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It's easier than it seems, but I don't convey it well.

My friend says that I should change that to read

It's easier than it seems, but I don't say it well.

However, this doesn't seem quite right to me. Is this grammatically correct? What is wrong with this sentence?

"Say" and "convey" aren't the same thing, right? Someone can say something, but still fail to convey an idea, correct?

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7 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Convey means 'transfer' or 'pass on' or 'make known'. In England, at least, the process of selling a house is conveyancing, for example. In general, conveying and saying are not the same thing - you can convey ideas without saying a thing (a shrug of the shoulders could convey that you don't know, without any verbal communication). So, maybe you'd write:

It's easier than it seems, but I haven't conveyed the ideas very well.

The "don't convey it well" tends to mean you've tried multiple times and are still trying and not doing a very good job of conveying the ideas to the people you talk with.

On the whole, though, I think another word, such as 'explain', is better:

It's easier than it seems, even though I haven't explained it very well.

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And "say" wouldn't work, right? –  language hacker Apr 5 '11 at 23:36
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@language hacker: "but I haven't said it very well" has the wrong connotations; it implies there was a suitable (recognized) form of words, but you didn't use them and what you did say wasn't as good, somehow. Again, "I don't say it well" has the present continuous tense; "I didn't say it well" is more or less the same as "I haven't said it well". "Say" isn't quite the mot juste. –  Jonathan Leffler Apr 6 '11 at 0:06
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"I don't say it well" is perfectly correct, you could also have "I don't communicate it" well or "I don't put it over well".

Convey could mean that you communicate it other than by speaking but it's perfectly correct to have the "author said" when in fact the author wrote it

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I think that the other two examples work but not "say." I think there might be confusion if "say" is used. –  language hacker Apr 5 '11 at 23:29
    
@language hacker - I originally wrote that "say" implied speaking it - but then I thought of the "author said" example. –  mgb Apr 5 '11 at 23:38
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Perhaps you don't "explain" it well.

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Yes, "explain" would work. "Convey" would also work, correct? What about "say?" –  language hacker Apr 5 '11 at 23:17
    
Say is better than speak, or - God forbid - talk. But it doesn't have much else going for it. Convey is just a tad ott for the context - the speaker isn't really talking about inability to convey information, he's talking about the fact that the primary subject is in fact easy. The 'simpler' word explain covers the situation without drawing unwanted attention to that side of the statement. –  FumbleFingers Apr 6 '11 at 1:58
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@FumbleFingers: speak and talk would be very out of place in that sentence. Say and convey would both get the right point across, but I'd agree that convey is a shade more self-important. @Pete Wilson has it right, though: explain is better than both. –  user1579 Apr 6 '11 at 22:44
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@Rhodri: Yes, that's exactly it! It's not that explain is a 'simple' word - it's that convey has a slight edge of 'pomposity' about it. Which draws focus away from the primary clause. I'm sure there will be plenty who don't acknowledge that overtone, but it's always nice to know someone else sees the same subtlety (even if it's just a flight of fancy :-) –  FumbleFingers Apr 6 '11 at 23:48
    
Yes, "convey" does have a slight edge of 'pomposity' about it. Why is that? –  language hacker Apr 10 '11 at 22:37
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"I don't express it well" would be my natural choice here.

To "convey" something has a strong sense of ferrying or carrying something, transporting it whether physically or metaphorically.

Nevertheless, to my ear, "convey" works better than "say" in the example sentence. That's because "I don't say it well" does not mean "I do not express the meaning properly," as much as it means "I have speech problems."

If I were allowed the luxury of a rewrite, I'd go for something like this:

It's easier than it sounds, if I could explain it better.

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I agree with "I don't express it well" but I think your rewrite has a different meaning. Your rewrite implies that it would be easier if you could explain it better, whereas the original meaning is "it's easier than it sounds, I'm just incapable of explaining its ease." –  ghoppe Apr 6 '11 at 1:56
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To the tune of The Stones' Satisfaction:

explication,
explication.
'Cause I try and I try and I try and I try.
I can't get no, I can't get no.

When I'm drivin' in my car
and a man comes on the radio
he's tellin' me more and more
about some useless information
supposed to fire my imagination.
I can't get no, oh no no no.
Hey hey hey, that's what I say.

I can't get no explication,
I can't get no explication.
'Cause I try and I try and I try and I try.
I can't get no, I can't get no.

When I'm watchin' my TV
and a man comes on to tell me
how white my shirts can be.
Well he can't be a man 'cause he doesn't smoke
the same cigarrettes as me.
I can't get no, oh no no no.
Hey hey hey, that's what I say.

I can't get no explication,
I can't get no lubrication.
'Cause I try and I try and I try and I try.
I can't get no, I can't get no.
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Sometimes I use 'put' in this context: "I haven't put it very well."

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I would also say it doesn't make sense to "convey something well." You either convey it or you don't. The object of communication is to convey an idea -- if you communicate badly, it is because the idea is not completely conveyed, not because it is conveyed badly.

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