Characteristics of Effective Communication

Effective communication is a message that is understood as the communicator meant it to be understood.  In order to help ensure understanding, communicators need to understand and apply the 7 Cs of Effective Communication.  An effective communication should be:


  1. Clear—main ideas easily identified and understood
  2. Concise—gets to the point without using unneeded words or images
  3. Concrete—includes specific examples or explanations
  4. Correct—in information, word choice, and grammar
  5. Coherent—information presented in a logical sequence
  6. Complete—enough information so the audience can understand
  7. Courteous—polite, professional tone

This video offers a review and brief additional explanation of the 7Cs.

The accompanying article mentioned in the video, The 7 Cs of Communication: A Checklist for Clear Communication, contains brief examples.

The following contains an example of ineffective communication.  As a self-test, can you identify specific places where the communicator did not apply the 7Cs?

Try It

Joanne supervised 36 professionals in 6 city libraries.  To cut the costs of unnecessary overtime, she issued this one-sentence memo to her staff:

When workloads increase to a level requiring hours in excess of an employee’s regular duty assignment, and when such work is estimated to require a full shift of eight (8) hours or more on two (2) or more consecutive days, even though unscheduled days intervene, an employee’s tour of duty shall be altered so as to include the hours when such work must be done, unless an adverse impact would result from such employee’s absence from his previously scheduled assignment.

After the 36 copies were sent out, Joanne’s office received 26 phone calls asking what the memo meant. What the ten people who didn’t call about the memo thought is uncertain. It took a week to clarify the new policy.

Gerry Kierans, an executive training professional, offers another way to consider the characteristics of effective communication.

The characteristics that Kieran presents, along with the 7Cs, offer complementary ways of thinking about what makes communication effective.  Keep these characteristics in mind as you create, review, revise, and evaluate the effectiveness of your own professional communications.