Four rules to help you communicate clearly


Language is fascinating. How do we communicate and ensure that people understand what we’re trying to say (or write)? There are lots of rules–some written down, some just assumed–that govern how we use language.

In the 1970s, Paul Grice introduced four maxims to describe how people normally behave in conversation. Collectively known as the cooperative principle, these maxims describe how listeners and speakers cooperate with each other in order to be understood.

The Gricean Maxims:

  • Maxim of relation — Be relevant
  • Maxim of manner — Be clear
  • Maxim of quality — Be truthful
  • Maxim of quantity — Be concise (only say as much as you need to)

These maxims are most often associated with verbal communications. However, they are equally relevant in written communications.

The objective of most written communications is to motivate people to do something–become a customer, recommend your business, join your company. If you follow these four rules, your audience will understand your message and be motivated to take action.


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