What should you do to reveal easily-understood meanings to audiences? (Alec, 2011) presents the five common techniques of clarifying a term or expression. First of all, you can clarify a term by giving its synonymous expression. For instance, the word permit can be explained as to let someone do something (synonymous expression). In addition to this, it is significant to know about the level of your audience’s knowledge. Here, you use “let” instead of “allow” mainly because you have expected your audience to understand the meaning of the word “let”, not “allow”.

Second, you can also clarify an expression by using a sufficient condition. You might know that the term “football” means the same to “soccer” for most parts of the world EXCEPT in America. Here, we use the word “except” to somehow indicate a condition. Hence, football is not always football. It basically depends on where you say it. If you say it elsewhere or just outside America, then it means the same to “soccer”. In America, they have their own football, which is known as “rugby”.

Third, clear examples can also be used to clarify an expression. Imagine you have just broken up with your girlfriend and someone told you like this “Hey, I saw your ex-girlfriend going out with a rich guy” and you were like “Whatever! I couldn’t care less”. According to this example, you might probably be able to guess what the expression I couldn’t care less means. You would say perhaps it means the same to “I do not care or I am not interested in this problem any longer”.  The next technique is by drawing contrasts. A term is sometimes explained by giving an expression that contradicts it or has opposite meaning. For instance, if you intend to clarify the term “critical thinking”, then you could say it contradicts “jumping quickly to a conclusion”. This is the same way as “tiny” contradicts “large” and “light” is opposite to “heavy”. The last technique of clarifying a term or expression is by explaining a history of the  expression. You have to keep in mind that this final way is used when we aim to fully understand a term or expression in depth. Suppose we want to clarify the term “Margherita”. Instead of stating it is the name of an Italian dish, we would go back to its history so that we can get to know it much better and more clearly. If you practice this technique, you will be aware that the term Margherita refers to the pizza that was invented in1889. It contains bread, tomatoes and basil and the pizza looks white, green and red which represents the Italian flag.

The book entitled “Critical Thinking” fully explains the different theories of critical thinking and how the term evolved overtime.

By: Mr. Mohammathnasiet Sales


  1. Alec, F. (2nd ed). 2011. Critical thinking. Possible Sources of Clarification

Retrieved from doi: 9781107401983

  1. Alec, F. (2nd ed). 2011. Critical thinking. Ways of Clarifying Terms and Ideas

Retrieved from doi: 9781107401983