Communication, management and your own context
Communication, management and your own context

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Communication, management and your own context

2 Language as a management tool: the structure of texts

Text 1 was taken from a newspaper, the Financial Times. As a student of management, you will be expected to extract information from different types of text and then transform the information that you have extracted into your own written or spoken text.

You will be looking at texts for a variety of reasons – first, to gain information from them, to understand what they are talking about and the thinking behind them, and second, to understand how they are written and why they are written in particular ways.

As a manager or as a student of management, you need to be able to construct different text types – for example, notes, summaries, presentations and reports. So, as well as helping you to understand complex texts, an aim of the course is to enable you to construct your own texts, using knowledge about how the English language works, how sentences are put together and how they are combined to form a text. Depending on how this is done, the resulting texts will be more or less successful in achieving their purpose.

Look at the comment made by Claes Göransson in Text 1:

English is structurally much simpler. ‘English leads with the verb, whereas German leaves it until the end. And English is shorter and more direct.’

How does English compare with other languages that you know?

This course will familiarise you with the structures of English. Part of this will be about recognising verbs and nouns and their place and function in English sentences, and the ways in which sentences are joined together to form paragraphs, which are then combined to form texts. There are seven main units of language. These units are: word, word group, clause, sentence, paragraph, section and text. Word groups can be either noun groups or verb groups. As an introduction, Table 1 gives examples of three of the seven units of language, taken from Text 1.

Table 1 Examples of a word group, a sentence and a paragraph

Word group Paolo Carignani
Sentence Paolo Carignani knows a lot about the use of different languages to convey ideas.
Paragraph Paolo Carignani knows a lot about the use of different languages to convey ideas. As the Italian music director of the Frankfurt Opera and a guest conductor with orchestras worldwide, Mr Carignani speaks English a lot – but he knows that people of different nationalities in his orchestras do not always understand the language fully.

Paolo Carignani is a word group that contains two nouns. We can therefore call this kind of word group a noun group.

If you look at the questions you answered about Text 1, perhaps you can see how word groups combine to form sentences that, together, form the text of the article. In this way, your answers summarise the meaning that is expressed more fully in the whole text. You will read Text 1 again in the next activity, and think about the way it is built up out of different language units.

Activity 2

Purpose: to look at how a text is put together from words, sentences and paragraphs. These are the basic building blocks of a text.

Task: Read through the whole of Text 1 again and consider how it is divided into sentences and paragraphs:

  • How many paragraphs are there?
  • How long are they?
  • What are the connections between them?
  • What is the purpose of the text?

Comment

To complete a management task such as finding out how a business is performing or analysing a market, you may have to find information from different types of text. The information that you need to complete the task might be in a newspaper or magazine article, in a management textbook or in an article in an academic journal.

Activity 3

Purpose: to read and compare two texts to see how they are put together differently because their purpose and audience are different.

Task: Look at Text 2, ‘Communication in the workplace’, and make a note of any differences in the way that it is structured compared with Text 1:

  • Which text did you find easier to read?
  • Did you notice any difference in the length of paragraphs?
  • Did you notice any difference in the number of paragraphs?
  • Did you notice any difference in the types of word used?

Text 2

Communication in the workplace

Management, marketing, economics, training – almost every aspect of business is concerned with the way organisations, individuals, economies and markets influence each other. Influence is power and businesses depend on it to turn ideas into activity. Without power businesses would be ‘talking shops’ – places where ideas are produced but nothing else. The purpose of business communication is to provide information, opinion and argument which can be used as the basis of action: in other words, to inform decision making.

Businesses are actually ‘flows of information’ and, as communications technology progresses, information is becoming the main commodity that businesses deal with. This can be seen clearly in the financial sector. Most financial staff never see actual money, gold, or stocks and shares. They see information about ‘financial products’. This information is communicated around the organisation and to other organisations. ‘The money markets’ are places where information and opinion are exchanged, not physical products.

In such a world of information flows, effective communication is also central. Traditionally, effective communication was seen as a process in which information is shot like an arrow from a sender to a receiver (see the diagram below). It was thought that, as long as the information was clear and concise, the shooting was accurate and nothing got in the way of the speeding information, then communication would be effective.

Shannon and Weaver’s model of communication
(Adapted from Shannon and Weaver, 1949)
Figure 1 Shannon and Weaver’s model of communication

As you can see in the above diagram, this is a very early model of communication. Transmission models like this are not the models used in modern businesses. Communication involves more than information – it involves people. Sometimes, it may be enough to shoot information at a receiver in its simplest and clearest form. For example, a department secretary may send out a list of dates for departmental meetings in a well-presented list. However, if a member of the department wants to be excused from one of these meetings, it is unlikely that shooting back an arrow of information like the one below will be successful:

Unable to attend 15 January

To be effective, the sender may have to do more: for example, provide an explanation, check whether he or she is expected to present anything at that meeting, or express regret. It does not take long to see that shooting information at receivers is a limited kind of communication.

One element that is missing from Shannon and Weaver’s model is the notion of influence. The qualities of accuracy, clarity and precision which the model encourages are undoubtedly influential in many situations. But accuracy and clarity are not enough on their own to make all communication influential. For communication to be influential, it also needs to persuade people.

(Text source: The Open University, 2009, pp. 10–11)

Comment

The paragraphs in this text are much longer than those in Text 1 and give a different kind of information. They do not quote the opinions and ideas of individuals in the way that the first text does. No names are mentioned and no examples of companies are given. Text 2 describes a theory of communication, whereas Text 1 tells us what some people think about the use of various languages. These two texts demonstrate how different texts on similar topics can be, depending on their purpose and audience.

Text 1 and Text 2 are finished articles, but they are the result of a process of production. The next section looks at how texts are produced in the workplace.

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