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C. S. Lewis and the Craft of Communication

Steven A. Beebe

C. S. Lewis, based on the popularity of his books and essays, is one of the best communicators of the twentieth century. During his lifetime he was hailed for his talents as author, speaker, educator, and broadcaster; he continues to be a best-selling author more than a half-century after his death.

C. S. Lewis and the Craft of Communication analyzes Lewis’s communication skill. A comprehensive review of Lewis’s work reveals five communication principles that explain his success as a communicator. Based on Lewis’s own advice about communication in his books, essays, and letters, as well as his communication practice, being a skilled communicator is to be holistic, intentional, transpositional, evocative, and audience-centered. These five principles are memorably summarized by the acronym HI TEA. Dr. Steven Beebe, past president of the National Communication Association and an internationally-recognized communication author and educator, uses Lewis’s own words to examine these five principles in a most engaging style.

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5 Intentional

 

Extract

“Take great pains to be clear. Remember that though you start by knowing what you mean, the reader doesn’t, and a single ill-chosen word may lead him to a total misunderstanding.”1

- C. S. Lewis

“The way for a person to develop a style is (a) to know exactly what he wants to say, and (b) to be sure he is saying exactly that. The reader, we must remember, does not start by knowing what we mean. If our words are ambiguous, our meaning will escape him. I sometimes think that writing is like driving sheep down a road. If there is any gate open to the left or the right the readers will most certainly go into it.”2

- C. S. Lewis

Lewis’s brother Warnie noted in his diary that he traveled with his brother to Durham on February 24, 1943. Riding the train from Oxford to Durham takes about four hours on a “direct” train—it takes longer on a “milk run” train, one that stops at smaller towns and villages to deliver milk and other supplies. According to the weather summary for 1943, Northern England experienced heavy rain on the 24th. The reported fog may have obstructed the Northern Lights that were visible in Northern England and Scotland that night. Yet when the train pulled into Durham station, even heavy fog would likely not have obscured the view of Durham Cathedral—a massive Romanesque and Gothic structure...

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