Monroe’s Principles of Speech Military Edition (1942) was issued to officers in WWII and the foreword to this book started with this quote:
“In modern warfare, communication by telephone and radio – increasingly important – places special demands on the voice. Dr. W.N. Brigance, an artillery officer in the last war [WWI], tells how a fuzzy-voiced man relayed a message to shift fire to “eleven hundred meters” so indistinctly that it was heard as “seven hundred meters” – and shells dropped on our own men. One slovenly spoken word cost the lives of several hundred American soldiers. It can happen again – if you let it.”
Throughout history, communication has become faster and easier, and at points of significant change – print to radio to TV to internet on demand video; phone to email to text to social networks – we seem to lose some of the efficacy of the enhanced communication we seek.
Twenty years ago, who would have thought we would be communicating with abbreviations, texts, and emojis. In our acronym laden world, we should revisit the Mehrabian and Ferris research studies that concluded 55% of communication is body language, 38% is voice intonation, and 7% is the actual spoken word.
Nearly 100 years from our involvement in WWI, we still see that excellence in communication remains an enigma, regardless of the tools.