A lesson about clarity

21Mar08

Whenever I talk to someone who has only been speaking English for a few years, I’m pleasantly surprised at how clearly they communicate. Sure, they’re often self-conscious about their speech, but their limited knowledge of fancy words and sentence structure tends to make them very easy to understand. I think this phenomenon has useful implications for native speakers, as well.

One approach is to “talk more like someone who just learned the language.” In other words, avoid overly complex sentence construction and cut out obscure words. Another method is to always assume you’re addressing an audience that is new to the language. Think about which words or expressions or structures might get them confused, and try to write or speak without relying on those elements.

Either of these approaches should improve the comprehension and effectiveness of your message, even when the audience is primarily made up of native speakers. As those new to the language have taught us, focusing on clarity is always a good thing.



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