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Hi,

When a teacher’s instructions in a worksheet are too difficult to understand because they can be interpreted in different ways, can I say this?

“Her instructions are dripping with vagueness/ambiguity.”

Is it okay or does it sound too dramatic?

Thank you.

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Ann225

“Her instructions are dripping with vagueness/ambiguity.”

Is it okay or does it sound too dramatic?

I don't know about dramatic, but it doesn't sound right. In its simplest form you're trying to say "full (of)". So as I understand it, you want a snappier way to say that. Here are a few suggestions. Even if you don't care for them, they may stimulate your thinking in the direction you want.

Her instructions are
labyrinthine; Byzantine; convoluted; tortuous; impenetrable.

Her instructions are
maps to nowhere; a maze of ambiguity; a study in fuzzy math.

Following her instructions is like
trying to nail jello to a wall; traveling through the Bermuda Triangle; trying to fathom the Mysteries of Isis.

CJ

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Comments  
Ann225Is it okay or does it sound too dramatic?

Too dramatic. "Dripping with" is sort of catty.

Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.

"dripping with" is definitely dramatic in this context. (And more negative.)

Should I avoid it then? It’s supposed to be negative.

What would you use instead? Is there perhaps a catchy phrase that’d fit this context? I don’t always want to stick to ‘are too vague’ or ‘there’s too much vagueness in them.’

What about ‘carry a sense of vagueness’?

hmmm...

Well, you can say "ridiculously vague" or "absurdly vague" or "outrageously vague" or...

The vague (ambiguous) instructions leave me grasping at straws. (idiom)

or

The vague (ambiguous) instructions have me at my wit's end. (idiom)

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Ann225Should I avoid it then? It’s supposed to be negative.

A comment can be dripping with sarcasm, or a story can be dripping with gooey sentiment, but those things drip better than vagueness does. The thing that drips should have been over-applied to the point where it drips off, like too much chocolate syrup on a sundae. You can't over-apply vagueness. I called it catty because it reflects on the user to some extent as haughty. It is not always strictly negative. You can be dripping with diamonds if you wear a lot of jewelry, or you can be dripping with sophistication if your bearing is overwhelmingly admirable.

 CalifJim's reply was promoted to an answer.

I tend to think "dripping with" is usually meant as a slight.

"Dripping with diamonds" I take to mean "she wears way too much glitz"

I have never heard the expression "Dripping with sophistication". Though, if someone had used it, I would take that as a negative.

I like the idea the student has of using the expression "dripping with ...." to put an unusual and negative spin on "ambiguity". But to do so, will emphasize the expression to the point of being 'dramatic', or, overly dramatic. (Calls a lot of attention to it.)

Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?

Thank you all for your inputs. You've been extremely helpful.

Just one last thing. What about 'carry a sense of vagueness'? Would that be appropriate?

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