Vagueness, Ambiguity, and Clarity in Writing

CRT/205
March 7, 2014
Captain E.F. Rollins


Vagueness, Ambiguity, and Clarity in Writing
• Identify what is vague and what is ambiguous about each.
In Example 2, the vague statement is, “I was thrown from my truck as it left the road.” The ambiguous statement is, “I was later found in a ditch by a flock of wild turkeys.”
In Example 3, the vague statement is, “Next Sunday a collection will be taken to help with the cost of the new altar.” The ambiguous statement is, “Anyone wanting to help to do something on the new altar can step forward and let the committee know,”
• Explain how such vagueness and ambiguity influences understanding.
When statements are presented in a vague or ambiguous way, readers are confused about what the author is trying to say. In other words, readers cannot determine the point or points the author is trying to make or how the supporting information supports these points. Vague or ambiguous statements may lead the reader to speculate on what the author actually intended to say but did not. In this case, statements that are left open to interpretation by others will result in varied interpretations that can be quite different from the author’s original intent.
If we look at one of the statements from example 2, “I was later found in a ditch by a flock of wild turkeys.” Did the author mean he was found next to a flock of wild turkeys or that the flock of wild turkeys found him? There is no way for the reader to know what the author actually meant unless the reader is able to ask the author for clarification.
• Describe the relationship between critical thinking and clear writing.
The relationship between critical thinking and clear writing is that it takes the ability to think critically to be able to write clearly. When we are faced with writing about a topic that is an emotional one for us, it is easy to get caught up in the emotion of the topic. Writings, from an emotional position, will tend to be unclear, biased, unorganized, and ramble on and on. If we utilize critical thinking when writing about the same topic, we will be more likely to stay focused and have our points organized in a logical way. Without the emotion, our writing should be more organized and clear.