Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Keep your shirt on!

A saying I enjoy, much to my children’s chagrin (and probably Sean’s, too) is, “Words have meaning.” It’s important to choose your words carefully; you can’t totally eliminate all confusion in a conversation, but proper word choice should be the goal to reduce as much misunderstanding as possible.

This is especially true with the written word. Again, all misunderstanding cannot be avoided because we interpret things through our own experiences. But clarity should be the goal.

Seems like this concept should be a no-brainer for people who write for a living. And yet, witness this beauty I received from the folks who performed my latest mammogram. Check out the last sentence:

See any problem there?

Surely they mean to bring any changes to the health care provider. But that sentence can also be interpreted as an instruction to bring my breasts to my doctor’s attention immediately if I notice any changes.

Just to be sure I was thinking clearly about this unclear sentence, I ran it by my good friend Ruth Ann, who knows all things grammar. She said, "Yes, this is ambiguous pronoun reference. I'm sure the doctor will be very happy with all the women rushing to bring their breasts to him, rather than bringing the 'changes' to his attention."

I can’t get the picture out of my head of open-shirted women, rushing into their doctor’s office…

Hey, y’all. You've got to find the humor where you can. 

Wonder if there's an opening for a writer at the mammogram office?

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