Sometimes while reading a sentence I fail to understand what something is refering to

for example -

A cue tone is a message consisting of audio tones, used to prompt an action.

which 'thing' is used to prompt an action here, is it the 'message' or the 'audio tones'?

Please advice how to get rid of this confusion?

2 Answers 2


Your question touches on theories of communication (of which there are many) but it's trying to make a distinction when none really exists.

It's the tone that prompts the action. The purpose of the tone is to act as a message. In this sense, the tone is the message that prompts the action. To probe further is to land yourself in semantics rather than the use of idiomatic English.

To make a parallel.

You might receive an unpleasant and upsetting phone call, an event that you relate to a friend. You would be surprised if the friend asked you whether it was the phone call that upset you or the contents of the call or the words the caller used. Similarly with an email or a letter or any other means of conveying a message.

The content of the call is the message that the caller is conveying to you. It doesn't make much sense to ask whether it was the call that upset you or the message it conveyed. For everyday purposes, they come down to the same thing.


My teacher said "Split long sentences into short sentences which you can understand."

'A cue tone is a message consisting of audio tones. A cue tone is used to prompt an action.'

Often the small sentences need to re-use some words from the earlier sentences. Pick the ones that give the best meaning to you.

You could easily choose the the second sentence to say, 'A message is used to...' or even 'Audio tones are used to...' but the best choice would depend on the context (what the rest of the writing is about).

Normally, we do not like writing or saying the same words again soon afterwards, so we often miss them out, and we hope the other person understands. For instance we use 'pronouns' so we don't keep saying a person's name again and again.

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