Tighten This! Challenge Sentence 24 [writing/editing game]

this-weeks-challenge-question-marcia-riefer-johnstonWelcome to the concise-writing game, Tighten This! Here’s Challenge Sentence 24. Imagine a sign bearing this message (borrowed from a recent Seth Godin blog post):

Effective January 1, 2015, SuperCompany has ceased operations at this location. For further information, correspondence should be addressed to our headquarters.

Your revision: _______________________
[Scroll to the bottom and put your revision in a comment by Friday, Nov. 20.]


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 (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.

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) What a treat this week to see so many new names! Welcome all!

You can boil this horrible sentence down to seven or eight words—We will modernize our approach to education or We’re bringing our school into the 21st century—but why bother?

Ali Turnbull speaks the truth: this week’s sentence is a nothingburger. (Picture Clara Peller, as she unwraps her Big Bun Burger and peers under the top of the bun. “Where’s the beef?”)

Unlike most people who speak the truth, however, Ali will not be punished for doing so. Au contraire, Ali; this week, you take home the blue ribbon.

Ali’s response:

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.

Larry’s Pick

(Larry Kunz speaking) Well. I’m glad the school is committed to improving the learning environment. It certainly isn’t teaching the kids to write.

For an editor, the temptation here is to jump in and fix the mechanical issues—and there are a few of those—without stepping back to consider what the sentence is trying to say.

Many of you avoided that temptation. You stepped back, and, when you did, you found a sentence remarkably devoid of content. Susan correctly pointed out that learning environment is superfluous when you’re already talking about a school. Throw global economy onto the deadwood pile as well: at best it’s a weak stand-in for something like business world. (What other economy would they prepare the students for? The economy of Greater Podunk?)

I’d throw is committed to onto the pile as well, although most of you retained it. For me it’s nothing but a puffed-up way of saying wants to or aspires to.

Now that the dust has settled, I declare co-winners this week: Susan and Leigh. The ideal entry would be an amalgam of their sentences:

Our school prepares students for college and successful careers.

Like several of you, I’d like to see more content there. Something about how our school prepares students. But, to borrow the vernacular of the classroom, that wasn’t part of the assignment.

Concise tight writing

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

Marcia’s Pick

(Marcia Johnston speaking) I can’t imagine any audience getting value from any part of this school’s statement. (Oh, good. You strive to serve all your students.) Several of you pointed out the statement’s vapidness. As Ali Turnbull put it most emphatically, “I’m afraid I would chuck the whole lot out.”

It doesn’t get any tighter than that.

If forced to leave some words standing, I’d go with something like this: Our school prepares students to succeed in college and in careers. 

Susan comes close:

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

Leigh comes close, too:

Our school prepares students to succeed in a global economy.

I’m going with Dey Alexander, though, because, in addition to tightening, she presses to add the substance that this statement lacks:

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

If the school officials listened to Dey, they might end up with some words worth counting.

Sign Up!

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Again, Challenge Sentence 24

Imagine this message on a sign on a door:

Effective January 1, 2015, SuperCompany has ceased operations at this location. For further information, correspondence should be addressed to our headquarters.

Your revision: _______________________
[Scroll to the bottom and put your revision in a comment by Friday, Nov. 20.]


Index of Challenge Sentences

29 thoughts on “Tighten This! Challenge Sentence 24 [writing/editing game]

  1. First choice: Closed.
    Second choice: This location is permanently closed. Please find us at SuperCompany.com

  2. SuperCompany ceased operations here from January 1,2015. For more information, contact our headquarters.

  3. SuperCompany no longer operates here. Contact headquarters if needed.
    [People don’t need to know the date the company ceased trading if it already happened. Provide contact details for headquarters.]

  4. SuperCompany is no longer at this location. For more information, write: SuperCompany
    YoMama’s House
    City, State ZIP

Comments are closed.