Tighten This! Challenge Sentence 23 [writing/editing game]

this-weeks-challenge-question-marcia-riefer-johnstonWelcome to the concise-writing game, Tighten This! Here’s Challenge Sentence 23, courtesy of Wendy Hood.

Our school is committed to improving the learning environment for all of our students in order to graduate them college and career ready in order to succeed in a global economy.

Your revision: _______________________
[Scroll to the bottom and put your revision in a comment by Friday, Nov. 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 last week’s Challenge Sentence, here it is again:

The strategic decision to upgrade your system depends heavily on the expectation of a long-term benefit in terms of productivity and overall cost and return on investment.

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.

Ray’s Pick

(Ray Johnston speaking) Cutting word count usually clarifies. Replacing buzzwords always does. The trick for us—for writers who’ve spent our careers in industry—is remembering that the vocabulary we use every day is full of buzzwords. Take, for example, this week’s purple prose—please! Of its 28 words, 14 fall into that category:

  • strategic decision
  • expectation of long-term benefit
  • in terms of
  • productivity
  • return on investment

Hey! Five in a row! Bingo!

In plain English: Upgrade your system if doing so saves you time and money.

Pat Bradley-White submitted this week’s winning entry—the buzzwords “improved cost effectiveness” notwithstanding. 🙂

Upgrade your system if you expect improved cost effectiveness.

Tight-writing-22-Ray

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

Larry’s Pick

(Larry Kunz speaking) When is a word not a word? When it adds no meaning. When it simply gives the appearance of making something sound more important.

Last week’s Challenge Sentence is bursting with nonwords:

  • strategic, a nonword because it tries but, like most things tried, fails to elevate a mundane decision to something closer to life-and-death
  • heavily, a nonword because it adds nothing to depends
  • overall, a nonword because, I don’t know, the writer was on a roll and couldn’t stop

Those three words we can eliminate right away.

Then there’s return on investment: a measure of benefits versus costs. If we write return on investment, isn’t it redundant to write productivity (a synonym for benefits) and costs? Better still, can we find a less clichéd synonym? Maybe worth or cost effectiveness.

Two tightened sentences stand out:

  • Dey Alexander’s: Will the cost of upgrading your system be worth it?
  • Pat Bradley-White’s: Upgrade your system if you expect improved cost effectiveness.

Pat’s sentence, because it rings truer to the tone and intent of the original, is my winner.

[For the spreadsheet showing Pat’s revision, see above.]

Marcia’s Pick

decision-scales(Marcia Johnston speaking) Last week’s Challenge Sentence pits two things against one: productivity gains and ROI versus cost. The revisions that got my attention—Dey Alexander’s, Marc Evans’s, and Rhonda’s—brought out that tension, that sense of weighing factors. On the one hand… On the other hand…

Of those three revisions, Dey’s (Don’t upgrade your system unless you expect the benefits to outweigh the costs) uses the fewest words, but it sacrifices the sense of what those benefits comprise, namely productivity gains and ROI. So Rhonda’s revision—the next shortest—takes home the golden statue.

Upgrade your system if you expect the productivity benefits and return on investment will outweigh the cost.

concise-writing

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Again, Challenge Sentence 23

Our school is committed to improving the learning environment for all of our students in order to graduate them college and career ready in order to succeed in a global economy.

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

Go!

Index of Challenge Sentences

30 thoughts on “Tighten This! Challenge Sentence 23 [writing/editing game]

  1. Our commitment to improving the learning environment prepares students for college, career and success in the global economy.

  2. I’m not sure that the ‘succeed in a global economy’ bit is necessary, so either:
    * Our school’s learning environment prepares our students for college and careers.
    OR
    *Our school’s learning environment prepares our students for college and careers so they can succeed in a global economy.

  3. Hell, why not have a go?

    Our school keeps evolving to ensure all our students become career-ready graduates in today’s connected world.

    A bit of poetic licence there….

  4. I reckon that “learning environment” and “global economy” are both superfluous; “improving” might be, too.

    We are committed to preparing our students for college and a successful career.

  5. I found this sentence difficult to tighten because I thought the original sentence was pretty tight, but here goes:

    Our commitment to improving our school’s learning environment will prepare graduating students for college and career success in a global economy.

  6. What does ‘commitment to improving the learning environment’ mean in concrete terms? How does it help parents decide whether this school is any better than any other school that is bound to say the same kind of thing on their brochure/website?

    So, I would suggest a revision that lists the ways they are improving the learning environment. For instance better teacher/student ratios, better technology/equipment, more training/support for teachers, adopting new teaching methods … and so on.

    “We’re improving our learning environment by [list measures]. Our students will graduate ready for college or a career.”

  7. Our school offers students a learning environment that readies them for success at college and in their careers.

    (I dismissed “global economy” as noise words, but perhaps they’d be necessary in context.)

    (It took me a couple of rereadings to make sense of “graduate” as a transitive verb, and to understand the implied hyphens in what could have been “college- and career-ready”.)

  8. I could see this going a few ways, but think I like this one the best:

    Our school is committed to seeing our students succeed in a global economy.

  9. I, too, hesitated about whether “in a global economy” is necessary. I might be swayed either way based on contextual knowledge of whether, for example, this school is trying to differentiate itself from other schools in the area that do not prepare students so well for international career roles.

    So it could be either:
    “Our school commits to best prepare students for college and career success in a global economy.”

    Or:
    “Our school commits to best prepare students for college and career success”.

  10. All schools make these commitments, or they are not schools worth attending. So I’m ducking the challenge this week. I’m afraid I would chuck the whole lot out and find the school a unique selling point.

  11. We are committed to improve our learning environment, for students to become graduates and career ready for global economy.

  12. First, a note on last week’s sentence. I’ve been reading George Gopen’s articles about writing (http://georgegopen.com/articles/litigation/). Those of us who went to Information Development World probably remember his excellent talk about writing to meet reader’s expectations. One tip he gave was to place the most important point in a sentence just before a full stop. Given that “upgrading your system” is arguably the most important point in the sentence, I’m surprised that only one person put that point at the end of the sentence. I’m not sure if I’m simply wrong on what should be emphasized, or if people mostly followed the broad outline of the original sentence. Any thoughts?

    Regarding this week’s sentence, here is a rewrite, though, as previous replies point out, “improving the learning environment” is way too vague. This sentence really begs for and ending like, “… environment by doing XYZ,” which would, incidentally, place what is actually being done in the place of emphasis:

    “To prepare our students for college and career success in a global economy, we are improving our learning environment.”

    • Richard, Thanks for playing. George’s talk elicited smiles all around my table at Info Dev World. (George, are your ears burning?) Thanks for the reminder about putting the most important word at the end of a sentence or any full stop.

      To anyone reading this, I encourage you to hop over to George’s article, which Richard mentions in his comment above. I couldn’t agree more with George, who writes, “Not putting the most important information in the Stress position is the single greatest cause of ineffective writing in all professions. Conquering this problem will improve almost everyone’s prose.” http://georgegopen.com/articles/litigation/litigation_2_stress_position.pdf

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