a typed or printed page may exercise on a potential or target reader on account of the ugliness of the page.