Six Tips to Help Improve Your Communications Skills

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I had lunch at a popular casual restaurant/art gallery yesterday in downtown Savannah. SoHo has an eclectic menu with fresh sandwiches and salads and the best tomato basil soup I have ever tasted. The décor is mostly art gallery, with lots of gently used chairs surrounding mismatched tables, some sporting umbrellas, even inside. The high ceilings and bright colors give it the feel of an art gallery along with the art and retro memorabilia on the walls. In the lounge/waiting area, original art and prints by local artists are available for purchase. There was a sign next to some oil paintings that read, “I will matt one of my paintings for you.” I looked at the sign. Matt? It should have read "mat." The artist may be skilled with a brush and paint, but he doesn’t know how to spell, use spell check, or just is too lazy to check to make sure his communications skills make as good as an impression as his paintings.

The effect of this spelling error did more than give the impression of a poor communicator. It also, by association, made the paintings seem a little less impressive. This person was communicating with his art, and with any job in communications, every aspect of the how you communicate gives a lasting impression of you. A writer who has poor grammar or doesn’t understand the AP or Chicago editing style comes across poorly to prospective clients and their readers. A trainer or marketing specialist seems less professional if there are spelling or punctuation errors in advertising copy. If you want to have a career in communications, here are some tips to make you successful:

1. Learn the mechanics of writing. Just writing words on paper doesn’t make you a good communicator. Sentence structure, parts of speech and the proper use of punctuation helps the reader (or listener) get the content and the feeling of what you are saying.

2. Write. Stephen King said that the way to be a successful writer is to put your butt in the chair and write. The more you write and edit, the better you will become.

3. Listen to feedback. Set your ego aside and ask for and listen to feedback about your writing. Keep an open mind and put into practice some of the tips for improvement.

4. Get published. Whether you want to be a writer or use writing, graphics, speech or other forms of communication as a career, getting in print, video, film or on the Internet helps build a portfolio, get feedback and get exposure.

5. Network with other writers. Every community has their share of freelance writers, children’s writers, authors, speakers and trainers. Join a writers club, or subscribe to an online writer’s forum. Writer’s Digest has a website with a wealth of information for writers, publishers, poets, storytellers and other communicators.

6. Read. A variety of literature, plays, poetry, magazine articles. I find some of the best written articles in Vogue Magazine every week. The joke about buying Playboy Magazine isn’t so farfetched. You can find excellent articles in all types of magazines. Read authors and writers in the genre that you want to write. Reading good literature helps you in your own writing.

Mary Nestor-Harper, SPHR, is a consultant, blogger, motivational speaker and freelance writer for Based in Savannah, GA, her work has appeared in Training magazine, Training & Development magazine, Supervision, BiS Magazine and The Savannah Morning News. When she’s not writing, she enjoys singing Alto II with the Savannah Philharmonic Chorus and helping clients discover what they love and spend their life on it. You can read more of her blogs at and view additional job postings on Nexxt.

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