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In simplest terms, when
you write in order to inform, you want your readers to understand
something they did not already know. Note the two parts of this
proposition: (1) readers understand (2) something they don't already
know. You're not doing much informing if your readers already know
what you're saying. You're also not informing if your readers can't
understand what you say.
In the set of sentences on the 1992 election, one or two sentences
did not inform because, depending on how much you already knew, they
gave you only old information.
In order to inform, you must give readers NEW information.
In the sentences on the '77 British Open, only two or three sentences
informed you because you could understand only those two or three
sentences (again, depending on how much you already knew). But note:
all the sentences in the set had the same important, new information.
You readily understood those sentences that contained some old, familiar
information: golf, Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus, Scotland, the British
Open, 1977. You could not understand a sentence that gave you only
the important, new information.
In order to inform, you must give readers OLD information.
---> Repeated, old information is important to those
who don't know what to expect.
With the repeated, old information restored, example #1 becomes
self-contained and accessible to the non-specialist. That is, the
reader needn't look to a source outside the text (e.g., a list
of stock symbols) to understand its information:
1. 100 shares of Texas Oil & Gas common stock traded at $23.00
100 shares of Texas Utilities common stock traded at $43.875 per
100 shares of Texaco common stock traded at $33.25 per share.
---> Old information is important to those who don't know the
context or situation.
With old information added to example #2, the message becomes unambiguous.
Remember that the amount of old information you need depends on
how much your reader knows about your situation, not on how much
2. PLEASE SEND ME FIFTY DOLLARS AMERICAN EXPRESS OFFICE IN NICE
LETTER OF EXPLANATION FOLLOWS LOVE LOU.
---> Old information is important for guarding against
errors in transmission.
With the missing information restored to example #3, the text can
still inform even though it contains some errors. When you cut
information you assume your reader already knows, you lessen your
margin for error: