Elaborate

Without really going into too much detail, I know you have heard these two statements before:  “Can you elaborate more on that?” and “Go further.”

Well, I just created a contradiction in the sentence above. “Without really going into too much detail” is the opposite response and/or direction to what is implied in “elaborate.” To elaborate means to offer more explanation about something you have just said in written form. The implication to the listener is that you have left out some vital information, and that without it, the statement has no real legs upon which to stand.

Think about the word “assume.” To assume is to think that someone has had prior experience with the thing to which you are referring. Because you assume your friend has been to see the movie, you don’t feel it necessary to discuss the plot and every scene. If anything, it is more of a burden to you to relate all of the information. You figure mentally that if your friend wants to know everything, then she can go to see the movie herself. This is why you only give some specifics and not offer others.

When someone asks you to elaborate, or when your professor wants you to elaborate more on an example you have provided, you have been functioning in a state of assumption. In other words, you do not offer all there is to know about the example; in fact, you assume that the professor already knows and you consider it a burden to you, as the student writing the paper and trying to meet the page requirement, to have to go into so much detail.

If you receive this comment on your paper, go back to sections within your paper where you could have added more, or have gone into more detail. Don’t assume your reader knows everything about your topic. There is nothing wrong with briefly refreshing their memories.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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