Tighten This! Challenge Sentence 52 [writing/editing game]

this-weeks-challenge-question-marcia-riefer-johnstonWelcome to the concise-writing game, Tighten This! Here’s Challenge Sentence 52:

The important thing to remember is that the analytics can be pointers to potential issues.

Your revision: _______________________
[Scroll to the bottom and put your revision in a comment by Friday, June 17.]

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, courtesy of A Progressive’s Style Guide.

An opportunity to scan for active voice should be taken as an opportunity to root out implicit bias toward status quo systems of power by naming the actors of oppression, whether human, institutional, or cultural. 

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)

Even by the standards of today’s inside-out world, it’s extraordinary to see a sentence that says, essentially, use the active voice … written in the passive. What a time to be alive.

Again, we saw a lot of strong entries this week. For me, two stand out.

I like Richard Hamilton’s sentence a lot—Don’t hide behind the passive voice; name the oppressors!—for its directness and for its economy of words. Yet its urgent, almost strident tone doesn’t do justice to the original, which sounds more like something from a style guide. I want to say, “Well done, Richard. Now have fun storming the castle.”

The week’s best sentence is Karen Mulholland’s. It strikes just the right tone, with crystal clarity.

Passive voice can hide a bias toward existing power structures. Use the active voice to show the sources of oppression.

concise-writing-Karen

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)

Last week’s sentence, however inelegantly, offers a tool for locating and removing instances of an insidious, time-honored tactic: employing the passive voice to conceal not only the oppressor but also, frequently, the very fact of oppression.

How can we not smile when a style guide uses an instance of the passive voice to direct us to look for and root out instances of the passive voice? Or when the style guide uses should—maybe the most insidiously oppressive word in our lexicon—in a sentence about naming the insidious perpetrators of insidious oppression?

My revision:

Use your active-voice scan to root out implicit bias toward status quo systems of power by naming the actors—human, institutional, and cultural—of oppression.

***************

How do we pick winners from this fine bunch of entries? As has been true for the past couple months, every entry has a ton of merit.

For sheer tightness, Leigh’s and Richard’s entries earn points.

(Leigh) Oppression and bias can hide behind the passive voice.

(Richard) Don’t hide behind the passive voice; name the oppressors!

And I keep returning to Danni’s elegant rewrite:

Scanning for active voice often shines a light on instances of bias and sources of oppression.

On the other hand … where’s the beef? We have to weigh brevity and elegance against fidelity, and these fat-free entries are also missing much of the meat.

Nora’s excellent entry moves us a step closer to balance:

Root out implicit bias toward status quo systems of power by scanning for active voice and naming actors of oppression.

Avi, who, like the Golden State Warriors, knows—and likes, and wants more of—the taste of victory, gives us this:

Root out implicit bias toward prevailing systems of power by scanning for active voice and naming the human, institutional, or cultural oppressors.

And this week’s winner. Check out Marguerite’s first-ever submission!

Use active voice, and replace language that implicitly reinforces oppression with language that explicitly identifies human, institutional, or cultural oppressors.

conciseness

Thanks again, everyone, for these terrific entries and for making it so difficult to pick a winner each week!

Marcia’s Pick (Marcia Johnston speaking)

Last week’s Challenge Sentence stopped me. Did the writer intend to use passive voice (“should be taken”) to urge us to use active voice? Seems unlikely. I see no evidence that we’re following in the playful tradition of William Safire, who wrote the famously self-contradictory line “The passive voice should never be used” in his “Fumblerules of Grammar.”

Another thing that stopped me was the phrase “scan for active voice.” It’s passive voice we would scan for. That’s where the “opportunity to root out implicit bias” lies.

And that, ladies and gents, is how a Challenge Sentence is born! (Do wordy sentences sometimes stop you? Send ’em my way. I’m always looking for fodder.)

I like that several of you—Karen, Rhonda, and Richard—separated the Challenge Sentence into two main messages. For example, here’s Karen’s succinct, clear two-sentence revision:

Passive voice can hide a bias toward existing power structures. Use the active voice to show the sources of oppression.

And here’s Rhonda’s:

Oppression and bias (human, institutional, or cultural) are often hidden by passive voice. Using active voice clearly assigns responsibility for an action.

Richard’s tight, direct revision cuts the word count by 74%:

Don’t hide behind the passive voice; name the oppressors!

tight-writing-Richard

You can’t always get away with tightening this dramatic. The point of this game is to regularly consider going this far. If you’re doing that, you win.

Sign Up!

Want to play Tighten This! every week? Want a shot of fun while building your concise-writing skills with word-loving friends? Want to edify your inner editor? Subscribe to my blog under the heading “Sign Up!” (above right or, on a mobile device, all the way at the bottom). Then, each time I publish a post, including the newest game, you’ll receive an email.

Again, Challenge Sentence 52

The important thing to remember is that the analytics can be pointers to potential issues.

Your revision: _______________________
[Scroll to the bottom and put your revision in a comment by Friday, June 17.]

Go!

Index of Challenge Sentences

Did you already share this? Share it now:

37 thoughts on “Tighten This! Challenge Sentence 52 [writing/editing game]

  1. Don’t forget that analytics can reveal problems.

    P.S. Marcia, thanks for picking my entry for last week’s challenge. Any possibility I can get some of that $1.6M I saved in translation costs:-)?

  2. Analytics reveal issues.

    P.S. Thanks Ray for last week’s vote. I appreciated your discussion of brevity vs. fidelity, a key issue with revision.

    • Oops someone’s already put that! Marguerite, you got there quicker.

      Can we get away with fewer than three words?

      Issues? Analytics!

      I’ll leave it up to the judges whether that really captures the message….

Comments are closed.