Tighten This! Challenge Sentence 18 [writing/editing game]

this-weeks-challenge-question-marcia-riefer-johnstonWelcome to the concise-writing game, Tighten This! Here’s Challenge Sentence 18, which I’ve borrowed from a recent presentation by Jeff Greer, a member of the board of directors of the Center for Plain Language.

To the extent that MegaCorp operates under the auspices of these contracts, MegaCorp has an affirmative responsibility to meet its contractual, regulatory, and statutory requirements when acquiring goods and services to be used in the performance of its government contracts.

Your revision: _______________________
[Scroll to the bottom and put your revision in a comment by Friday, Oct. 9.]

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 last week’s Challenge Sentence, here it is again:

I have very vital information to give to you, but first I must have your trust before I reveal it to you because it may cause me my job, so I need somebody that I can trust for me to be able to reveal the secret to you.

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) It’s said that Michelangelo, when asked how he had made the statue of David from a block of marble, replied, “I carved away everything that didn’t look like David.”

How writing and editing are like sculpting

The David after Michelangelo carved away everything that wasn’t David (photo source)

Last week you were given a chunk of—well, something—and asked to carve a sentence that had these essential elements:

  • I have vital information.
  • I want to tell you, but first I have to trust you.
  • If this gets out, I could lose my job.

Some of you carved too much, leaving out essential meaning. Much as I liked the brevity of Deborah Bosley’s “Once I trust you, I can tell you,” I’m afraid that wasn’t David.

The week’s master sculptor was Jennifer Dawson with this sentence:

Before I reveal some vital information, I need to know I can trust you as it may cost me my job.

concise-writing-Larrys-choice

Jennifer’s wasn’t the shortest entry, but that’s OK: Michelangelo’s David, after all, is a bit bigger than life-size. She captured all the meaning with clarity. Honorable mentions to Mike Myers and Greta Boller.

(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) Marcia and I love puzzles. Crossword, Ken-Ken, Sudoku, Acrostic, and all the other goodies that Will Shortz tosses onto the back pages of the New York Times Sunday magazine. These weekly Challenge Sentences, for us, fall into the same category, but with a difference: unlike the NYT puzzles, each sentence can have many solutions. The challenge? Solve the puzzle within the constraints of the pesky rules.

I think I speak for Marcia and Larry here: we want each entry, each week, to earn a share of the money, fame, and great prizes that go hand in hand with the first-place trophy. When it comes to rules, though, it’s harder to speak with one voice. A winning entry…

  • Contains all of, and only, the pertinent information found in the original.
  • Contains none of the errors found in the original.
  • Contains few or no passive-voice sections.
  • Comprises a grammatical* sentence. Or two! 🙂
  • Uses few words.

*If an otherwise great entry contains a typo or two, a misspelling or two, or a grammar or usage error or two, we happily fix all that before awarding the trophy.

In short: a winning entry conveys—succinctly, completely, and grammatically—the message that the author of the original surely meant to convey.

Week 17!

  • We can ignore “I must have your trust.” Clearly, the author thinks that this means “I must trust you.”
  • We don’t know whether the author wants to share the secret or is somehow required to share the secret.
  • Something threatens the author’s job: maybe it’s the content of the secret, or maybe it’s the sharing of the secret.

Here are the salient points of this goofy sentence:

I have secret, vital information. (I have a vital secret…)
I must share it with you. (…to tell you.)
I must trust you before I’ll share the secret with you. (I’ll tell you only when I trust you…)
I could lose my job if I tell you and if, afterward, you prove untrustworthy. (To protect my job…)

I have a vital secret. To protect my job, I won’t tell you until I trust you.

Here’s an entry from Mary Madden that covers the trust issue without naming it … we have a winner! The transition between sentences could be smoother, but that’s a quibble. The pieces are all there.

If you promise to keep it secret, I’’ll share vital information with you. Leaking the secret could cost me my job.

tight-writing-winner-17

A lot of the other entries are terrific.

Greta’s and Mike’s entries come close, but neither “I need your full trust” nor “I must have your trust” says “I need to trust you.”

Daniel’s first take shows promise; his second is almost there; his third oughta be perfect … but we’ll never know. Remember Marlon Brando, sitting in the back seat of the car with his brother toward the end of On the Waterfront? “I coulda been a contenda. I coulda been somebody.”

Ray, Helana, and Laura, and many others do something cool: they step way back from the text, look at the clues, and interpolate. I love it. This is where I go every week when I first see the sentence, but eventually I come back to the challenge of writing under the constraints of the rules.

Every entry this week has much to recommend it. Thanks to all for playing!

Marcia’s Pick

(Marcia Johnston speaking) Ideally, the originator of last week’s sentence would have deleted the whole thing and never bothered people with the spam email to begin with. If the sentence must exist, several redundant phrases can go poof. Here’s what my red-pen version looks like:

tight-writing-red-pen-17

Greta Boller’s revision gets my nod this time. It conveys all the essential components of the original in the fewest words. Also, by virtue of her sentence structure, she stayed true to the original dominant message—that is, she kept I have important information in the main independent clause, keeping the messages about trust and job risk grammatically subordinated. (Revisions that moved the dominant message into a subordinate clause, like “Before I reveal some vital information,” subtly change the sentence’s emphasis.) Here’s Greta’s 18-word revision:

I have important information for you, but I need your full trust because my job is at stake.

tight writing

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Again, Challenge Sentence 18

To the extent that MegaCorp operates under the auspices of these contracts, MegaCorp has an affirmative responsibility to meet its contractual, regulatory, and statutory requirements when acquiring goods and services to be used in the performance of its government contracts.

Your revision: _______________________
[Scroll to the bottom and put your revision in a comment by Friday, Oct. 9.]

Carve away!

Index of Challenge Sentences

33 thoughts on “Tighten This! Challenge Sentence 18 [writing/editing game]

  1. This one is fun – real bafflegab 😉

    OK, here goes my attempt:

    When we acquire goods and services for use in government contracts, MegaCorp is responsible for meeting contractual, regulatory, and statutory requirements.

    (And so, they don’t matter if it’s not a government contract???????) 😉

  2. OK, here’s another version that includes a subtextual nuance:

    When we acquire goods and services for use in government contracts, MegaCorp is responsible for making sure suppliers meet contractual, regulatory, and statutory requirements.

  3. To meet its contractual obligations, MegaCorp must acquire goods and services according to government rules.

  4. While acquiring goods and services used in performing its government contracts, MegaCorp must meet its contractual, regulatory, and statutory requirements.

  5. MegaCorp must meet its contractual, regulatory, and statutory requirements to acquire goods and services for its government contracts.

  6. This week, I focused on removing redundancy and editing for readability. Here we go:

    When acquiring goods and services to execute government contracts, MegaCorp must obey applicable contracts, statutes, and regulations.

  7. Thanks for picking my entry last week, Marcia. You made my day!
    I agree with a previous post, this week’s is tough. Here’s my shot at it:
    MegaCorp is bound to meet all contractual and regulatory requirements in acquiring the goods and services required to fulfill its government contracts.

  8. All MegaCorp contracts to acquire goods and services for government contracts are subject to contractual, regulatory and statutory requirements.
    (UK style with no ‘Oxford’ comma)

  9. Assuming that the “these” in the first line refers to the “government contracts”:

    If MegaCorp works for the government it must fulfill all contractual, regulatory, and statutory requirements.

  10. Ooh, I love this! 🙂 So glad I checked out your blog, Marcia. Consider me a regular. And I will share—lots!

    This is a devilish sentence indeed. Here’s my take:

    In Government contracts, MegaCorp’s procurement policy is bound by Governmental requirements.

    A tad ugly methinks, but not an easy one to unpack. Eager to see what the ‘winner’ is—and can’t wait for the next one!

  11. Steve Seager alerted me to your blog, Marcia, and I can see why: This is excellent entertainment for geeks!

    What makes the Week 18 challenge sentence tricky for me is the fact that seems to be part of a legal document. I can just imagine how the (lawyer) author would feel about my rewriting a phrase like ‘affirmative responsibility’ in plain English … But I’ll do it anyway 🙂

    “When they do work for Government, the onus is on MegaCorp to ensure their procurement practices meet the requirements stipulated in the contracts.”

  12. Hmmm, the first part of the sentence is ambiguous. Let me try again 🙂

    “When they perform work for Government, the onus is on MegaCorp to ensure their procurement practices meet the requirements stipulated in the contracts.”

  13. MegaCorp shall meet its Contractual, Regulatory, and Statutory requirements for goods and services used in government contracts.

  14. When acquiring goods and services as part of its government contracts, MegaCorp must meet contractual, regulatory, and statutory requirements.

  15. Pingback: Tighten This! Challenge Sentence 19 [writing/editing game] - Writing.RocksWriting.Rocks

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