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“Thank you for the clarification” in English Correspondence

“Thank you for the clarification” in English Correspondence

Today, we live in a world that is overly reliant on electronic communication. We send e-mails, message each other on Facebook, and tweet our little hearts away.

However, the problem with all of those mediums is that they curtail our ability to communicate clearly. After all, studies show that around 93 percent of all communication is nonverbal.

This means that when you talk to someone else, most of the message is carried by the tone of your voice and your body language.

You could say the same word, something innocuous like “hey,” in different ways, and depending on how you say it and your body language as you say it, the listener would walk away with a different interpretation each time.

Unfortunately, we can neither use our tone of voice nor our body language when sending an email or a text. So, it should come as no surprise to learn that these digital mediums tend to lead to misunderstandings and confusions.

After all, how much can you learn from 140 or 280 characters?

Consequently, we all need to know when to ask people to clarify what they mean and to thank for them clearing things up when they do.

This leads us to today’s phrase, “thank you for the clarification.” When should you use it? And, are there better alternatives lurking about?


What is the meaning of “thank you for the clarification”?

“Thank you for the clarification” is something you say when someone has cleared up the air and explained something that might have been confusing to you. It is a formal expression, one that is best used in professional correspondence. It is right up there with “thank you for your input” and “your feedback is appreciated.”


How to use “Thank you for the clarification” in correspondence?

As just mentioned, you should use this expression in formal settings.

For instance, this might be part of an email you send your boss.

I was not certain what these numbers represented until you contextualized them for me.
Again, thank you for the clarification. I will act immediately, and you can expect my report early next week.

Here’s another example, where a customer service agent is conversing with a client through a live chat feature.

Customer: I’d like to resolve a problem.

Agent: Of course. Can I know what is the nature of the problem?

Customer: I ordered a package from your store a week ago, and I still have yet to receive it. The tracking software said that I should get it within 48 hours. But, it has been a week, and still, nothing has arrived.

Agent: Thank you for the clarification. Could you give me a few minutes while I review your order on our system?

Now, let’s see how this expression would hold in an interaction between you and a friend.

You: Hey man, what’s with all the boxes in here?

Friend: I’m getting rid of some of my old clothes and giving them to charity.

You: Oh… Thanks for the clarification.

Feels a bit stilted, right? Your friend might even laugh at the unnecessary formality of your response.

Before moving on, let’s take a minute to see what makes this expression formal.

What makes “thank you for the clarification” formal?

The first thing that should stand out is the use of nominalization, also known as nouning.

What is nominalization I hear you say?

Well, it is a type of word formation where you turn a verb, an adjective, or any other part of speech into a noun and use it as such.

For example, “to activate” becomes “the activation,” “the superfluous” becomes “the superfluousness,” and “to appreciate” transforms into “the appreciation.”

Here are these words in action.

I think it’s important to activate the system.

I believe the activation of the system is important.

This seems like a superfluous topic.

The superfluousness of this topic is evident.

I need to learn to appreciate the little things in life.

The appreciation of the little things in life is something I need to learn.


So, what does nominalization do to a sentence?

First off, it makes it more wordy. After all, “the superfluousness” sounds way more serious than the adjective “superfluous.”

Secondly, it takes away any action verbs. In a sense, it makes the sentence more abstract. So, rather than appreciating something, you focus on appreciation. This abstraction makes the sentence less emotional.

If you want to see how nominalization can take away from the emotional core of a sentence, take a look at the following two examples.

When the city was destroyed, a lot of people lost their homes.
The destruction of the city caused a lot of people to lose their homes.
While the first sentence seems to tell a harrowing story, the second one seems to have been uttered by an unfeeling analyst who is just relaying a fact of life.

That is the power of nominalization.

And, that is why it is so popular in formal writing. In fact, scientific papers are guilty of overusing nominalization. After all, scientists would love nothing more than to take themselves out of the equation and to let their work speak for itself.

Another reason that nominalization populates formal writing is that it favors passive tones of voice over active ones, and it gets rid of the subject of a sentence, all in one fell swoop.

We analyzed the data.

An analysis of the data was carried out.

So, to recap, nominalization takes away from the vitality of a sentence. It dissolves all context and obfuscates any agency. It also provides stability to things that might actually be fuzzy or nebulous.

Over and above, nominalization gives priority to the action over the people or agents who performed the action.

Is it any surprise that nominalization has found a permanent home in formal writing?


Should you use nominalization?

In short, you shouldn’t. While nominalization might make your writing seem more professional or mature, it also makes it harder to read and more confusing.

Moreover, when talking about nominalization, Henry Hitchings expressed that he had a problem with how it tended to conceal power relationships and to reduce our sense of the real elements involved in a transaction.

Hence, he pointed out that nominalization can be used as a tool of manipulation, one where the products and results get all the emphasis while hiding the actual processes that brought about these products and results.


Thank you for clarifying

If nominalization is one of the main reasons the expression comes across as formal, then denominalizing it should do the trick.

Hence, the option here is “thank you for clarifying.”

It is an acceptable, more informal alternative.

You should use it with your colleagues and work friends.

For instance, this can be a text exchange between you and a close colleague.

You: I was going over your presentation, the one you want to give the board tomorrow, and I was having a hard time understanding the numbers on slide 29. Could you explain them to me?

Friend: Sure thing. These numbers were the expected P&L projections assuming best-case scenario. You can find how I calculated them and the assumptions I based them on in the file I attached.

You: Got it. Thank you for clarifying.

I’m sure you can see how this interaction is way more informal than the other examples we looked at earlier.


Other alternatives for “thank you for the clarification”

So far, so good.

But, what if you want an expression that is even more informal, something that you could use with close friends in the middle of a conversation?

Don’t worry. Here at Linguablog, we got you covered.


Thanks for explaining

The reason this expression is more informal boils down to the difference between the words “clarifying” and “explaining.”
For some reason, some words will always come across as less formal than their other synonyms.

You have “appreciate” and “cherish,” where even though these two words have the same meaning, there is one that is obviously more formal than the other.

Similarly, “explain” is less formal than “clarify.” After all, when was the last time you asked your friends to clarify something?

But, I can easily remember the last time I asked my brother to explain something.

I can also remember when I thanked him for an explanation he offered.

This is how it played out.

He is a bit of a gamer and is usually the one who introduces me to new games. Anyway, we were playing the new Cyberpunk game, and I was struggling with a particular mission. So, this is a snippet of the conversation we had.

Me: Dude, this level is frustrating. I keep dying at the same place

My brother: Alright, are you using (name of tool in game)?

Me: No, what is that?

My brother: (proceeds to offer full explanation of tool as well as its uses)

Me: Oh… I see. Thanks for explaining that. I’ll give it a try.