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Ambiguity

Cyril Feraan

To be ambigious is a tricky thing, indeed. Often ambuigity is represented as some sort of fault of novice writers, or perhaps a trick of the cunning politician attempting to deceive the electorate. The nightmare of every editor, what every teacher dreads, often ambiguity can be demonized without true cause.

Ever since writing was established by ancient civilizations so many millenia ago, critics have existed also, establishing themselves as the so-called “experts” that set the standards for how everyone else is supposed to write. They thumb their noses at any notion of creativity, spitting upon perfectly valid concepts that only enhance writing, making it more flavorful and meaningful. Indeed! If we let these self-proclaimed gurus have full reign over the literary realm, we might as well be viewing comic holos!

So if the faults of ambiguity are not all they are cracked up to be, how to we begin to define it? You see, dear reader, it’s quite a simple concept in reality, as long as we choose not to overcomplicate it. Ambiguity simply is the misunderstood art of making your point without actually making it.

Now, you tell me “But this is a logical paradox! It cannot be both at once!” Yet I tell you that you are falling into the trap of complication. What you see as a paradox is the true beauty of ambigious statements, for a skilled master of ambiguity is able to craft his passages such that his point is undeniable: but his opponents are equally unable to attack him, on the grounds that it is not quite clear what the actual point was, nor quite how the arguments support the idea. Effectively, one may attack a certain statement for its apparent fault, but the writer can then show a different meaning when the correct viewpoint is adopted.

It is a brilliant strategy, and thus inconsiderate that we should dismiss it so easily.

I declare that it is even a mistake to lump all ambiguity into one category, for it can come in so many forms! There’s lexical ambiguity, perhaps one of the oldest and most common forms, and certainly the most useful. I would even wager that we owe the foundation of modern government to the power of lexical ambiguity. Opponents of lexical ambiguity claim it is “imprecise” and “inconcise” but they overlook the fundamental principle of lexical ambiguity, and that is it the sheer convenience. Why waste our time looking for a specific word when we can simply use one with a pluralistic meaning? What if we want to change the meaning of a given phrase later on? We’d have to go to the trouble of replacing the word, or worse, rephasing the sentence to appease the naysayers.

Or we can try semantic ambiguity instead, which many have traditionally seen as the largest nuisance in writing — conversely, I find it to have the most “spice” and it certainly provides the greatest flexibility. After all, while lexical ambiguity plays off of the variety of related words in Galactic Basic, semantic ambiguity opens an entirely different bag of rock warts. With it, we are no longer confined to the basic standards; typical phrases become our playground, weaving conventions of speech through our words to contrive an original meaning.

Yet despite the fact that such linguistic ability is unlocked through the usage of ambiguity as a writing convention, it still comes under such vicious attack. Perhaps if I explained a bit about how one might go about utilizing ambiguity to its greatest potential, it might be understood as it is, and gain recognition for its many strengths, instead of its apparent faults.

The first key to writing a sophistically ambigious passage is to open with a thoroughly ambigious statement to introduce the reader to the topic. Some authors choose to be deceptive and slip inthe ambigious statements later when they are less apparent. This may be a comfortable practice for a novice practitioner of ambiguity, but I urge you, my reader, to not do this, for this is the very thing the enemy hopes for. If you don’t engage fully in the art of ambiguity, you may soon fall prey to their compelling arguments of “clarity” and “mechanical accuracy”. Indulge fully in this fine craft, I exhort you, for then you will be truly fulfilled.

But if you start with a boring and straightforward sentence, you may lose your reader before they reach the true meat of the essay. So instead, gently draw the reader in. Be clear with your intention, yet don’t overwhelm them. Avoid being vague. There is a distinct difference between the two, and it is a fine line that every writer must heed. Take pride in your ambiguity, and don’t stoop to such a level as those who practice vagueness.

After you have come up with something sufficient, follow with a few standard sentences that shine light upon what your opening sentence indicates. This shouldn’t be all that unusual, and these sentences should only serve to ensure your hook was effective. To succeed, you have to get your audience to move onto the first of the body paragraphs.

Your first point must seem significant, even if it has no relevance whatsoever. Remember one of the important rules of ambiguity: it’s not about reality, but perception. Have you ever heard the expression “Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder”? Certainly the same applies here. The beauty of ambugity is in that it gives total freedom to the beholder. If possible, we might even call ambiguity within writing the purest of artforms, for it infringes upon nothing.

Following arguments should be written so as to expand the context without revealing your true depth (or lack thereof) of knowledge on the subject. Remain on the offensive. If you are at all defensive about your ambiguity, you are letting your opposition win. They cannot possibility understand your intentions, so they have no basis to lodge arguments against your own. Your logic is perfect. What they call “mindless rhetoric” is in reality a thoughtful approach, what they call “equivocation” is truly your best weapon.

Therefore, the golden rule of ambigious writing can be summed up thus: maintain ambiguity in all things. Never cease to follow this rule, and you will do quite well at what you choose to do well at.

Alas, the critics will say what they may say, never before have they seemed affected by the true artisans of ambiguity; ultimately, I fear my words here will go unheeded likewise.