Ta Ta, Tighten This!

As all good things must, our Tighten This! game has come to an end.

When I sent the first Challenge Sentence out into the world in May 2015, I had no idea that the game would still be going over a year later. I had no idea that each week’s post would take several hours out of my life and that those hours would yield such satisfaction. I had no idea that Ray and Larry would join me in what we’ve come to call, loosely, judging. I had no idea that so many of you would play, some of you almost every week.

Thank you all for transforming what I had envisioned as a series of simple editing exercises into a lively conversation among fellow lovers of these crazy little things called words.

Last Week’s Challenge Sentence

This was our final Challenge Sentence:

The successful candidate will be the key leader and customer advocate working closely with the Strategic Account and Sales Leaders across J&J to facilitate execution against strategic account terms, interface with account management executives and sales leaders enterprise-wide to align and deliver high quality service and value, ensure coordinated execution of customer solutions through clinical and economic services and programs, and facilitate the management of and coordinate direct sales personnel and resources.

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)

As professional writers we encounter some copy that needs only fine chiseling, like a piece of marble in the hands of a sculptor. Just a tink-tink here and there, and the copy is ready to go.

Other copy, like last week’s Challenge Sentence, calls for a good dynamiting.


When the dust settles, our sentence boils down to this: We’re looking for someone—a leader and customer advocate—to work with internal staff to improve customer service and manage our sales staff.

Hats off to two first-timers, Tana and Elizabeth, both of whom turned in admirable rewrites. The best rewrite, though, comes from our old friend, Jim Durning:

We want to hire a leader and customer advocate to work with J&J account management executives and sales leaders to deliver service and value.

Concise writing example

I like the cadence of A and B, C and D, E and F (leader and customer advocate, account management executives and sales leaders, service and value). Jim proves that we, as writers, can create art from even the rawest of raw materials.

A final word. My reference to the sculptor is a throwback to one of the first pieces I wrote as a Tighten This! judge. Now we’ve come full circle.

Some of you have graciously said that you’ve learned from Marcia, Ray, and me. I’ve learned from you too. You’ve inspired and delighted me with your skill and creativity. I’m a much better writer for having taken part in Tighten This! I wish you all the best, and I hope we’ll stay connected through other online forums.

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)

A job description often constitutes a bit of unintended hazing: if, after reading this exemplar, you still want to work in sales at J&J, then you’ll probably fit in just fine. If you’re not so sure that you want to spend your days rubbing elbows with folks who write (and, quite likely, talk and think) like this, then this information, too, might inform your next decision.

Did you, on first reading last week’s Challenge Sentence, see the lone hyphen connecting enterprise and wide and wonder, Why only here? Why not also in the dozen other places crying out for equal treatment?


Let’s, one last time, see what’s in the mailbag.

Well. Jim. Flattery is not lost on this judge.

JIM DURNING: Blue Ribbon winner of the Grand Finale!

We want to hire a leader and customer advocate who will be as successful as Marcia, Larry, and Ray are in improving people’s performance.

Now for 1st runner-up



holy cow


 this is stunning and unprecedented. I got goosebumps reading last week’s entries. Every entry is perfect!

To each of you—including the hundred or so who came and went over these 60 weeks—Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

And good night.

Marcia’s Pick (Marcia Johnston speaking)

As usual, all of you who played made judging last week’s revisions an impossible task. What a thoughtful, playful bunch.

Alas, having donned my judge’s wig, I must make a choice. I’m going with Richard Hamilton’s revision:

Job description: internal consultant responsible for helping sales, support, and account management teams coordinate their activities.


Richard gets bonus points for his alternative proposal based on his “wasted years in the corporate world”:

We want to hire an internal consultant who will be a pain in the butt to sales, marketing, management, support, and everyone else in the organization.

Richard, you can double your bonus points on Fridays. What the hey—every day. Use your points wisely while quantities last.

For any of you who need a Tighten This! fix from time to time, you can pop over to the complete list of Challenge Sentences any time.

Ta ta, y’all!

20 thoughts on “Ta Ta, Tighten This!

  1. Thanks. I’ve enjoyed reading (and sometimes participating in) your weekly challenge.

  2. Thanks so much for these! I really enjoyed each week’s entries — and your analysis of what made a winner. It’s a shame that it’s come to an end, but hey, nothing lasts forever.

  3. Sadly, I just found this blog. 🙁
    Fortunately, I now have the book to ponder through.

  4. Wish I hadn’t found “Tighten This” so late in the game, but in a very short time I’ve learned a ton from all who’ve participated as judges and editors. Thank you!

  5. Thanks! I try to practice the Tighten This! exercise in every copy review or rewrite I do. It’s been great to see how others attempt the same improvements.

  6. Well done, guys! Thanks for the fun and entertaining reading over the last year or so. I’ll miss it!

  7. I, too, wish I had found this game sooner, and am sad it’s finished.

    Thank you for all your hard work each week. I hope you will keep the links to the previous challenges so that we can play in the archives.

    I really enjoyed your book. I hope you’ll keep this site active.

  8. What a great finale! I’m glad I found this game and got to participate for a few weeks before it ended.

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