Four Terrific Tactics for Improving Comprehension, Part 1

This series of posts will describe four terrific tactics that you can use to improve comprehension.

The four tactics are:

  1. 1. Make “who did what” clear.
  2. 2. Edit for clarity.
  3. 3. Eschew obfuscation!
  4. 4. Use specific words.

This week, I will talk about Tactic #1.

  1. Make “who did what” clear.

It’s very easy to know so much about what you’re saying that you lose the reader. Even the pros do it.

The following examples came from print media. Try to re-word the following sentences so that your reader has no question about who did what: (answers after the cut)

a. Example: The troops fired into the crowd protesting the return of the religious leader.

b. Example: If I did try to take a swing at him with all that equipment on I must have been crazy.

c. Example: Army helicopter pilots reported seeing steam plumes venting from near the top of the smaller mountain last week, but they disappeared shortly after the observation.

Answers:

a. Example: The troops fired into the crowd protesting the return of the religious leader.

Answer: The troops fired into the crowd. The crowd had gathered to protest the return of the religious leader.

OR: The troops, who were protesting the return of the religious leader, fired into the crowd.

The original sentence leaves the reader wondering whether the troops were protesting, or the crowds were protesting.

b. Example: If I did try to take a swing at him with all that equipment on I must have been crazy.

Answer: I must have been crazy to take a swing at him when he had all that equipment on.

c. Example: Army helicopter pilots reported seeing steam plumes venting from near the top of the smaller mountain last week, but they disappeared shortly after the observation.

Answer: Army helicopter pilots reported seeing steam plumes venting from near the top of the smaller mountain last week, but the plumes disappeared shortly after the observation.

This very common confusion happens when you use words like (as in this case) “they,” or “he,” or “she,” without clarifying who “they,” or “jhe,” or “she” might be.

I hope that you’ve found this post useful!  Let us hear from you – just post to the comments section.

Gail Tycer is a strategic business communication authority: professional speaker; writer, author, editor; coach, consultant, facilitator, and strategist. More free business writing tips from Gail Tycer are available here, and information about Gail’s Business Writing workshops is available here.


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© 2013 Gail Tycer • www.GailTycer.com

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Published in: on October 7, 2009 at 7:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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