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Presenting Information

In fact this topic not only about presenting information, but we are actually dealing with presenting and focusing information. We spoke about cross-reference and omission last time. Well, there are many other strategies of omission in English, just as there are in any other language – nothing new here. However, this matter gets very complicated and it is rather for the advanced learners.

Therefore I suggest we skip the rest of the points on substitution and omissions for now and we discuss something more relevant to you, for example how we present and focus information. This is very useful both for writing and for speaking, at beginner’s and advanced levels alike. I remind the reader that this is communicative grammar, in the sense that it works from the angle of the person communicating a message. If the question is “What do you want to communicate?” this type of grammar will show you how to do it correctly. Traditional grammar will give you the pieces that go into a message and then ‘send you off’ to communicate it.

Because this chapter on presenting and focusing information is rather large, I shall start with an overview of the matter, after which we shall look into the details, in future issues. First, I shall send you back to the introductory lesson on using grammar for speaking/writing in Issue 024, where you can review or familiarise yourselves with the ingredients that go into a message:

a) the concepts;
b) the information;
c) the emotions; and
d) the meaning in connected discourse.

Now we are going to start considering how meanings can be presented and arranged for effective communication. If I told you that, for a message to be properly understood, 3 things need to happen:
i) The message needs to be cut up into individual pieces of information;
ii) The ideas have to be given the right emphasis;
iii) The ideas have to be put in the right order…

… You would say – “Yes, but I know this!” Ah, that’s the obvious logic, which I would risk say that all of us know, but it is applying this in practice that turns out to be a problem in most of the cases. Therefore, we shall take it easy and give you the tools to effectively apply these three principles in your speech and writing.

i) Pieces of information

These are the pieces we link together (by using the tools I gave you in issues 025 to 031 – please refer back to these sessions, if you need to review anything), i.e. the pieces of language which are separated from what goes before and from what follows and which do not contain any punctuation marks. In written English, we use the punctuation marks to make this separation, but not to split the unit/piece of information. In spoken English, a piece of information can be defined as a tone unit.

ii) The right focus and emphasis

The nucleus of a piece of information is the most important part of a tone unit, as it marks the focus of information, which is exactly where the speaker draws the hearer’s attention. We need to consider types of expressions, types of focus and types of information, before we decide the right emphasis we need to give a particular part of our message and then how we can do that correctly, either in writing, or in speech.

iii) Order and emphasis

Here we shall look into how English has various sentence processes, which help to arrange the message for the right order and the right emphasis. We shall see how the end position and the first position in a sentence are given more importance and, according to how much importance we want to give a piece of information, we place this either at the beginning of our sentence or at the end.

If you get to understand this overview of information in your message really well by next time, the details will fall into place slightly easier, when it comes to it.

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