Watch Your Phrasing

When summarizing or restating information, think about the implications of how something is stated. In answer to a comment about divorce I almost wrote:

I have an ancestor and an aunt who were both married and divorced twice from the same man.

After I read it I realized that someone might think I was suggesting that the man was married and divorced twice from my ancestor and my aunt. That was not what I meant, but my off the cuff response could have been taken that way.

I rephrased it something like:

My ancestor and my aunt both had one husband to whom they were married and divorced from twice.

I’m not certain it was the best way to rephrase it, but it made it a little more clear that two different men were involved.

Always read over what you type before you send, post, or publish it. You may accidentally be saying something you do not intend to.

5 thoughts on “Watch Your Phrasing

  1. Mary Hammond

    Try this: I had an aunt and an ancestor, each of whom married a man, divorced him, then remarried and divorced him.

    Using “each” rather than “both” makes it clear that they weren’t sharing the same man, and “remarried” clarifies the second marriage in both cases.

    Reply
  2. John

    This is kind of the inverse of the similar advice to be careful how you interpret the phrasing someone else uses. I found the following in a newspaper article from the 1930s. [Names initialized]

    “Mr. and Mrs. D. entertained the following in their home Sunday: Misses K.H. and M.V. of St. Louis, B.H.. of Marshalltown, Iowa and his boy friend, J.B. of Alton, Ill.”

    I’m fairly certain it would be phrased differently today.

    Reply
    1. michaeljohnneill Post author

      Most likely it would be phrased differently today . The older something is, the more carefully one needs to be when interpreting something.

      Reply
  3. Patty

    Most definitely can see ur point! Could cause a ruckus if not said or meant correctly. Since there can also be separate meaning with punctuation too.

    Reply
  4. Owain

    I got into genealogy because of my father and the many stories and anecdotes he would tell me when I was a kid. As a young adult I asked him to write down all of these because I knew that if he didn’t we would lose them forever.

    I could remember the stories but not all of the facts. So I asked him to jot them down in a notepad. I then would type them up on the computer.

    One thing that I soon realised was to make statements clear so that there is no ambiguity like you have mentioned in this post. So it’s important that that these family stories get recorded accurately.

    Reply

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