Professional Communication Definition and Examples

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

professional communication
"Effective professional communication is a 'moral' skill, that is, a practical skill but underpinned by a framework of values" (Inez De Beaufort, ‎Medard Hilhorst, and ‎Søren Holm, In the Eye of the Beholder, 1996). (Christopher Futcher/Getty Images)

The term professional communication refers to the various forms of speaking, listening, writing, and responding carried out both in and beyond the workplace, whether in person or electronically.

As Cheng and Kong point out in the preface to Professional Communication: Collaboration Between Academics and Practitioners (2009), "Professional communication is an emerging area of investigation in many disciplines such as applied linguistics, communication studies, education, and psychology.

. . . [T]he understanding of professional communication can be enhanced by the studies conducted by the professionals themselves, because they are the insiders in their professions."

Examples and Observations

"What is good professional communication? It is writing or speaking that is accurate, complete, and understandable to its audience—that tells the truth about the data directly and clearly. Doing this takes research, analysis of the audience, and the mastering of the three interrelated elements of organization, language, and design and illustration." (Anne Eisenberg, Writing Well for the Technical Professions. Harper & Row, 1989)

Written Communication: Paper and Print

"Written communication includes everything that is printed on paper or viewed on a screen. Besides talking, it's one of the oldest forms of communication, and one of the most useful, especially where communications need to be preserved across distance or time.

. . .

"[P]aper communication is usually best under the following circumstances:

- You need to communicate with relatively few people and each communication needs to be individualized (letters, faxes, invoices).
- You have a large budget and you want to send many people a message that they can browse over or refer to later . . ..
- You want to create a good-looking, durable object that makes a favourable impression and that people will keep and refer to (annual reports, company brochures, books).
- You want to make it clear that you have taken time and trouble over an individual communication (handwritten letters and cards).
- Your message needs to be highly visible and durable (safety instruction posters).
- Your message needs to be easy to carry and hand out (business cards).
- For legal reasons you need to ensure there is a paper record of your correspondence.
- Your target audience either doesn't have access to electronic media or prefers not to use it."

(N. du Plessis, N. Lowe, et al. Fresh Perspectives: Professional Communication for Business. Pearson Education South Africa, 2007)

Email Communication

"According to market research firm Radicati, 182.9 billion emails were sent every day in 2013. Just take this in for a moment--182,900,000,000 a day. There’s no doubt that email is the most widely used professional communication tool, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s still the most appropriate or efficient. In fact, the sheer number of emails we send and receive every day is a part of the problem. People face increasing demands on their time as a result of cluttered email inboxes." (Joseph Do, "Email: A Declaration of War." Business 2 Community, April 28, 2014)

Civility in Professional Communication

"We suggest a simple understanding of civility that involves both attitude and action. We will speak of civility as the set of verbal and nonverbal behaviors reflecting fundamental respect for others and generating harmonious and productive relationships. . . .

"As such, civility is observable, practical, diverse, and virtually a necessity in today's business world." (Rod L. Troester and Cathy Sargent Mester, Civility in Business and Professional Communication.

Peter Lang, 2007)

Intercultural Communication

"Intercultural communication is communication between and among individuals and groups across national and ethnic boundaries. Understanding the nature of this type of communication can help you interact more effectively with other business communicators. . . .

"Intercultural communication can become especially problematic for business communicators when they begin to believe that the way people in their dominant culture communicate is the only or best way, or when they fail to learn and appreciate the cultural norms of people they do business with." (Jennifer Waldeck, Patricia Kearney, and Tim Plax, Business and Professional Communication in a Digital Age. Wadsworth, 2013)

Personal Branding

"For professionals, their brand shows through on their LinkedIn photo and profile.

It shows through with your e-mail signature. It shows on Twitter by what you tweet and through your profile description. Any form of professional communication, whether it’s intended to or not, reflects your personal brand. If you attend a networking event, how you present yourself is how people perceive you and your brand." (Matt Krumrie, "Can a Personal Brand Coach Help My Career?" Star Tribune [Minneapolis], May 19, 2014)

Using Networks Effectively

"The systems perspective provides useful tips for communicating formally and informally in an organization. Let's examine ways you can use these concepts in your professional communication:

- Develop information and support contacts inside and outside of your workplace. . . .
- Keep the lines of communication with your contacts open at all times. . . .
- Understand that decisions in organizations are subject to change and revision. . . .
- Never assume your company operates in isolation. Keep up with current events, changes in technology, and the global economy, and shifts in your industry that will affect your company.
- Understand that in business, change is healthy. . . .
- Enter into all interactions from a conscious perspective. Be aware of the information value and potential effect of your communication on your identity, others' ability to act, and the organization's health and resilience."

(H.L. Goodall, Jr., Sandra Goodall, and Jill Schiefelbein, Business and Professional Communication in the Global Workplace, 3rd ed. Wadsworth, 2010)