Re: Ambiguous words and Phrases

Subject: Re: Ambiguous words and Phrases
From: Ned Bedinger <doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com>
To: V Suresh <vsuresh -at- clavib -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 15 Feb 2008 13:27:14 -0800

V Suresh wrote:
> Hi Twinners,

> I was wondering how you perceive the use of ambiguous words in some Business sectors.

In general, when a business sector characteristically obscures important
information with ambiguous words, I don't like it. I take a dim view of
it. Sometimes I might see that the ambiguity hss been introduced by a
writer who doesn't understand the subject matter, but that's a different

> 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.

The financial industry in the United States has been under fire in
recent years for creating consumer documentation that requires, in the
words of Senator Carl Levin, a 27th-grade education to comprehend.

At Sen. Levin's request, the General Accounting Office (GAO) undertook a
study of the credit card industry, and found that the terms of credit
card agreements are written at a 10th-12th grade level, well above the
8th-grade level at which half of US adults read.

See the full report, which discusses the results found by readability

BTW, Sen. Levin's committee held hearings about this and other credit
card practices. One public hearing featured credit card company
executives in attendance to answer question, and it was a spectacle
worthy of the Roman forum. Levin read, for a solid minute, from the
text of an agreement from a major credit card company, and then asked
one of the executives if he believed that credit card holders knew what
it meant. The exec stated that yes, he thought most of them did. The
audience erupted in gales of derisive laughter.

TW tie-in: This might be a good example of how to make document reviews
more popular and entertaining, but not if you're prone to blushing.

Ned Bedinger
doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com

> If you observe closely, it is really empty; devoid of any attributable meaning. 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.
> Isn’t there a need to give more clarity to a customer than that?? What do you say?
> Rgds,
> Suresh KV
> Technical Writer

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Ambiguous words and Phrases: From: V Suresh

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