Tighten This! Challenge Sentence 59 [writing/editing game]

this-weeks-challenge-question-marcia-riefer-johnstonWelcome to the concise-writing game, Tighten This! Here’s Challenge Sentence 59, which I came across in a recent editing job.

There remains a lot of confusion about what buyer personas are and aren’t and how to develop them.

Your revision: _______________________
[Scroll to the bottom and put your revision in a comment by Friday, August 5.]


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 Michelle Philbrook in a blog post complete with a video showing how she’d tighten the sentence:

In this tutorial you’ll find a demonstration of techniques for eliminating preposition bloat through the process of editing your writing with care in a short amount of time when you’re under the pressure of a deadline.

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)

Funny how a sentence about eliminating bloat is so bloated. It seems that those with no sense of irony are the most apt to get tangled up in it. The way to tighten last week’s Challenge Sentence is to strip it to its bare bones and then decide what to add back to preserve the intent and meaning of the original.

Stripped-down version:

Learn to edit to eliminate prepositions.

(Switching to the imperative lets us drop you’ll at the beginning.)

Now, what to add back?

Do we need “in this tutorial”? No, because it should be clear from the context. When you encounter the sentence, you’re either in the tutorial already or you’re reading something that describes the tutorial.

I think we need an adjective for prepositions. After all, we’re not talking about eliminating all prepositions. Just the unneeded ones.

Learn to edit to eliminate unneeded prepositions.

Should we add an adverb to modify edit? Tough call, but I say yes. The adverb helps preserve the original sentence’s emphasis on deadlines and speed.

Learn to edit quickly to eliminate unneeded prepositions.

That sounds good. And – wait – it sounds familiar, too. Because it’s the sentence Sherryl wrote. Congratulations, Sherryl! You’re our top tightener this week.

preposition bloat2

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)

You guys have this tightening thing down.

Tim, this week’s winner, gets his entry in early. He keeps everything that matters and discards the rest.

This tutorial demonstrates quick, careful editing to eliminate preposition bloat.


Everyone else shares second place. Excellent entries, from top to bottom.

Marcia’s Pick (Marcia Johnston speaking)

Preposition bloat! I love this concept, which I learned of recently in this post, which includes the following video:

The tip: Go on a preposition diet. Use fewer prepositions, and you get leaner sentences that use more verbs and fewer nouns (since every preposition hooks up with a noun: the preposition’s object).

Here’s my revision:

This tutorial shows a quick way to eliminate bloat: wherever you can, delete prepositions.

All of you who played came up with thoughtful alternatives, as usual. I like Joan Somerville’s four-worder: “Eliminate excess prepositions quickly.” Joan, I would love to send laurels your way, but I think we need to mention the tutorial that the original sentence is describing. I have to go with Richard Hamilton’s revision this week:

This tutorial shows you how to quickly eliminate preposition bloat.

preposition bloat

Richard, your check is in the mail. I mean, I’ll mail you your check.

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Again, Challenge Sentence 59

There remains a lot of confusion about what buyer personas are and aren’t and how to develop them.

Your revision: _______________________
[Scroll to the bottom and put your revision in a comment by Friday, August 5.]


Index of Challenge Sentences

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