Tighten This! Challenge Sentence 48 [writing/editing game]

this-weeks-challenge-question-marcia-riefer-johnstonWelcome to the concise-writing game, Tighten This! Here’s Challenge Sentence 48, courtesy of Tim Slager, who found it here.

Mapping keywords to steps in the buyer’s journey makes SEO more important in ongoing marketing initiatives and also shows leadership that there are steps in the process for achieving results in the most critical keyword opportunities.

Your revision: _______________________
[Scroll to the bottom and put your revision in a comment by Friday, May 13.]

Tips:

Last Week’s Challenge Sentence

In case you’re playing this game for the first time (welcome!), or in case you’ve had other things on your mind since you read the previous Challenge Sentence, here it is again:

When the do-hickey input is connected through external whatz-its that, when opened, whatz-itize the neutral or when the automatic backfeed whatz-itization is provided external to the equipment or is connected to an IP power distribution system, a label must be fitted at the do-hickey input terminals, and on all primary power whatz-its installed remote from the do-hickey area and on external access points between such whatz-its and the do-hickey, by the user, displaying the following text (or equivalent in a language which is acceptable in the country in which the do-hickey system is installed): label text here.

Read on to hear thoughts from the game’s three judges: Larry Kunz (a seasoned technical writer and blogger who has participated in this game from the beginning), Ray (my husband), and me.

Larry’s Pick (Larry Kunz speaking)

This! This (he said, gesticulating toward Challenge Sentence 47)! This is why technical writers are revered the world over, why they’re mobbed on the streets and treated like rock stars.

THIS is why tech writers are treated like rock stars. @Larry_Kunz #techcomm Click To Tweet

Or maybe it’s why technical writers have ulcers. At any rate, the ability to unravel a sentence like this is rare and wonderful.

So, how to unravel it? First, let’s identify the central idea or action. It’s putting a label (or a bunch of labels) on something. When a certain set of circumstances holds true. And the label should say something.

A few of you placed that central idea at the beginning. That’s a great way to simplify and clarify. Kudos to you!

Several others contributed entries that were sturdy and airtight. Some sacrificed specificity for brevity—for example, abridging or omitting the list of circumstances. As a technical writer you can do that sometimes—and sometimes you can’t. We don’t know whether this is a can or a can’t because we don’t know the context for our sentence. My guess is that it’s some kind of regulation, which would make it a can’t.

I’m picking two winners this week:

Emma, for boiling down the sentence without leaving out anything useful:

Fit labels reading “Label text here” in the operator’s language to all do-hickey input terminals, remote primary power whatz-its, and external access points, if:

  • external whatz-its are connected to the do-hickey
  • automatic backfeed whatzitization is provided externally, or
  • IP power distribution systems are used.

…And Julian, who would replace the whole thing with a diagram. Honestly I think you’ve hit on the best solution of all—even though we can’t grade it on the Tighten This! scorecard.

Here’s Emma’s winning word-count reduction:

tight-writing-Emma

How did Marcia arrive at the translation formula in the spreadsheet above? See “Write Tight(er): Get to the Point and Save Millions.”

Ray’s Pick (Ray Johnston speaking)

Step 1: Whom does this sentence inform? Not until near the end—”…by the user…“—can we guess at the intended audience: Technical Support, Technical Marketing, Quality Assurance, Software Engineering, Application Engineering, or some other group, probably internal, of technical people. So either someone in SW Dev is explaining the label situation to this group, or someone in SW Dev is running this around the farm for review before sending it to Tech Comm.

Step 2: What does this sentence say? 

Given X,
if event 1 
then event 2


We could recast this now into what will likely be its final shape: a short series of instructions for the manufacturing group or maybe consumers.

Given:
The external whatz-its, when opened, whatz-itize the neutral.
Event 1:
If you
….connect the do-hickey through external whatz-its
Or
If you
….provide automatic backfeed whatz-itization external to the equipment
….or
….connect automatic backfeed whatz-itization to an IP power distribution system
Then
Event 2:
The user must,
….at the do-hickey input terminals
….and
….on all primary-power whatz-its installed remote from the do-hickey area
….and
….on external access points between such whatz-its and the do-hickey,
fit a label displaying
….either
….….label text [in English]>
….or
….….label text [in a locally acceptable language]>.

Can I write this as a comprehensible sentence? I doubt it; it cries out for a diagram of some kind. Let’s see what you come up with.

Leigh: No matter how well we rewrite or diagram last week’s sentence, a percentage of users will look at our doc, look at the gizmo, and call Tech Support. If enough users do this, the service center just might let the engineers or the marketers know about it, and they in turn just might direct the writing group to replace the DIY instruction with a better one: Call Tech Support!

Jim: You do indeed recast to make YOU (implied) the subject and then move that subject to word 1. Bravo!

Joan: Impossible not to love your condensed version. Details, sea snails!

Rhonda: Beautiful. Only issue: missing a fundamental condition or two.

Vinish: Your 1st, 2nd, and 3rd reactions match mine perfectly. Unlike me, you had the good sense to stop after Response #3.

Emma: Brief. Complete. Great!

Julian: I picked up our first pint of local strawberries (Ka-Ching! Ouch!) on Saturday. I cut them and sugared them lightly and let them mellow for a day, and then divvied them up over four bowls of vanilla gelato. ‘Nuff said? You nailed the solution, imo. This info does not lend itself to standalone text; it has to be rendered graphically. I doubt Marcia will let either of us off the hook, though—no sentence, no strawberries.

Mary: Outstanding! I think you could straighten out a detail here and there, but your rendering is unique and (I think) on the money. It might not be on the money, but—I’ll—never—read—the—original—again (so I’ll never know).

Avi: You killed it! (Only issue: you left out the localization bit. Details, sea snails.) Blue ribbon for you unless someone…

Amruta: Really nice. If you give the same treatment to the rest of the info (conditions, label text), it’s a winner.

Tim: Laddie, it’s a structure after me own heart. I spent two hours poking at this thing, wondering whether I could tease out any hierarchy; yours is at least as good as any I could come up with.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What an amazing, excellent crop of entries! Thanks to veterans and newcomers alike — each one a star.

*** Avi *** I hit the farmers’ market again tomorrow morning, around 11, and I’ll bring home way more than one lousy pint of berries. They’ll be cored, sliced, sugared, and in every other way perfect by 5 PM. Drop by to collect your winnings!

Avi’s revision here:

If one of these conditions apply:
• The do-hickey input is connected through external whatz-its that, when opened, whatz-itize the neutral
• The automatic backfeed whatz-itization is connected to an IP power distribution system or is provided externally

Affix the “label text here” label to the following locations:
• The do-hickey input terminals
• All primary power whatz-its installed remote from the do-hickey area
• External access points between whatz-its and the do-hickey

concise-writing-Avi

Marcia’s Pick (Marcia Johnston speaking)

Here’s my shot at untangling:

Is the do-hickey input connected through external whatz-its that whatz-itize the neutral either (a) when they’re opened or (b) when the automatic backfeed whatz-itization is provided external to the equipment or is connected to an IP power distribution system?

If so, fit a label at the following locations:

  • the do-hickey’s input terminals
  • all primary power whatz-its installed remote from the do-hickey area
  • external access points between these whatz-its and the do-hickey

The label must display the following text (or equivalent in a language that is acceptable in the country in which the do-hickey system is installed): label text here.

Leigh’s revision (Call tech support) makes me smile.

Many of the revisions started with imperatives, putting the action up front and making it clear that what we’re looking at here is, in fact, an instruction. Jim Durning, Joan Somerville, Emma Grahame, Amruta Bhave, and Tim Slager took this approach: Affix labels…, Fit labels…, Provide localized labels…, Label…

Julian Cable calls for an illustration. Yes!

Three of you—Rhonda, Marya DeVoto, and Avi—started by identifying the conditions that call for action and THEN giving the instruction. This approach fits with my three favorite books on procedure writing, which agree that the where or the if should precede the what (condition before action). 

Of those three players, Marya’s revision strikes me as the clearest and closest (as far as I can tell) to the original meaning:

The following conditions require a translatable label in the format “label text here”:
–The do-hickey input is connected through external whatz-its that, when opened, whatz-itize the neutral
–The automatic backfeed whatz-itization is external, or connects to an IP power distribution system

Apply the label in all these places:
–At the do-hickey input terminals
–On all primary power whatz-its remote from the terminals
–On all access points between the whatz-its and the do-hickey

tight-writing-Marya

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Again, Challenge Sentence 48

Mapping keywords to steps in the buyer’s journey makes SEO more important in ongoing marketing initiatives and also shows leadership that there are steps in the process for achieving results in the most critical keyword opportunities.

Your revision: _______________________
[Scroll to the bottom and put your revision in a comment by Friday, May 13.]

Go!

Index of Challenge Sentences

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7 thoughts on “Tighten This! Challenge Sentence 48 [writing/editing game]

  1. Mapping key words to each critical step in the buyer’s journey increases results and raises SEO’s value in marketing initiatives.

  2. Thank you for doing this site.

    SEO highlights keyword opportunities in the buyer’s journey to feed ongoing marketing.

  3. I believe it was confucius (or was it Ghandi?) who stated: “There is no reward that provides greater satisfaction or higher pleasure than freshly picked virtual sweetened strawberries”. Thanks Ray!

    • Avi ~ We’ve had strawberries every day – at least once – for the past couple weeks. And I’ve done my best to vibe some of the joy to you! ~ Ray

  4. Convince management that keyword results come in stages. Then lock them into a ongoing SEO plan by using different keywords for each stage of buying.

    A bit on the cynical side, I admit. But a sentence as confusing as this is open to interpretation.

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