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  • Writer's pictureJoan Medlen

Five Points to a Clear Message

This series is going to focus on the quote from Linda Hodgdon’s book, Visual Strategies for Improving Communication:

“Communication is 55% visual, 37 % vocal, and 7% verbal, or the actual message.”

This week, let’s look at the message, or 7% of communication.

Strunk and White’s book, the Elements of Style is an invaluable resources for this piece of communication. One of the key messages is to make your communication clear, concise, and direct. here are five things to consider when creating your message for print, scripts, storyboards, presentations, and conversations:

  1. Use active tense. An active tense creates a vigorous message that is compelling. The person receiving your message feels it is relevant to this moment. Avoid using passive statements such as “may be,” “can be,’ or “should be.”

  2. Be direct. Get to the point quickly. Say what you want right away. Avoid explaining the history of reasons for your message. Provide a reference the person you are communicating with can access if they are interested.

  3. Be familiar. Speak directly to your audience by using a personal tone. Everyone likes knowing you are interested in them. Using an a removed tone “one must consider…” is more difficult for your audience to understand.

  4. Keep it short and simple. It is easier to take in small amounts at regular intervals than a lot of information all at once. To do this it is essential to define your message clearly at the beginning.

  5. Be positive. Keep your tone positive. Focus on the actions you want them to take, rather than what not to do. A positive action statement is easier to act on and more powerful than a negative

The message, the words you choose to use – whether written or spoken – is only 7% of the message. it’s essential that the message is consistent with the rest of the recipe for communication : verbal and visual cues. Well-planned messages go along way toward understandability.


The vocal piece of communication.

(written by Joan Guthrie Medlen, RD, LD. Originally published July 2009 on

Resource to consider: Scientific and Technical Inforamtion: Simply Put, published by the Centers on Disease Control.

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