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20 Examples of an Explanation

An explanation is a communication that is designed to convey meaning such as information, emotion or conjecture. This may be intended to be accurate, easy to understand, convincing or all three. In other cases, explanations are intentionally vague or ostentatious such that they aren't designed to be understood. The following are illustrative examples of an explanation.

Plain Language

Plain language is the practice of making communication clear and succinct. This is typically done to explain things with intent to be understood and may sacrifice accuracy and precision in order to achieve this aim.
Physics is the study of the physical nature of the universe including elements such as space, time, matter and energy.


Giving an example is often used either for clarity or to persuade.
Productivity is the amount of value you produce in a unit of time. For example, the number of rooms a painter can paint in a week.


A non-example is an example of something that is not included in a concept.
Efficiency is the amount of value you get for a unit of a resource. For example, leaving your lights on when you're not home is not efficient.

Anticipating Objections

Anticipating objections is the process of planning to handle challenges to your ideas, requests or actions. For example, an explanation can address an obvious challenge upfront.
I'm quitting my job to start a business and realize that most small businesses fail and that it won't look good on my resume to have a gap in my career but this is something I have to do.

Message Framing

Message framing is the practice of carefully considering how a communication is likely to be received. For example, framing criticism in a positive way.
I really appreciate that you have gone to the expense and trouble of building a fence that increases privacy levels for both of us. There's just one little concern I wanted to mention, my bedroom balcony used to have a view of the ocean and now this view is obstructed by the fence.

Nudge Theory

Nudge theory is the idea that people are influenced more by subtle suggestions than commanding language and demands. For example, stating facts and asking questions as opposed to making dramatic pronouncements.
It is common for a 16 oz (473 ml) bottle of soda to have around 48 grams of sugar. This is roughly equivalent to consuming 14 standard 3.5 gram sugar packets, the type commonly provided at restaurants for coffee†. Would you put 14 packets of sugar in a 16 oz coffee?


An analogy is the practice of drawing comparisons to communicate ideas, emotion and humor.
Progress consists, not in the increase of truth, but in freeing it from its wrappings. The truth is obtained like gold, not by letting it grow bigger, but by washing off from it everything that isn't gold.
~ Leo Tolstoy

Thought Experiment

A thought experiment is an analogy that's designed to simplify a complex problem. For example, the Chinese Room is a thought experiment by philosopher John Searle that challenges a common validation of artificial intelligence whereby if a computer can trick humans into believing it is a human -- it is "intelligent."
There is a man in a room who doesn't speak Chinese. People slip messages in Chinese under a door and the man looks up an appropriate response in a book of responses. The man simply copies out a response in Chinese from the book and slips it under the door. The man is not necessarily intelligent nor does he understand anything about the conversation he is conducting with the person on the other side of the door.
This is analogous to an artificial intelligence that can respond to inputs in a convincing human way that is simply performing mappings based on observations of humans such that it is not necessarily intelligent nor does it understand what it is doing.

First Principles

First principles are theories with broad explanatory power such that they can be used to explain a great number of things.
Time moves in a single direction from past to future. Tom came up with a good idea in May and Andy came up with a remarkably similar idea in September. Therefore, it is likely that Andy borrowed from Tom's idea and should give Tom credit.


A specification is an explanation that attempts to be fully precise and accurate, often at the expense of being difficult to understand. For example, an airline that explains its refund policy must take care to be accurate, even if this exposes an overly complex set of rules that are stacked against the customer.
The Basic fare is non-refundable and not eligible for credit for future travel. Standard, Flexible and Comfort fares are not refundable but are eligible for credit for future travel for cancellations or changes made more then 24 hours before the flight. A $500 change fee applies. Superior, Business Class and First Class fares are fully refundable for cancellations and changes made more than 12 hours before flight time. Cancellations and changes may be rejected if they are deemed unreasonable at our sole discretion. The complete rules explaining our refund policies are available at all airport counters.


A question can be used as an explanation. This includes rhetorical questions that are really statements disguised as questions and open-ended questions designed to inspire a direction in thought.
God is dead! God remains dead! And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers?
~ Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science (1882)
Friedrich Nietzsche was concerned with the decline of religious belief and what would replace the vacuum that this left in society. The statements and question above explain this idea in an extremely colorful way.


Storytelling is the art of making communication interesting. An explanation can almost always be wrapped in a story.
The slow-rising central horror of "Watergate" is not that it might grind down to the reluctant impeachment of a vengeful thug of a president whose entire political career has been a monument to the same kind of cheap shots and treachery he finally got nailed for, but that we might somehow fail to learn something from it.
~ Hunter S. Thompson, Rolling Stone (2 August 1973)


Explaining things with humor takes people's guard down. Humor is also impossible to counter in debate without thinking of more humor. For example, responding to humor with a serious counterstatement makes you look naive or overly serious.
If you're going to be crazy, you have to get paid for it or else you're going to be locked up.
~ Hunter S. Thompson

Not Even Wrong

Not even wrong is an explanation that is so wrong that it is difficult to challenge.
When the President does it, that means it's not illegal.
~ President Richard Nixon, in a 1977 interview with David Frost

Pretentious & Ostentatious

Explanations designed to signal intelligence or virtue as opposed to communicating information. This may make heavy use of obscure vocabulary, jargon and abstractions such that an explanation may have little meaning to anyone. In some cases, such explanations are literally meaningless and seek to avoid detection of this fact with large words.
Our artificial intelligence driven event processing provides timely and actionable business critical insights.

Cowardly Communication

Explanations designed to be difficult to criticise based on weasel words such as claiming that an idea originates with some anonymous authority such as "Scientists."
Scientists agree that coffee might stimulate creativity in some individuals and it is often said that most creative thinkers drink at least some coffee.


Objectivity is an attempt to evaluate all evidence to reach a balanced conclusion. This presents both sides of an issue if both sides have some validity. However, objectivity doesn't present well accepted knowledge as being controversial based on obscure and non-authoritative sources.
Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities. In addition, most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position.
~ NASA, Scientific Consensus: Earth's Climate is Warming, Nov 2019


Ethos is an appeal to authority. This is a means of influencing as people often respect information that has come from a large institution, reputable profession or person with significant social status.
In fact, the Harvard study data indicates that 70 percent of African American children attend schools that are predominately African American, about the same level as in 1968 when Dr. King died.
~ Bobby Scott


Logos is the use of a logical argument based on references that sound like facts such as numbers. This is not intended to produce objectivity but rather to influence as people are commonly persuaded by arguments that sound logical and mathematical. Logic can also be perceived as cold and out of touch with human realities.
Just in terms of allocation of time resources, religion is not very efficient. There's a lot more I could be doing on a Sunday morning.
~ Bill Gates, TIME magazine Vol. 149, No. 2


Pathos is an appeal to emotions. This is perhaps the most potent mode of influencing.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
~ Martin Luther King Jr.
Overview: Explanation
A communication that is designed to convey meaning such as information, emotion or conjecture.
Related Concepts


This is the complete list of articles we have written about communication.
Action Plan
Ad Hominem
Anticipating Objections
Body Language
Building Trust
Business Comm.
Comm. Process
Civil Inattention
Devils Advocate
Direct Language
Comm. Channels
Comm. Complexity
Dumbing Down
Comm. Context
Echo Chamber
Comm. Design
Comm. Issues
Comm. Objectives
Ground Rules
Comm. Plan
High Context
Comm. Problems
Comm. Skills
Comm. Style
Low Context
Consensus Building
Media Bias
Message Framing
Digital Comm.
Moot Point
Nudge Theory
External Comm.
Plain Language
Positive Criticism
Formal Comm.
Rhetorical Question
Self Monitoring
Hypothetical Question
Informal Comm.
Information Design
Interactive Media
Internal Comm.
Mass Comm.
Media Studies
Nonverbal Comm.
Open-Ended Question
Shared Meaning
Small Talk
Social Comm.
Social Cues
Strategic Comm.
Tag Question
Target Audience
Thought Experiment
Tone Of Text
Touching Base
View From Nowhere
Word Of Mouth
More ...
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† A typical sugar packet in the United States contains 2 to 4 grams of sugar.


Tolstoy's Diaries (1985) edited and translated by R. F. Christian. London: Athlone Press, Vol 2, p. 512
Hunter S. Thompson, BankRate.com Interview, November 1 2004.
NASA, Scientific Consensus: Earth's Climate is Warming, Retrieved November 2019.
Washington, James Melvin, ed. A testament of hope: The essential writings and speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. San Francisco: Harper, 1991.


A list of communication techniques.

Moot Point

The definition of moot point with examples.

Communication Style

The definition of communication style with examples.

Mass Communication

The definition of mass communication with examples.


The definition of labeling with examples.

Communication Medium

The definition of communication medium with examples.

Resignation Letter

Examples of resignation letters.


The definition of rationale with examples.


The definition of nonexample with examples.


An overview of influencing with a bunch of examples.

Political Polarization

The definition of political polarization with a list of its basic characteristics.

Weaknesses Interview

How to answer questions about your weaknesses in a way that communicates strengths.


The basic types of audience.

Interpersonal Skills

A list of common interpersonal skills.

Informal Authority

The definition of informal authority with examples.

Dumbing Down

The definition of dumbing down with examples.


The definition of flattery with examples.


A list of common moods.
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