Tighten This! Challenge Sentence 14 [game]

this-weeks-challenge-question-marcia-riefer-johnstonWelcome to the concise-writing game, Tighten This! Here’s Challenge Sentence 14, courtesy of Lynn Walser-Clark, who came across it in a manual for a product that shall not be named.

Do use a wet soft cloth, dipped into water and wrung out, to wipe the dirt. Then use a dry soft cloth to dry up the device.

Your revision: _______________________ [Scroll to the bottom and put your revision in a comment by Friday, September 11.]


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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:

It is Juno’s intention to give an explanation of the app to her teenage grandson during the time of his next visit to see her.

Ray’s Pick

(Ray speaking) Like last week’s sentence, this one provides scant opportunity for word reduction. The solution, then, is to rearrange what we have, deleting where we can, to form the most elegant sentence.

Many entrants felt that the sentence could get along without teenage. I disagree, as grandchildren come in all ages (the oldest I know have been here for more than 65 years), and the charm of this sentence lies in imagining any grandmother schooling her teenage grandson on any app.

To my ear, visit her is redundant. We could dream up scenarios requiring her, but we’d have to fetch them from afar.

Most of this week’s entries came close; several hit the bull’s eye. Larry’s arrived first, followed by those of Julian Cable, Sameera, Christian Perez, and David Smith.

Larry’s revision:

Juno plans to explain the app to her teenage grandson during his next visit.

Larry Kunz concise sentence winner

Marcia’s Pick

(Marcia speaking) The phrase it is waves a flag at me every time. Deleting this phrase—along with it was, there is, there are, there were, and, in fact, most be-verbs—almost always improves a sentence. Most of you who played the game last week dumped the it is, so that edit in itself hardly narrowed down the submissions. (And lots of you played last week. Geez, guys, way to participate.)

Some of you, in the pursuit of brevity, dropped information (for example, the grandson’s teenageness or the timing of Juno’s intended explanation). Brian Louis even gave a reason for omitting the grandson’s teenageness. Kudos, Brian, for the thoughtful decision. If you were editing in the real world, you could ask the author about this omission. Since the game doesn’t give us the option of asking about such things, though, I look for revisions that retain all the original bits of meaning. (I know, no revision can hit that goal perfectly.)

To me, the grandson’s teenageness makes this sentence startling. Delete this reference to his age, and readers might unthinkingly picture the grandmother explaining an app to a cuddled-up toddler. As Taffs pointed out, “A parent explaining an app to a teenager seems implausible, let alone a grandparent.” As the Beach Boys might have noted, “Go, Granny, go!”

Marjorie summed up the editor’s conundrum this way: “Too few words can be as much of a problem as too many.” Exactly. This game aims for as-tight-as-possible-and-no-tighter revisions. Word count alone does not a winner make.

That’s why I picked three winners this week: Larry Kunz (14 words), Kimberly Hume (13 words) and Nick Shears (12 words). Other revisions rivaled theirs but came later, and timing counts.

Here’s how I chose. While Larry retained the original spirit of Juno’s intention (“Juno plans to”), keeping us positioned in Juno’s mind, Kimberly’s opted for future tense (“Juno will”), shaving off a word. I couldn’t unequivocally pick Kimberly’s version, though, because the subtle change in point of view might matter. Since we have no way to know, I have to respect Larry’s choice to keep the extra word and stay true to the original.

Like Kimberly, Nick shaved off a word by using future tense (“Juno will”). He went a step further to delete next. (Kimberly wrote, “at his next visit”; Nick wrote, “when he visits.”) Do we need to say next visit? Maybe. Maybe not. If we can delete next and go with Nick’s sentence, we reduce word count by 50%, a nice round number.

Nick’s revision:

Juno will explain the app to her teenage grandson when he visits.

concise writing sentence

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


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Again, Challenge Sentence 14

Do use a wet soft cloth, dipped into water and wrung out, to wipe the dirt. Then use a dry soft cloth to dry up the device.

Your revision: _______________________ [Scroll to the bottom and put your revision in a comment by Friday, September 11.]


Index of Challenge Sentences

43 thoughts on “Tighten This! Challenge Sentence 14 [game]

  1. Wipe with a soft damp cloth, then dry with a soft dry cloth.

    (I removed ‘the device’ as I believe it is implied and would be obvious from the context. But with it in, I’d use this option: ‘Wipe the device with a soft damp cloth, then dry with a soft dry cloth.’)

  2. Clean first with a damp soft cloth, then with a dry one.

    Thanks for the challenge each week!

  3. Clean using a wet soft cloth, dipped into water and wrung out. Dry using a dry soft cloth.

    I think “device” is implied. I had to retain “water” because it implies not using another liquid.

  4. To clean the device, use a wet soft cloth to wipe the dirt and a dry soft cloth to wipe it dry.

  5. To clean the device, wipe with a damp wrung soft cloth. Then use a dry soft cloth.

    (PS. It’s hard to beat Larry Kunz and others past the starting post for those who are not in a US time zone!)

  6. I understand, Julian. If I could make this game fair, I would. I bank on people getting pleasure and benefit simply from playing. I hope that’s the case for you. Thanks for your steadfast participation.

  7. To remove the dirt, use a damp, soft cloth. Then, to dry the device, use a dry, soft cloth.

  8. Wipe the dirt off the device with a damp soft cloth. Then dry it with another soft cloth.

  9. Use a wet soft cloth to wipe the dirt. Use a dry soft cloth to dry it.

    Deleting “device” might be going too far, but I did it anyway.

  10. Clean the device using a damp soft cloth to remove the dirt, and then a dry soft cloth.

    (Often, simplicity relies on other simple things being present to achieve the desired result. If this sentence appears as part of a “How to Keep Your Device Clean” guide, “device” is already implied and can be removed safely without risking questions about what is to be cleaned? Your child? Your pet? Guides often have a section warning users against objects that can harm the device? Temperature and humidity ranges? Prohibited solvents? In the revised sentence, “damp” implies water and a preceding section warning against other liquids, for example, rubbing alcohol, would confirm this further. With this in mind, the revision can be tightened further: Clean with a damp soft cloth, and then a dry one.)

    “Easy reading is damn hard writing.” –N.Hawthorne

  11. Clean using a soft, damp cloth then a soft, dry cloth.

    I tried to scroll past everyone else’s entries so I wouldn’t be influenced, but I’m sure my sentence is similar to many others.

  12. To clean device:
    1) Wipe with a soft, damp cloth
    2) Wipe with a soft, dry cloth

    (I’ve always believed that step directions are most easily comprehended, and thus followed, when written in concise steps, rather than sentences. )

  13. Pingback: Tighten This! Challenge Sentence 15 [game] - Writing.RocksWriting.Rocks

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