See It In Writing

It’s easy for people to become overwhelmed by a flood of unfamiliar information—whether they’re asking for directions, listening to a professional explain a problem in technical language, or reading a complicated article on a brand-new subject.

What to Look For<

Read the following sentence, written for an audience just being introduced to deep-sea geology. Note the first eight words in the sentence. Does the most familiar information in it occur in this part?

The displacement of oceanic liquid following a catastrophic, deep-sea, geological event creates a tsunami or tidal wave.

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Click here to reveal our analysis of this sentence.<

The Principles at Work<

If you underline the first eight words in this sentence, you'll notice that the most familiar words in the sentence—tsunami, tidal wave, and earthquake do not appear among them.

The displacement of oceanic liquid following a catastrophic deep-sea geological event like an earthquake creates a tsunami or tidal wave.

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Most readers for this sentence will have heard of tsunamis, but they may not know what one is. Since that’s the case, you can provide the familiar terms in order to define them. In doing so, you place the familiar information (in bold) at the start of the sentence:

A tsunami or tidal wave is created when oceanic liquid becomes displaced following a catastrophic deep-sea geological event like an earthquake.

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Now the old information appears within the first eight words of the sentence. This new version of the sentence begins with familiar terms (“tsunami” and “tidal wave”) in order to add some new information about them (their definition).