The Five Cs of Communication Checklist

Written communication is an ever-present part of engineering: emails, presentations, reports, and specifications, to name a few.

Communication ChecklistThe amount of material you generate and need to read in turn can be significant. By writing effectively, you can get your message across to your readers and help reduce the effort required to read your material. Follow the Five Cs of Communication Checklist to get the most out of your writing:

  • clarity
  • cohesiveness
  • completeness
  • conciseness
  • concreteness

Clarity

Clarity is the first item on the list because it is the most important. If your thoughts are not clear, your writing will not be clear, and your readers will not understand your message. Your readers might give up altogether or form an understanding that is contrary to your objective.

Keep the number of ideas in your sentences to a minimum, and don’t add anything that obscures your message. Be clear about your message and the information you wish to communicate.

Cohesiveness

Help your readers understand your message by leading them through your information so that they can see how it logically fits together. Don’t lose your readers in a jumble of meandering sentences or competing ideas. Keep your ideas focused on your message.

A topic sentence is a useful way to state an idea; it acts as a headline for what to expect in a paragraph. The topic sentence is usually the first sentence of the paragraph. The remaining paragraph sentences provide information that supports the topic sentence. Here is an example of a topic sentence with a controlling idea:

Building the pumphouse on the selected site will require innovative construction techniques.

Completeness

When presenting an idea, include enough information to prove your thesis (i.e., your topic sentence). Three supporting sentences and a concluding sentence are usually sufficient to complete the paragraph. The concluding sentence of the paragraph should summarize your main idea by reinforcing your topic sentence.

Conciseness

Make every word count. Delete redundant words and simplify wordy expressions. Remove any filler.

Here are some examples of redundant words:

Instead of:Use
a distance of five kilometresfive kilometres
mixed togethermixed
until such time asuntil

For more examples, read our post about how to avoid redundant words in reports.

Here are some examples of wordy expressions:

Instead of:Use
due to the fact thatbecause
in close proximity tonear
is equipped withhas

For more examples, read our post about how to avoid a jargon jumble.

Concreteness

Be specific in your meaning by using precise words. Avoid terms that are vague or abstract. For example:

AbstractLess AbstractConcrete
vehiclecara Ford Mustang
soonwithin the monthby April 30
is equipped withhashas

Use terminology consistently. If you initially refer to the warehouse as a warehouse, don’t refer to it later as a storage facility or logistics centre. Changing terminology only distracts and confuses readers.

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