There are times when you want to impress people with your language abilities. But there are actually far more situations that require the opposite approach – situations where you don’t want to risk confusing people, so you want to make sure you’re communicating clearly.
In our last lesson, I talked about clear pronunciation and word choice. Today I want to look at making clear sentences and organizing your message.
When it comes to sentences, shoot for simple and short. Rather than stringing a bunch of ideas into one long sentence, break it up into several short ones. Use simple words like “but” and “so” instead of words like “nevertheless” and “consequently.”
There’s something else that can add clutter to our sentences: the softening words and phrases we use to be diplomatic, polite, or careful. These expressions can be very important when the situation requires. But not all situations or audiences require such diplomacy. We also have some very confusing ways of asking questions in English. And if you’re trying to be clear, you should avoid some of these. That includes tag questions, such as “you’re quite busy, aren’t you?” And negative questions, like “aren’t you going to read my report?”
The last thing I want to talk about is how we structure our messages. And I mean longer messages, like a set of instructions or something. First off, it’s good to be clear about purpose. Tell people what you’re going to tell them. That’s exactly what I did when I said “the last thing I want to talk about is how we structure our messages.” You see, when you heard that, you knew exactly what I was going to talk about next.
Secondly, it’s a good idea to use words like “secondly.” We call this “signposting.” Signposting is basically giving clear structure and logic to what you’re saying. That means introducing things clearly. It means outlining, using words like “first, second, third” and “last.” But it also means being clear about how your ideas fit together. Signposting makes it a lot easier for people to follow what you’re saying, and to remember it!
Lastly, it’s a good idea to summarize what you’ve said. Just a little recap is good enough. And you can introduce your summary using signposting expressions like “to sum up” or “what I’ve been trying to say is.”Lesson Resources: Lesson Module | Quiz & Vocab | PDF Transcript
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