Agricultural Communications, Purdue University
An electronic newsletter with communication tips and information

May 1997

And the Survey Says

You want to communicate using the latest and best technology, and you want to do it well. Also, quite a few of you are concerned about how to communicate controversial issues. These are just a few of the things 82 of you told us in your responses to the March "On Target" survey.

We gave you some choices and asked you which topics you would MOST like to see covered in upcoming issues of "On Target." The overwhelming winners were: 1) risk communication (e.g., dealing with controversial topics); 2) internet/email; and 3) grammar/writing. Other topics of interest included personal and interpersonal communication, marketing, media relations, and desktop publishing.

Some of you added topics to the "wish list," like condensing material into the most effective words, projection equipment for power point presentations, effective (and ineffective) use of acronyms, voice mail tips, and digital cameras and associated software.

We'll do our best to bring you articles on these topics.

Based on the survey results, it seems that email is a pretty good way to distribute "On Target." We say "pretty good," because a number of survey respondents indicated they don't receive "On Target" but would like to. We're working on that one.

What else? The monthly timing of "On Target" works for most of you. Also, many more of you who responded to the survey identified yourselves as Extension staff (50 of the 82 respondents) than as research or teaching staff.

A few of you said you don't use "On Target" much at all. But others of you said: "It's a useful publication" and a "great service;" "I share all or parts with many people;" and "Keep up the good work!" (Aw, shucks.)

We'll continue working to make "On Target" even more useful in the future. So keep those comments coming, folks. They're a big help.

Thanks Again,
The "On Target" Team

Nonverbal Communication: Part II

Last month's article explained the concept of personal space and described three forms of nonverbal communication. This article discusses how certain forms of nonverbal communication can affect and reflect power relationships.

Artifacts--items such as makeup, contact lenses, perfume, aftershave, clothes, glasses, and jewelry--are nonverbal stimuli that influence how we react to one another and how we are perceived.

Picture talking to a man who has his eyebrow or tongue pierced, or a woman who has a punk-style spiked hairdo. Would you communicate with them the same as with someone who has a more "respectable" appearance? Probably not.

Most of us have heard that, when interviewing for a job, we should wear power colors like black or blue and stay away from other colors. I believe it. I saw some students in Stewart Center the other day getting ready to be interviewed by a company representative. All but one were wearing power colors. Although dressed neatly, somehow the student in the non-power colors seemed weaker than the others.

Environmental factors can also play an important part in nonverbal communication--and can affect and reflect power relationships.

Take, for example, walking into an office to speak to someone. If you are directed to a chair across the desk from the person, the desk works as a barrier and places the person behind it in a position of power and authority. If the person comes out from behind the desk and takes a chair next to yours, both of you are on a more equal communication level.

Touching is also a form of nonverbal communication. A handshake, for example, can also become a "power play." If a handshake is too weak, a person can come across as weak. Too strong, and the person can seem overly aggressive.

Likewise, how you say something can be just as important as what you say. A person who speaks too softly can seem weak. Someone who speaks too loudly or too fast can seem too aggressive. (Unless that "someone" is a woman. Her voice will often be heard as "shrill." But that's another story.)

In a medium like "On Target" I can't begin to do justice to a topic as complex and important as nonverbal communication. If I've managed to make you as interested in the topic as I am, check out the book "Interpersonal Communication" by JoAnn Vanndemark and Pam Leth. You'll be glad you did.

Radio Rules

When you're asked to do a radio show, remember these basic rules. They'll help you sound good.

Use Your Body

A relaxed body helps produce a relaxed-sounding voice, so do a few exercises just before going on the air. (Just don't do so many you're out of breath.) Also, try some voice exercises. An easy one is to whisper the alphabet as loud as you can. It sounds a little strange, but it does wonders to loosen vocal cords and throat muscles. Sit up straight as you read to help your breathing.

Think Your Thought Through to the End

Read or speak in phrases. Know how the sentence will come out before you start it. Keep an eye on the end of the sentence while you're reading the beginning. This will add smoothness to your delivery and help you portray the meaning of each phrase as part of the whole idea.

Talk at a Natural Speed, but . . .

Occasionally change your pace to avoid monotony. Vary your pitch and the volume of your voice to get variety, emphasis, and attention. Control your breathing so that you take breaths between units of thought; otherwise you'll sound choppy.

Visualize the Thought

Regardless of the topic, visualize what you are saying. See it, feel it, and project your personality. Sell your listeners on the points you are making. Be persuasive. Enthusiasm and sincerity will help convince them you believe what you are saying and will increase your credibility in their eyes (and ears).

Remember the Three B's

    1. Be yourself.
    2. Be at ease.
    3. Be enthusiastic.


Good luck!

Grammar Trap: Less vs. Fewer

"Fifty words or less." "Ten items or less." You see them all the time, but, in formal terms, both phrases are incorrect. Why? You can count words and items.

"Less" has to do with what you can't really count--with quantity, amount, or extent.

Examples: There is less water in a cup than in a pint. The "On Target" survey respondents indicated less interest in desktop publishing than in risk communication.

You can't count water and interest.

"Fewer" has to do with what you can count--with number.

Examples: There are fewer ounces of water in a cup than in a pint. Fewer respondents to the "On Target" survey identified themselves as research or teaching staff.

You can count ounces and respondents.

Here's an example that uses both words correctly: It takes less time to go through a grocery check-out line that has fewer people.

Tip: "Less" has to do with how much. "Fewer" has to do with how many.

If there's a grammar (or usage) trap you'd like me to discuss or you have a tip that will help the rest of us avoid one, please let me know.

We want to hear from you. Do you have a communication question? Do you have a comment on this issue of "On Target"? If so, please e-mail them to
Steve Cain ( Or simply reply to this email.