IF YOU MUST GENERALIZE...
Abstractions often show up when you want to make some kind of generalization. If you must make a general statement, there are two ways you can help make it more informative: 1. Remove as many abstract nouns as you can.
2. Sharpen its focus with representative examples and concrete illustrations. Look at these "before and after" examples and learn how to replace generalizations with concrete specifics. Mark the abstract nouns in the "General" examples with your green highlighter. Underline the concrete nouns in the "More specific" examples: General:
New circuit-testing methods are much faster than the old procedures, but they often overlook faulty components. More Specific:
The computer-controlled circuit tester checks out our memory boards ten times faster than technicians could, but it passed twenty percent more faulty regulators last month. General:
Pesticides increase crop yields, but often cause damage to the environment and sickness in people. More Specific:
Since 1975, when malathion was introduced in India, 65 percent more corn was produced, but birth defects increased fourfold. General:
With reference to your request for information about our new product line, we are happy to send you our new catalog, in which prices have been substantially reduced. We would appreciate your business. More Specific:
Thank you for asking about our new copiers. We think the Snazzo Model 820 will suit the needs of an office your size. Our new catalog describes a special 20-percent discount on copiers purchased during December. May we call you to demonstrate the 820 in your office? Notice how often abstractions appear in the general statements above and how they contribute to their vagueness. For practice, notice in each of the following examples how:
1. Abstract subjects attract weak verbs.
2. Awkward phrases find their way into the sentence.
3. The real subject of the sentence has been relegated to a subordinate detail (usually the...