Task: Work assignment

Exercise 7 - Compare Readability

Published: 20.05.2010, Updated: 30.03.2011
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Read the text below and answer the questions at the end.

Version 1

In a closed-door briefing for members of Congress, a senior BP executive conceded that the rupture of the oil well in the Gulf of Mexico could result in the spill of as much as 60,000 barrels of oil a day.
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Amid growing uncertainty about the extent of the leak, and when it might be stanched, pressure on BP intensified on multiple fronts, from increasingly frustrated Gulf Coast residents to federal, state and local officials demanding swift action from the company.
(80 words)
Based on an article in The New York Times, May 5, 2010

Version 2

In a closed-door meeting a senior BP executive told members of Congress that as much as 60,000 barrels of oil could spill into the Gulf of Mexico from their broken oil well.
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People are becoming more and more uncertain how serious the leak is and when it might be stopped. The pressure on BP is growing more intense on many fronts. Residents of the Gulf Coast are getting more frustrated and officials on the federal, state and local level are demanding that the company act swiftly.  (87 words)

Questions

  1. Which version is the easier to understand? Give reasons for your answer, referring to the
    way the language- vocabulary and grammar - is used.
  2. The first version is copied from the article in The New York Times. What genre does it
    belong to?

 

Suggested key
  1. We would think that most readers will find the first version more difficult to understand.

    • Version 1 has some quite difficult words, e.g. conceded, rupture, stanched. These have been replaced by simpler alternatives such as tell, a broken well, and stopped in version 2.
    • Version 1 consists of two very long sentences, with complex combinations of clauses. Version 2 is broken down into 4 clauses with less complex syntax, although even here a couple of them are fairly long. 
    • Version 1 uses many nouns that have been replaced by verbs and adjectives in the second version.
  2. Nominalisations such as rupture, (could result in) the spill, uncertainty, (the extent of) the leak, swift action have been rewritten into: broken (well), could spill, uncertain, how serious (the leak is), act swiftly.
    It is generally easier to understand language which refers to persons and things by means of nouns, to actions by means of verbs and to qualities by means of adjectives.

  3. Version 2 is quite typical of news reportage, with the characteristics mentioned above. Version 1 is less typical of that genre, but could well have occurred as a news report.
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