"There are many battles of history that were lost because of botched communication," says Steven Pinker, a professor of psychology at Harvard University.
In today's workplace where email and Slack conversations are as common as in-person meetings, the perils of miscommunication are ever-present. And no one is immune.
Pinker, author of writing manual "The Sense of Style," says the chief impediment to clear communication is a phenomenon called the "curse of knowledge."
This cognitive bias basically means that "when you know something, it's extraordinarily difficult to know what it's like not to know it," Pinker tells CNBC Make It. "Your own knowledge seems so obvious that you're apt to think that everyone else knows it, too."
The problem with that, he says, is that you're more likely to use jargon that most people don't understand, to skip steps and explanations, and to rely on abstractions instead of describing things in concrete terms.
So what can you do to overcome the curse of knowledge in your own writing and speaking? Pinker recommends the following four strategies.