Try to Say Something
Replacing vagueness with clarity and specificity
Good writers don’t waste words or write meaningless sentences. They understand that
language that fails to advance the point of their argument will tire or frustrate their readers and cause them to stop reading. Because they know that in good writing every sentence insures that the next sentence gets read, good writers hunt down flabby or meaningless sentences and either rehabilitate them or shoot them through the head.
Flabby or loose writing is not so deadly for audiences that already agree with the writer’s point of view, but when readers are antagonistic or just reluctant to be convinced, which is most of the time, no writers can afford to disrespect a reader’s time or intelligence because, whether they’re aware of it or not, disrespected readers will put down what they’re reading and find something else to do. and when they stop reading us, we’ve lost the argument.
Flabby, wasteful, meaningless Sentence 1:
The author of this article has a lot to say about the nature of the current economy and how it is affected by international competition.
- The writer neglects to say anything about the economy.
- The writer neglects to say anything about international competition.
- The writer neglects to say anything about the author’s opinion.
Author Kennedy believes our current weak economy and high unemployment are the direct result of increased international competition.
We could defend Sentence #1 by claiming that it is merely an introduction that will be
rescued from vagueness by details to follow about the weak economy and global competitiveness, except that no reader is obligated to read our next sentence.
Readers need the details when they do the most good. Every promise of information to come is more burden for them to carry. Once their arms are full and we start loading up their backpacks, they will find another guide.
Wasteful, meaningless Sentence #2:
Ever since the events of 9/11, our government and the country we live in have been very much impacted by what we all experienced that day.
- The writer neglects to say in any way what events occurred on 9/11.
- The writer neglects to say whether the government and the country changed in the same way or in different ways.
- The writer neglects to say whether the changes have been positive, negative, or a mixed bag, the same for all, or better for some than for others.
- The writer neglects to say whether what we experienced is the same as the events of 9/11 or whether our experience of the events IS the impact.
The unprovoked violence of 9/11 struck such fear into Americans that our government imposed a series of severe, sometimes intrusive, security measures on its own citizens.
First, we’ll listen to a 10-minute story about the island of Yap and its odd currency to provide the background you’ll need to write clear and meaningful sentences to replace the flabby and meaningless samples below.
Examine the sentences below for wastefulness, vagueness, or confusion. Improve each numbered comment by rewriting for clarity and specificity. In most cases, you’ll need to clarify or add details from the story of the people of Yap and its money.
To do the exercise, make a Reply to this post. You don’t need to copy or paste the original comments. Simply number your improvements so I can match them up with the originals. In most cases, I’ve provided two sentences per comment in order to offer more context for the ideas presented. Your improved versions can be as many sentences as you consider necessary.
Complete as many of the following as you can during the class period.
- Some people might say that the idea of carrying a big rock around and exchanging it as a form of money is irrational saying it’s just a rock what sort of backing or worth does a rock have? Well if you look at our money it’s the same concept; it’s just a colorful piece of paper.
- Even if what money stands for is never seen, the fact that society accepts it, makes the representing factor important.
- The idea of the fei—the big rock the Yap use for money—seems irrational to most people who are told the story of the Island of Stone Money and Yap’s form of currency because it is. But to compare this to the currency of more developed countries and say that it is the same concept is not right.
- It had been my understanding that in today’s societies, money is really just a system of numbers that has arbitrary values depending on the society. Like why would five gold coins have more worth in one country than another? There is no method of precisely measuring the value of money.
- To me, the most interesting thing about Yap isn’t that they use giant stone discs as money, but that their ownership works on a trust system. It is superficially similar to how we store our money in banks, but banks are also highly secured and regulated by the government.
- But, when I began to think about it more I thought about the way we represent wealth. In so many ways the fei for the people of Yap is the same as our currency.
- It was understood by the people of Yap that the fei, since they were often large and heavy, did not need to be in the possession of their owners; the Western world acknowledges this idea by creating banks where money is still the property of the person who puts money into the bank.
- When someone uses a credit or debit card, there is a similar process of realizing the fact the wealth is no longer theirs and belongs to someone else. We never actually physically hand over the money in a credit card transaction but the money goes from one person to another.
- Money does not represent amount of work done, an amount of gold in America’s bank, a quantity of food, or social status. Wealth is to have a lot of money, but if money is meaningless, that would say the same for wealth.
- Money itself does not seem to have any value if it is not used to satisfy people’s needs; it is just a form to represent value. The people of Yap view money according to their standard value that have been set and agreed to by their society.