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  1. keannu's Avatar
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    vague generalisations

    Source : Korean SAT English 2021 by Korean Education Broadcasting System - 191p.12

    Vagueness is an obstacle to efficient communication. Sometimes people who want to avoid committing themselves to a particular course of action use vagueness as a ploy. For instance, a politician asked how precisely he intends to save money in the public sector might make vague generalisations about the need for improved efficiency, which, while true, don’t commit him to any particular way of achieving this. A good journalist would then press for further information about precisely how this efficiency was to be achieved, forcing him to come out from behind this veil of vagueness. Or someone who was late for an appointment but didn’t want to admit that this was because he’d stopped for a drink on the way might say ‘Sorry I’m late, I had something I needed to do on the way here and it took slightly longer than I expected’, deliberately leaving the cause of the delay vague, and exercising a particular kind of economy with the truth.

    • This question and answer are made by me to practice for expected essay questions in my students’ finals.

    1. What does "vague generalisations" mean in this passage?
    It is a remark that doesn't set a goal or objective in terms of figures or convincing data, showing a vague range of the goal.

    2. What does "vague generalisations" result in?
    It makes people who said it avoid committing themselves to a particular course of action.

    If you find the answer incorrect, please correct it.

  2. Newbie
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    Re: vague generalisations

    In interactions, there is often tension between communicating information and maintaining relationships. Using vague generalizations by leaders may be an effective way to address an issue without explicitly stating their opinions. This isn't necessarily viewed as dishonest. In fact, it is often looked upon as a skill.

    In day to day interactions, being vague is often necessary to maintain relationships while communicating in a way that the other person understands the meaning. One of the most useful words I teach new learners is the word "interesting." You can use it to respond to most anything another person says when you don't want to express like or dislike.

    One stereotype of Americans and Asians is that Americans are very direct and Asians are less so. In reality, all cultures use both directness and vagueness, just perhaps in different contexts. For example, in the US, it could be very inappropriate to openly disagree with someone's assertion or conclusion. Instead you express uncertainty. "Hmm, I'm not sure about that." or "I'll have to think about that some more." The point is that everyone in the interaction correctly interprets the response to actually be "I disagree" or "Your're wrong."

    So vagueness is not presented in linguistics as being something negative at all. It's just that it may be appropriate in some contexts and inappropriate in others. It would normally be considered highly inappropriate in the US to be vague to your supervisor, even if she or he understands the underlying meaning. But it's usually fine for a person in higher status to be vague to those lower in status.

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