Simple signs communicate quickly

I was enjoying some autumn sun this morning, when I noticed this sign in a playgroundSurely there's a short and simple way to give the same message! What parent has enough time to read a 58 word signBy the time you've figured out what a 'play element' is, when the 'heat of the day' might be, and what it means to 'check the surfaces of individual play elements', your child has either run on the street or burned their hands!Wouldn't it be clearer to write  Caution Playground equipment...

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Email conventions: Getting the timing right

Email might be indispensable to business, but we don’t have good conventions about its timingEmail writing has become fairly standardised, and most people seem to understand its conventions These include: it’s a good idea to start with some type of salutation; CAPITALS = SHOUTING; it’s easy to give unintended offense; it’s wise to think before hitting send; and it’s best to think carefully before hitting ‘reply all’But timing is more interesting How long should you wait before...

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Anticipate audience expectations

The idea that communicators need to anticipate and meet the expectations of their audiences isn’t new Communication has conventional forms and, by following the conventions and meeting audience expectations, communicators can minimise errors and increase accuracy Audiences learn the ‘communication script’ that is relevant for situations, and expect that script to be followed This seems like a simple enough guideline, but it can be difficult to get it right Sometimes...

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Self-publish to your heart’s content, but please pay a proof-reader

We’re all publishers today Nearly every service provider is in the business of creating content and self-publishing as a way to lift their profileThe rush to publish creates clutter, and for many readers triggers what Wurman aptly names ‘information anxiety’ With so much information available, how do readers choose content with value And how do self-publishers create something that stands above the clutter and really provides useful contentOf course, one strategy to achieve...

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Silly signs

There's nothing quite like a misfit sign to remind me of how much fun words can be Like this one at Bribie Island McDonald's: 'Parking is reserved for McCafe Drive Thru only'Maybe I'm missing something: I always thought that parking wasn't meant to be part of the drive through...

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Alienating an audience: The risk of a ‘me’ focus

I attended a function last night where a speaker alienated a large group of the audience It got me thinking about the way that the focus of a message can make or break a communicator's connection with the people they want to reachIt comes down to a simple question: is this communication about me (and what I want to say to you), or is it about you (and what you would like to hear)Last night's function was a school concert, and the speaker in question was a spokesperson for the church where the...

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Infographics as part of journalism

I'm currently enjoying browsing through 'The Best American Infographics 2014', introduced by Nate Silver (Mariner Books)I'm appreciating the way that each artist has put together information in an accessible and quickly understandable way Many of the infographics are about topics that wouldn't normally capture my attention, but put together in this volume they're captivating meMy current favourites are the overview of email's evolution, the depiction of caffeine content in drinks, the...

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Text and design need to work together

It's one of the most common bits of advice for writers and designers: make sure that the writer's words and the designer's design work well togetherWriters/editors and graphic designers can't work in isolation from each other They need to collaborate to ensure that the writer's words make sense with the designer's layoutThis particularly seems to apply to headings The example below appeared in my local newspaper this week I guess that the writer has written a complete sentence: 'Join us for a...

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Relationship-focused communication

I've always thought that communication involves thinking about relationships For me, the relationship often comes first: it informs the decisions I make about how and when to communicate I frequently find myself making decisions about message content, tone, format, and timing on the basis of what I'm trying to achieve with the relationship Usually the decisions have something to do with building, maintaining, or enhancing a relationship with my audience or reader Most of the time,...

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