Just the other day Robert and I were in the kitchen, and with his back to me, he said: "Will you hand me that?"
"Hand you that what?" I asked.
He turned around and said, "Will you hand me that plate?"
Written or verbal disconnects, like this example, happen when our words aren't clear, and our audience is left to decipher what we meant.
We've all been guilty of creating these messaging disconnects at some point. It happens when we use the words 'this,' 'that,' or 'here' without telling the listener or reader what we're discussing.
Let's walk through some more examples to see how the right words, aka demonstratives, will help create clarity.
[PRO TIP] Demonstratives—words like 'here,' 'this,' 'that,' 'these,' 'those,' etc.—will help bring clarity by giving information and pointing to an object, person, or event.
Imagine you're watching a replay of this scene with me:
The video opens with three friends having a meal together. It is evident that one of them is blind. Dialogue lets us know that two are lifelong friends, while the other person is "new" to the trio.
During the meal, the blind woman asks where her water is located. The new guy responds, "Your water is here."
(But 'here' doesn't mean anything to the blind person because they can't see.)
The long-time friend saves the day by quickly jumping into the conversation. She taps the water glass to make a sound and says, "Your water glass is here at 12 o'clock."
(Later, she quietly says to the new person, "Remember: Here is not a thing.")
[PRO TIP] Unless the person you're addressing sees your hand gestures, words like 'here' or 'this' may lead to confusion instead of clarity.
A simple way to build relationships is by making what you share easy-to-understand.
Demonstratives — when used correctly — will create understanding by conveying who or what you're discussing. Depending on how the demonstratives are used, they may function as pronouns or adjectives.
Let's look at a few more examples for consideration:
A) Unclear: This is a perfect toy for a dog.
B) Clear: This stuffed squirrel is a perfect toy for a dog.
(The clear example gives information that 'this' is a 'stuffed squirrel.')
A) Unclear: Would you please email those?
B) Clear: Would you please email those documents?
(The clear example gives information that 'those' are 'documents.')
You may wonder if these examples show the only rules about demonstratives that you need to follow. I wish I could say yes, but there are exceptions for every rule in English grammar. (Think back to when you learned: 'i before e, except after c and sometimes y.')
There is another way to use demonstratives IF you clarify what word, phrase, or clause the demonstrative is replacing.
A) Unclear: I want my hair to look like that.
B) Clear: Your hair is gorgeous. I want my hair to look like that.
(The second example is clearer because 'that' points to 'hair.')
A) Unclear: This tastes amazing.
B) Clear: I had my doubts about his seafood. But this tastes amazing.
(The second example is clearer because 'this' points to 'seafood.')
Whatever you write or say, help your audience understand what you're talking about by using demonstratives to point to your nouns.
[PRO TIP] Clear writing will remove any doubt and won't leave things up to interpretation or inferences. (Scripture has a lot to say about clear writing, e.g., Deut. 27:8 and Hab. 2:2)
When you write clearly, you'll create authentic connections that will serve you well for years to come.
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