Posted by: Phil Anderson | October 4, 2015

Communication: Are We Getting Through?

After last week’s post about art and what it means (or doesn’t mean) to me, I’ve been thinking about the nature of communication. The dictionary says that to communicate is to share or exchange information, news, or ideas. Art usually communicates ideas or emotions implicitly, in a way that’s open to interpretation. Writing is an art, but I usually try to communicate more specifically, so that my meaning is clear.

I remember back nearly twenty years ago when our oldest daughter was just learning to talk. She repeated back sounds we made and equated them with a meaning. After a while she could say words and short phrases that only my wife and I could understand. Eventually she could put together simple sentences about her world and the things important to her. Then one day I came home from work, and she began babbling about something that had happened that day. I remember that moment because, for the first time, she was telling me something I didn’t already know. That was real communication.

The most difficult thing about writing isn’t thinking of ideas or recording them in words, it’s selecting and arranging those words so that the reader interprets them correctly. Communication isn’t really about what I have to say; it’s about what my audience understands.

Everyone automatically filters what they read or hear through their experience, history, and culture. I write through my own filters. Words have different meanings to different people, and there are myriad ways to confuse them. A writer can never hope to be universally understood, only to minimize misinterpretation.

What do you think? Have you read any writers who are confusing or unclear? Or do they tend to go too far and make their work pedantic? Which do you find more often? Leave your comments below.

 

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