Page 1 of 6

The Need for Concision and Clarity on the Philosophy Forums

Posted: May 8th, 2009, 12:05 pm
by Scott
If you have not already, read my article entitled How to Have Productive Philosophical Conversations. That article elaborates on what I see as the four most important elements of conversation on these forums that we all need to improve. Those four elements are: being a good listener (or reader in this case), asking questions, being clear and concise, and being nice and polite.

Frankly, I cannot stress the importance of the last two enough. In this thread, I will focus on the importance of being clear and concise.

Almost all of us are members of these forums because we want to have in depth discussions about complicated topics. But we make it almost impossible to do that by muddling the conversation with too much rambling, with long-winded posts and with unclear language.

Perhaps we mistakenly think we will better prove our points if we back them up with a long-winded, rambling post that includes every half-good thought we have that is even remotely tied to the original topic.

However, a long-winded and rambling post actually makes it harder for readers to understand your main points. Besides, most people will not pay as much attention while reading a long-winded post. For illustration, I think a post that's half as long will tend to get twice as much attention paid per sentence. So instead of writing a long-winding, rambling post, make your post as concise and clear as possible. Increase the quality; decrease the length.

Do not fill your posts with lots of loosely related and tangential subjects. Stay focused on the specific subject of the thread in which you are posting. If that subject makes you think of another loosely related subject, consider starting a new thread about that new subject. When starting a new thread, make the subject very clear and specific. If you have more than one subject to talk about, do not stuff them into the same thread; post two or more new threads, one for each subject you wish to discuss.

Also, do not write your posts as if they were poetry or riddles. Write in complete sentences and paragraphs with the intention of making your posts as clear and understandable as possible.

You can also make your post more clear by correcting spelling and grammar mistakes. It is required by the forum rules that you use correct spelling, grammar and punctuation. As the forum rules say, if you are not putting enough effort into your post to correct the spelling and grammar, then do not post it.

Of course, you need to proof-read your posts. Do not make any post without proof-reading it. Generally, I recommend proof-reading your posts several times before posting them.

Proof-reading your posts not only allows you to fix spelling and grammar errors, but it also allows you to make sure it is as clear and concise as possible. While proof-reading, try to find changes you can make that will make your post more clear. Will others understand what you are trying to say? Try to find out ways to shorten your post to make it more concise and avoid rambling. Try to remove comments and sentences that are irrelevant to the thread. Try to find ways to get the same point across with less words.

I recommend always proof-reading the whole post again from beginning to end after making a change.

While some of us may need to do it more than others, we can all benefit by making our posts more clear and concise. So let's all work harder on being more clear and concise. And let's all proof-read our posts a little more.

Thanks,
Scott

???

Posted: July 19th, 2009, 4:11 am
by Homicidal Pacifist
Scott - Was your recent post about appropriate philosophical debate a retort to MY recent posts?
Have I spoken too offensively?

Re: ???

Posted: August 7th, 2009, 9:52 am
by Scott
Homicidal Pacifist wrote:Scott - Was your recent post about appropriate philosophical debate a retort to MY recent posts?
Have I spoken too offensively?
Actually, I posted this thread over two months before you joined the forums. So, no, it is not. :wink:

This is simply my advice as to what we can all do to improve the quality of our posts and make these forums even better. Remember, I want these forums to be the best place on the internet for civil, in depth, open-minded discussion about even the most complicated, controversial topics.

Posted: August 8th, 2009, 2:55 pm
by JELLEN
Scott, In regards to spelling and grammar, are you going give some guidance to the philosophers that are still learning English. Your website is attracting posters from different countries.
Which I think is brilliant and well-done.

Posted: September 15th, 2009, 3:12 am
by Belinda
I've been reading Scott's article again on how to have productive philosophical conversations.

I thought that 'productive' means that we are learning new ideas. We are also learning to put our own ideas into concise language which helps us ourselves to clarify our thought about some idea.

Philosophy like religion and politics intrudes on out treasured prejudices. We avoid taking offence by always remembering that the conversation is not about us, it is about the idea.This is being objective.

Although Scott advises that the lexicon be kept simple, and I agree, it's better sometimes to use specialised philosophical terms, as those when properly understood make the conversation more concise. If anyone does not understand a word, then be like Socrates and ask what it means. It then behoves the explainer to explain the word as concisely and clearly as possible, while trying not to be tangential.

Posted: October 2nd, 2009, 9:47 pm
by heliocentrism
I greatly agree with you scoot, and will take your advice into my future posts!!!

Posted: October 2nd, 2009, 9:48 pm
by heliocentrism
Thank you Scot, i agree with your statements, and will use them as guidelines in my future posts!

Posted: October 3rd, 2009, 12:40 am
by Laughing Man
hmmm, im surprised more people haven't posted here.

all in all, pretty sound advice.

jeez have i seen some rude forums. and random ones too.

being sensible isnt that hard...or is it?

anyways, thanks for setting up rules and guidelines.

Posted: November 26th, 2009, 3:51 pm
by Dougsta
I'm with JELLEN on this one. I would expect everyone to make as much effort as possible to spell things correctly and to definately proof-read their posts, but i think we'd be a little prejudiced if we forsook those who simply haven't reached a particular level of English language. Furthermore, those who have trouble understanding and/or being understood on these forums should feel free to ask and explore without fear of prejudice or ridicule.

Posted: March 29th, 2010, 8:33 pm
by Scott
People must use a spell checker if they need it.

I have another piece of advice on being clear: Avoid overusing metaphors. This is a website for clear philosophical discussion, not poetry. We all use metaphors to some degree because they can help us express ourselves clearly. But sometimes people overuse metaphors which can make a post very unclear, especially if combined with poor grammar, insufficient proof-reading or excessively long sentences. Because many of the discussion we are having on the philosophy forums are already so complicated and intricate, the clarity gained by using literal writing where possible is very helpful.

Your guidelines

Posted: August 13th, 2010, 11:34 pm
by 211249
Scott,
Without being rude, some of the replies to your advice demonstrates what you are trying to say.

Mark :shock:

Posted: August 14th, 2010, 12:04 pm
by Eveready
I don`t have access to spellchecker but I spell well. I don`t think its down to clarity, its down to tolerance and communication. If someone can say something that makes me rethink my position, I don`t care that they spelt it wrong, I care they made me rethink my position. Many here in my honest opinion only assert their egoistic tendancies and put downs and not answers or shared information.
But sometimes people overuse metaphors
If that is the case, isn`t it up to you and others not understanding to ask them to clarify rather than punish them with warnings? Too often the baby is thrown out with the bathwater in debate because those who hold a certain confirmation bias then decide others are not clear.

Posted: August 20th, 2010, 7:46 am
by Bini
Belinda wrote:I thought that 'productive' means that we are learning new ideas. We are also learning to put our own ideas into concise language which helps us ourselves to clarify our thought about some idea. If anyone does not understand a word, then be like Socrates and ask what it means. It then behoves the explainer to explain the word as concisely and clearly as possible, while trying not to be tangential.
Well said Belinda. Couldn’t have said it better.

Re: The Need for Concision and Clarity on the Philosophy For

Posted: October 16th, 2011, 2:24 am
by deronmoped
Well,

It's driving me crazy that people can not take the time out to use a spell checker, check to see if what they are writing makes any since. Try to be as educated on the subject they bring up as possible and at times admit they goofed.

Whenever I respond to a post, bring up a new topic... it takes me forever. That's because I got me a government school education. LOL I'm sure there are some good government schools out there. Then again it's partly my fault, but I'm trying to correct that. Well anyways, the reason it takes me forever is, I proof read probably three to four times, I look up the definition of any word I'm unsure of, I research what the meaning is of what I'm writing about. I even just now looked up "spell checker" and my browser "FireFox" has it.

One thing I think would help people is to think of what they are writing about and then how someone would answer it. Answer your own post to see if makes any since to you.

Also if you are trying to prove a point, think of just the opposite of what your trying to prove to see if you can shoot yourself down.

I'm tired and I'm sick, hopefully I'm making sense. It sucks to have a cold, that is something everyone can agree with.

Deron.

I goofed, had to edit the word structure, it's so much easier on the eyes when it reads correctly. Dang, now that is twice I had to edit it.

Re: The Need for Concision and Clarity on the Philosophy For

Posted: November 25th, 2011, 4:50 pm
by stormy phillips
If you want better quality posts then "make everything as simple as possible, just not simpler."