In college, I had a professor who mumbled. I sat in the front row and could usually figure out what he was saying but sometimes he also spoke at a low level and I couldn’t understand him at all.
One time, I raised my hand and said, “Could you mumble a little louder?” Everyone laughed, including my professor. (All was okay. He later wrote me a recommendation letter to law school).
Now, as you probably know, I get a lot of emails from lawyers. To my chagrin, many of these professional communicators (that’s who we are, after all), are just as difficult to understand as my mumbling professor.
Frankly, they can’t write their way out of a paper bag.
It’s one thing to send an informal email to someone you know. You don’t always have to format properly or use the King’s English. But you can’t send emails that make people think, “What the hell did they just say?”
Clarity is right up there at the top of the effective communication mountain. If people don’t understand you, you can’t expect to persuade them of anything. They’re not going to learn what you want them to learn. They’re not going to get your jokes.
If your legal documents are muddled, if your closing arguments are a mishmash of thoughts, if your marketing documents and presentations are as mushy and boring as a bowl of oatmeal, you’ve got some work to do.
How do you improve? Read more. Find models of clear writing and study them. Write more. Write something every day and re-write it as often as necessary. You can ask someone to read and critique your writing, and maybe edit it. You might take classes or read books about writing.
You don’t ever want someone to wonder what you just said. As Robert Louis Stevenson put it, “Don’t Write merely to be understood. Write so that you cannot possibly be misunderstood.”
Clear instructions on marketing your practice