Explicit vs. Implicit
When something is stated explicitly, this means the exact meaning of something is clearly stated. The meaning should be clear and obvious to anyone reading the statement. Stating things explicitly is often important in professional settings, such as in the workplace, a hospital, or in the classroom.
For example, if at the end of a meeting, your boss says ''someone take care of this,'' she's not being very explicit. Depending on the nature of the meeting, you may not be sure exactly what she means. However, if your boss states her wishes explicitly, saying ''make sure your team finishes the report and has it to me by close of business'' then you know exactly what she wants. Stating things explicitly can help clear up confusion.
The opposite of this, of course, is when something is stated implicitly, meaning the actual, explicit meaning isn't directly stated, it's implied.
To help us illustrate just what we mean, let's look at a real-life example. Well, sort of a real-life example: a movie. Do you remember the last time you've been to a movie that included romance? There's a good chance that during that movie there was a scene where the two actors went out on a date, perhaps to dinner at a nice restaurant followed by a walk or another activity. The movie showed them having a good time, laughing, enjoying themselves, and even sharing a few kisses. After the date scene, the movie cuts to the two lovers waking up in bed together the next morning.
In this movie, whatever amorous activity happened in between that time period is implied. If that activity had been shown explicitly in the movie, well, it would have been a completely different type of movie altogether.
Things get stated both explicitly and implicitly in texts all the time. When the meaning is obvious and stated clearly, it is explicit. If you're not exactly sure what the text is saying, or you have to think a bit about it before realizing what it means, it's probably not very explicit. Let's take a look at a few examples of explicit text done well.
- The patient has been having contractions every 30 minutes, with a pain intensity of 7.
- At the end of the block, turn left onto Maple Street, and walk 300 yards to the bus stop.
Both of these are clear, explicit statements. The first sentence is stating patient information, including exact statistics, while the second is giving clear and concise directions. Both are good examples of explicit text.
Now that we have a good handle on what is explicit and how it's conveyed, let's take a look at several sentences. In each, try to gauge if the meaning is explicit.
- Spin around ten times, drop the baseball bat, and run the last ten meters to the finish line.
- The patient is not doing very well.
- When something like that occurs, we tend to run into major issues.
- She was very happy to meet you, and she would like to see you again on Thursday.
- The Lions won their game this past Sunday, meaning they will play in the Super Bowl in ten days.
Which of these questions does a good job of stating the information explicitly?
Statements 1, 4, and 5 do a good job at being explicit. In all three, the information presented is clear, concise, and doesn't force the reader to ask extra questions or assume the meaning.
Statements 2 and 3 are not very explicit. Statement 2 is an approximation, and tells us very little about the patient's condition. Statement 3 does an equally poor job being explicit. It forces the reader to ask more questions. What kind of issues? If you 'tend' to run into them, does it happen all the time? Most of the time? Neither is very explicit.
When something is stated explicitly, that means it's stated clearly, and the meaning is obvious. Stating things explicitly can be very helpful in professional settings and others where exact information is needed. If something is stated implicitly, or simply not stated well, it can leave a reader guessing at what the person is actually saying.