Since Quora likes to collapse my answers in an effort to keep me quiet, I’m copying and pasting some of the Quora Q and A’s in which I’ve participated. Here’s a question from Quora.
Question: Is the following sentence correctly structured?
“One has to draw our attention to the cultural differences thay may lead to miscommunication.” How can that sentence be improved?
Answer: First, thay is actually that. Second, you might want to replace that with which.
One has to draw our attention to the cultural differences, which may lead to miscommunication.
However, it’s still a bit confusing.
It sounds like the sentence is suggesting that an outside influence is required to point out to us that cultural differences can lead to miscommunication, or it might be saying that we should pay more attention to the miscommunications caused by the cultural differences, but then again, if these differences “may” lead to miscommunication, they also “may not” lead to miscommunication—it’s too open to interpretation. What do you want say?
Perhaps, a simpler version is the following:
Only an outside force can show us that cultural differences often lead to miscommunication.
That’s cut and dry.
The differences among cultures can lead to miscommunication. The differences among cultures do lead to miscommunication. Differences of culture are one cause of miscommunication. Differences of culture go unnoticed during miscommunication.
Unless someone points it out, no one might notice that differences of culture go unnoticed during miscommunication.
Again, what do you want to say to your audience? It is not all the same. Each sentence is very different and can have a huge impact on the overall idea present within a single paragraph.
Writing is all about getting the thoughts out of our heads and onto a physical or digital medium, but communication and storytelling are totally different worlds from just written thoughts.
Have any of you ever been speaking to friends, family, or a spouse, and someone asks you to repeat what you said, or asked you to clarify, or immediately started to berate you until you had to explain that what you were explaining wasn’t what they thought you were saying?
All the time, right? The way you think is the way you write, but your audience is not in your head, and since you can’t clarify to them specifically after having written whatever it is that you’re writing, you must be able to provide cogent arguments, ideas, and events to a broad range of recipients who cannot question you.
Writing the first draft of your book, story, blog post, etc is the easy part. After you’ve written it, you have to edit, and I don’t mean adding commas or correcting misspelled words; I mean it’s time to rewrite your thoughts for people who don’t live inside your head, so that no mistakes of interpretation can be made.
This is the power of words, punctuation, sentence structure, paragraph form, and all facets of editing. A writer provides a sequential account of events. An editor works as an interpreter; they are someone who relates those events to a specific audience, but you can edit your own work if you learn to read your work as a reader.
To read your work as a reader, the most important step is to get away from whatever you’ve written for a few weeks, maybe even a few months. Then, go back and read it, and you will surely come across instances wherein you won’t even know what you were trying to say. Those will be obvious fixes, but there will more subtle instances of miscommunication, where something makes sense to you, but probably won’t make sense to anyone else, or it may just be open to interpretation.
It’s crazy, but no author out there thinks that what they’ve written can possibly be misconstrued, and that anyone who might misconstrue must be a dunce, so, okay, imagine that everyone is a dunce, that way you won’t leave any room for misinterpretation.
Everything you write, must be absolutely on point, and should leave no room for interpretation, but that means that you have to read and reread your work dozens of times, and it means that you have to scrutinize each word, each sentence, and each paragraph. Then, you have to make sure that each scene is supported by the paragraphs, and that each chapter begins and ends properly, and that no one in the world can come up with a reason that your story doesn’t work—plot holes; they’re killers!
If this sounds like too much work, hire an editor. There’s no shame in it. Every single mainstream writer is paired with editors. It’s how the entire publishing industry works. Do you really think you don’t need an editor? Think again.