The 7 characteristics of effective communication

Communication can be defined as the combination of the processes we implement to share and convey information. Sounds easy, right? And yet, it isn’t. Because effectiveness can only be achieved when the sender of the message pays attention to specific elements that might affect how the message is perceived and decoded by the receiver.

Over time, the concept of effective communication has been associated with persuasive communication. But that’s wrong, because the terms imply different communication objectives:

  • Persuasive communication aims at prompting change in the receiver’s behaviours, beliefs, values or preferences.
  • Effective communication is about delivering an information unambiguously, so that the receiver can decode it correctly.


But what does it take to compose and deliver an effective message?

In Effective Public Relations (1952), University of Winsconsin professor Scott M. Cutlip and Allen H. Center defined a set of principles, known today as the 7 C’s of communication. The list has been widely adopted – with or without slight variations – and is now considered as a staple in public relations studies.

Ready to explore each element of the original set?



Effective communications are complete, i.e. the receiver gets all the information he needs to process the message and take action. A complete message reduces the need for follow-up questions and smoothens the communication process.


Conciseness is about keeping your message to a point. This is more about the content of your message rather than its length. Even a short memo can include irrelevant or redundant information. Conciseness helps the receiver focus on what’s important, speeds up the processing of information and caters for improved understanding.


Effective communication takes into account the receiver’s background and points of view. If your message hits a nerve or sounds as disrespectful, the emotional reaction of the receiver might affect the perception of your message. Also, tailoring your message to your audience – e.g. by using argumentations and examples which are relevant to their experience – makes it easier for them to process the contents.


A concrete message is specific, tangible, vivid. It’s supported by facts and figures for enhanced credibility. It helps your audience gain an overview of the broader picture. Concreteness mitigates the risk of misunderstanding, fosters trust and encourages constructive criticism.


Courtesy and consideration complement each other in effective communications. Courtesy means respecting the receiver’s culture, values and beliefs – i.e. crafting a message that is genuinely polite and unbiased.


The clearer your message, the easier it gets for the receiver to decode it according to your original intent. While this sounds obvious, most communication pitfalls originate from lack of clarity. Want to deliver an effective message? Start with a clear communication goal and accurate thoughts. Clear communications build on exact terminology and concrete words, to reduce ambiguities and confusion in the communication process.


Correct grammar and syntax vouch for increased effectiveness and credibility of your message. Formal errors might affect the clarity of your message, trigger ambiguity and raise doubts. They might also have a negative impact on the overall perception of the message, which could be seen as sloppy or negligent.

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