Tighten This! Challenge Sentence 57 [writing/editing game]

this-weeks-challenge-question-marcia-riefer-johnstonWelcome to the concise-writing game, Tighten This! Here’s Challenge Sentence 57, courtesy of the description of a session at a conference for translators:

Often, the focus is on transferring meaning and vocabulary, so much so that the tone of the target text is lost by the time the translation is finished.

Your revision: _______________________
[Scroll to the bottom and put your revision in a comment by Friday, July 22.]


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 Tim Slager:

This individual uses their understanding of the marketplace to advise and lead internal partners through the proposal, conception, and implementation of technical program promotion campaigns via the various internal communication channels.

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)

The new Ghostbusters movie opened this weekend. I haven’t seen it yet, so I can’t give you a review. But this week’s Challenge Sentence—big, menacing, and overstuffed—brought back a vivid memory from the first Ghostbusters.

bloated sentences

Fortunately, our Prosebusters were up to the challenge. Uses their understanding of became understands. Advise and lead became simply lead (or guide, which I like a lot). Proposal, conception, and implementation became all stages or life-cycle. And so on.

Poof! The sentence was cut down to size without anyone getting slimed.

Cut your sentences down to size without sliming anyone, says @Larry_Kunz. Click To Tweet

Three entries stood out for me: the ones that used lead or guide as the primary verb. In doing so they zeroed in on what this job description was all about. Kudos to Jim, Julian, and Amruta.

Going beyond that, Jim and Amruta bravely excised the whole understanding of the marketplace thing—reasoning, I’m sure, that it was implied by the rest of the sentence. They were right: anyone who can lead partners through the blah blah via the blah blah, surely understands the marketplace.

When it comes to awarding this week’s top prize, who ya gonna call? For me, it’s Amruta.

This individual guides partners through the technical-program-promotion lifecycle.

Tight writing winner

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, Larry, and I rarely pick the same winner, but we might, at least, agree that this week’s many outstanding entries make picking one best one a real challenge. Weeks like this clearly justify the modest (six-figure) compensation paid us by writing.rocks. (Rick, I have to mention here that Marcia has asked me repeatedly, since Friday morning, whether I know how late I am on this project.)

My finalists: Every entry!

The only equitable solution is for me to send each of this week’s 14 contestants 7% of my week’s pay. The checks are in the mail.

Marcia’s Pick (Marcia Johnston speaking)

As you read last week’s Challenge Sentence, did the singular they (“This individual uses their understanding”) hurt your ears? Many of us were taught to avoid that usage. Even now that this usage has been widely deemed acceptable—for example, the Washington Post adopted singular they in its Style guide in 2015—I still avoid it. You, too? Or do you think it’s high time for writers to accept the inevitable? (For my full take, see this free Word Up! chapter: “To Each Their Own.”)

Whatever your opinion of the singular they, I bet you would agree that last week’s Challenge Sentence works better without it—especially if you also turn a bunch of the nouns into verbs, something like this:

Use your understanding of the marketplace to lead internal partners in proposing, planning, and implementing campaigns that promote technical programs.

Those of you who played last week used various alternatives to singular they:

  • Second person (as in the revision above, “Use your understanding…”)
    • Jim Durning: “Advise and lead…”
    • Margerite: “You understand market dynamics…”
    • Emily Diffenderfer: “You’ll use…”
  • First-person plural
    • Jessica E.: “We are seeking…”
  • First-person singular
    • Rick Slater: “This guy calls me every day and asks if I know how late I am on this project.” (Rick, you win Most Imaginative, even if you do change the whole message. I see you winking out there.)
  • Gendered singular pronoun
    • Avi: “She harnesses marketplace knowledge…”
    • Megan: “A successful candidate relies on her strong understanding…”
  • Third person, no pronoun
    • Danni: “This role requires the use of…”
    • Rhonda: “[Name] understands the business…”
    • Joan Somerville: “This individual understands the marketplace…”
    • Amruta Bhave: “This individual guides partners…”
    • Margo Kirchner: “The position requires marketplace knowledge…”
    • Nora: “This individual understands the marketplace…”
  • Plural
    • Julian Cable: “…writers lead…”

This week, my award goes to Emily for this verb-energized revision:

You’ll use your industry expertise to advise colleagues as they propose, build, and launch internal technical-program promotions.

Concise writing winner

Sign Up!

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Again, Challenge Sentence 57

Often, the focus is on transferring meaning and vocabulary, so much so that the tone of the target text is lost by the time the translation is finished.

Your revision: _______________________
[Scroll to the bottom and put your revision in a comment by Friday, July 22.]


Index of Challenge Sentences

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25 thoughts on “Tighten This! Challenge Sentence 57 [writing/editing game]

  1. Often, when translating texts, translators focus so much on the meaning and vocabulary that the tone is lost.

  2. An emphasis on translating meaning and vocabulary robs translation of its original tone.

  3. In text translations, overemphasis on meaning and vocabulary can result in loss of tone.

  4. Some translators focus more on meaning and vocabulary than the tone of the text when translating.

  5. With a primary focus on meaning and vocabulary, the tone of translated text can become lost.

  6. Focus on translating meaning and vocabulary often loses an original text’s tone. (12)

  7. Translators must convey the text’s tone, not just transfer meaning and vocabulary.

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