Tighten This! Challenge Sentence 15 [game]

this-weeks-challenge-question-marcia-riefer-johnstonWelcome to¬†the concise-writing¬†game, Tighten This! Here’s Challenge Sentence 15.

Our company has realized savings by identifying money-saving opportunities through supplier consolidation.

Your revision: _______________________ [Scroll to the bottom and put your revision in a comment by Friday, September 18.]


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:

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.

Marcia’s Pick

(Marcia speaking) What a variety of revisions this week. Celebrate diversity! As always, thanks, everyone, for playing.

Larry Kunz saw the absurdity of ‚Äúwiping the dirt.” I had to smile at his revision¬†(17 words): “Wipe the dirt using a soft, damp cloth. Then dry the device using a soft, dry cloth.‚ÄĚ To everyone who has noticed how often Larry wins, you may be happy to hear that Larry will join Ray and me as an evaluator starting next week, putting him out of the running.

Brandon, Sameera, and Maria also preserved the original¬†“wipe the dirt.”

Kimberly Hume eliminated some redundancy by restructuring the sentence (11 words): “Clean the device with two soft cloths, first wet, then dry.”

David Anthony went with numbered steps, a sensible approach for procedures (15 words, not counting the numbers).

My mom, Stella Robertson,¬†tightened the most¬†(7 words): “Clean with moistened, soft cloth; then dry.” The¬†soft cloth for drying goes without saying, you could argue.¬†What else would we¬†use?¬†Leather? Sandpaper? A porcupine? At the same time, you could argue that this revision goes too far. For example, a¬†medical-device manufacturer would¬†have to specify what liquid to use:¬†Water? Sterile water?¬†70% isopropyl alcohol?¬†Neutral-pH enzymatic cleaner?¬†CaviWipe‚ĄĘ disinfectant¬†solution?

Also, if this sentence needed to be translated, translators would find it helpful to see certain types of words stated rather than implied:

  • articles (the,¬†a, an)
  • direct objects (like¬†device)
  • pronouns (like¬†it)

To avoid guesswork and possible misinterpretation, translators would rather work with a sentence like this: Clean the device with a moistened, soft cloth; then dry it.

Scott Sammons acknowledges the conundrum:¬†“Deleting device¬†might be going too far, but I did it anyway.”

J. Limon gave¬†this apt quotation: “Easy reading is damn hard writing.” I find comfort in those words.

How to choose a winner? For the purposes of this impossible¬†game, I’ll use my mom’s revision as the example of tightening to the max (74% fewer words). Whether or not this revision goes too far, we can’t say without context.¬†Ask yourself this: could I go this far¬†in my¬†own writing?

Clean with moistened, soft cloth; then dry.


How did I arrive at this translation formula? See¬†‚ÄúWrite Tight(er): Get to the Point and Save Millions.‚ÄĚ

NEWS FLASH: Here’s a late submission from John Daily via Twitter‚ÄĒtoo late to win since comments are closed but too much fun to ignore: “Wipe moist, dry dry.” Four syllables. It doesn’t get any tighter than that.


Don’t see my video below? See it on YouTube.

Ray’s Pick

(Ray speaking) In the original, we are instructed to wipe the dirt. Wipe the dirt? Does that make sense to anyone? I wipe my face to remove pizza sauce from it, and after I wipe, my face still smiles out at the world. My windshield wipers wipe the windshield to remove water, leaves, or bugs, but not to remove the windshield itself. So, when I wipe the dirt, what do I remove from it? Cooties? A hair? No matter. After we wipe the dirt (cue The Big Lebowski), the dirt abides.

Of course, the author of last¬†week’s sentence wanted to say¬†wipe away the dirt¬†or¬†remove the dirt, and we have a word for that: clean. For¬†dipped in water and wrung out, we have a hyphenated pair: water-dampened.¬†But we have no words‚ÄĒno polite ones, anyway‚ÄĒfor the use of¬†then¬†as a coordinating conjunction.

The essential elements of the original sentence:

  • Clean and dry the device (in that order).
  • Use two soft cloths: one dampened¬†with water¬†for cleaning the device, one dry cloth for drying the device¬†after¬†cleaning it.

I looked in vain for something close to this:

Clean the device with a soft, water-dampened cloth, and then dry it with a soft, dry cloth.

Give yourself some credit if your entry contains any part of this solution.

Sign Up!

Want to play Tighten This! every week? Want a shot of¬†fun while building your concise-writing skills with word-loving friends? Want to edify your inner editor? Subscribe to my blog under the heading “Sign Up!”¬†(above right or, on a mobile device, all the way at the bottom). Then,¬†each time I publish a post, you’ll receive an email.

Again, Challenge Sentence 15

Our company has realized savings by identifying money-saving opportunities through supplier consolidation.

Your revision: _______________________ [Scroll to the bottom and put your revision in a comment by Friday, September 18.]



Will you help me share the joy of writing (and the joy of Word Up!)? Click here to tweet:

Writers‚ÄĒyes, you‚ÄĒgot your copy of @MarciaRJohnston's 'Word Up!' yet? #writing #editing Click To Tweet

Index of Challenge Sentences

45 thoughts on “Tighten This! Challenge Sentence 15 [game]

  1. Our supplier consolidation economized.

    (Sorry, I am not a native speaker, but I still want to play…)

  2. Changed my mind and tightened it a bit more!

    Consolidating suppliers saves our company money.

    (Assuming we are still using the consolidated suppliers!)

  3. Building on Matthew’s we could find a way to get the savings idea in there…

    We saved by cutting out the middleman.


    We cut costs without the middleman.

  4. Pingback: Tighten This! Challenge Sentence 16 [game] - Writing.RocksWriting.Rocks

Comments are closed.