RE: Ambiguous words and Phrases

Subject: RE: Ambiguous words and Phrases
From: "Andrew Warren" <awarren -at- synaptics -dot- com>
To: "V Suresh" <vsuresh -at- clavib -dot- com>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 14 Feb 2008 22:35:41 -0800

V Suresh wrote:

> Let me bring up something for discussion on a lighter note as
> it is Friday.
> I was wondering how you perceive the use of ambiguous words in
> some Business sectors.
> An example that I can give you off hand is the use of the
> phrase “in principle.”
> This when used in a loan approval letter would sound like this:
> Your loan for so-and-so amount has been approved in principle.
> If you observe closely, it is really empty; devoid of any
> attributable meaning.

Oh. When I saw "ambiguous" and "lighter note", then a
loan-approval-letter example that used the word "principle",
I was expecting the punchline to be something about the
confusion between that word and "principal". Now I'm

Oh, well.

"In principle" DOES have a meaning; it means "with regard
to the basic points, without examining the details".

While it's true that "approved in principle" doesn't mean
"approved", the phrase gives you information that "not
approved" wouldn't: You know that they're not rejecting
the application out of hand, and that so far everything
looks good to them. Since you presumably ARE aware of the
details they haven't yet examined, you may be able to
judge the likelihood of their eventual approval.

> It actually leaves a customer helpless if they ever get into
> a hassle with the bank.
> If you ask me, the Banks by using such ambiguous words can
> easily get away from any tight corners.

I don't see that. The loan isn't approved until the bank
says it is; "approved in principle" is no more harmful to
the applicant than "nearing approval", "not yet approved",
or "awaiting approval".

> Isn’t there a need to give more clarity to a customer than
> that?

The sentence only lacks clarity if the reader is unfamiliar
with the phrase "in principle". If the reader knows the
phrase, it actually ADDS clarity.

I guess the bank could simplify the language in the loan-
approval letter, but the customer's eventually going to
have to read the loan docs, and the language is MUCH more
complicated there. Simplifying the letter isn't going to
do much to improve a customer's overall comprehension of
the system.



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Ambiguous words and Phrases: From: V Suresh

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