Pitfalls To Avoid In Official Communication For Effective Performance In Polytechnic Administration

This piece treats aspects of grammar that determine effectiveness of writers in the public service or private sector.This is an attempt to identify certain errors to avoid in official correspondence.

Communication is the process by which people exchange information or express their thoughts and feelings. It has a significant position in polytechnic administration because it is the pivot on which the system runs. Can you imagine a Polytechnic System like ours where meetings are held without minutes taken, where memos are not sent to and fro, where queries are not issued on matters that need clarification, e.t.c? Whenever there is a communication gap or barriers, chaos, organizational conflicts, and anarchy are bound to occur in such Polytechnic System.

Of course, language is crucial to communication. It is the language one uses in passing information across by the management to the workforce, from superior officers to their subordinates and from contemporaries to their colleagues, whether at the faculty, department, units, or at the committee levels. Every employee involves directly or indirectly in the acts of drafting memos, taking and presenting minutes of meetings, issuing queries, issuing warning letters, writing reports, and other forms of official communication. All the aforementioned pieces of writing require appropriate diction and careful observance of the rules of grammar. 

For an Administrator, Deans, Directors, and Heads of departments to be able to write elegantly, certain errors must be avoided, such as spelling errors and other syntactic errors. Essentially, the fundamental ingredients of an elegant report, minutes of the meeting, briefs, etc., are intelligibility, brevity, accuracy, and conciseness.

Dictionary is an invaluable tool that can help in improving the quality of report writing.  

Any good report or other forms of official communication in a polytechnic system must be purposeful, well-ordered, comprehensible, and clear enough to elicit the expected feedback or response.


(1)Avoid Irrelevancy:- In writing reports, minutes of meetings, briefs, etc., there should be conscious efforts to eliminate any irrelevant word, phrase, or clause either when writing, proofreading, or editing your write-ups. It is not a gainsaying that the inclusion of irrelevant words, phrases, or clauses in a piece of writing reduces its elegance, aesthetics, and rating.

(2)Avoid slang and Colloquialisms:- Slangs are words that are not considered parts of the standard vocabulary of the English Language and that are used very informally in a speech by a particular group of people. Some of them have quite unusual origins, e.g., pants, pissed-off, minging, etc.

Colloquialisms, on the other hand, are similar to slang, and these include words or phrases that are used mostly in informal speech/expression, e.g., chicken–out, bodacious, etc.

In an official communication, the administrators, heads of departments, and units are to refrain from injecting slang/colloquial expressions into reports and minutes of meetings.

(3)Getting rid of sexism:- Every administrator or head of the department who writes reports must be aware of the need to get rid of sexism in the development of sentences and paragraphs in report writing. In desexing the language, one needs to be extra careful so as not to violate the fundamental rules of usage, e.g., fireman to be replaced as a firefighter, policeman to change to a police officer, chairman to chairperson/chair, barman to change to barperson/bar assistance, spokesman to change to spokesperson, etc.

The point I am trying to make is that one should learn to avoid sexist words or phrases. One good way to avoid sexist pronouns is to use the plural rather than the singular (if possible). Another way is to repeat the noun rather than use a pronoun.

(4)Avoid Redundancy and Circumlocution:

A redundancy is an expression that conveys the same meaning more than once. Thus, ‘circle around’ is redundant because the idea of around is already contained in a circle. All redundancies fall into the broader category of circumlocutions, that is, roundabout forms of expressions. But some circumlocutions, instead of saying the same thing twice, say next to nothing in a ponderous phrase, e.g., ‘He was a kindly nature,’ pare it to ‘He was kind’ etc. Hence, reports should not contain verbosity in any form.

(5)Avoid Clichés: A cliché is an expression so overworked that it has become an automatic way of getting around the main business of writing. Clichés render reports inelegant, e.g., so to speak, as the saying goes, it stands to reason, etc.

(6)Avoid Jargon: Except one is writing a technical report, the use of jargon needs to be avoided. It is true that every discipline has its expanding store of jargon, and the user needs to be restricted to only the time when one is writing a technical report on such disciplines. If jargon must, however, be used, it should be utilized sparingly.

(7)Avoid Offensive language/diction: Since you are writing in order to convince or convey information, all the ideas and thoughts contained in any form of the report should not include any foul language or insulting words. Nothing can be gained from using diction or terms that shock and offend people.

(8)Avoid Ambiguities: Syntactic, semantic, and morphological ambiguities are also to be avoided in report writing. Ambiguities are words that have a multiplicity of meanings. When ambiguous words are used in a sentence, they are likely to result in conflicting interpretations. A good report or minutes of the meeting should not contain ambiguous words. So, report writers must ensure that their writings are devoid of any forms of ambiguities.  

(9) Avoid grammatical blemishes:- A good report must be error-free in terms of spelling, choice of diction, sentence structure, and paragraph. As a report writer, make real assertions and use coordination and subordination as appropriate. Observe the rules of parallelism and ensure consistency in your tenses to make your reports rated fantastic or as finesse. Of course, rules of concord and agreement are to be obeyed at all times in report writing.

(10)Avoid switching between British and American usage and Spelling: In an official communication, writers are expected to be consistent in choosing either British or American spellings or rules of usage. Britain still has pavements while America has sidewalks.

Britain uses bonnets and boots in cars while America has hoods and trunks. In Britain, a vest is something you wear under a shirt, while in America, it is called an undershirt. British English has mobiles, while American English has cell phones. In terms of variations in spellings, BrE uses criticize, AmE- criticize, BrE-centre, AmE. Centre; BrE- labor AmE labor; BrE analyses, AmE analyze; BrE defense AmE Defense, etc.

A good Nigerian user of English must be consistent in using either British or American English, preferably the British System being the model adopted for Nigeria. Above pitfalls, when carefully avoided, will definitely improve the quality of reports and minutes of meetings being written by the administrators in any polytechnic system. 

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