Tighten This! Challenge Sentence 36 [writing/editing game]

this-weeks-challenge-question-marcia-riefer-johnstonWelcome to the concise-writing game, Tighten This! Here’s Challenge Sentence 36. (I didn’t record the source. All I know is, I did not make this up.)

The overriding point is that our existing staff should be assimilated into the acquiring company.

Your revision: _______________________
[Scroll to the bottom and put your revision in a comment by Friday, Feb. 26.]


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 Rhonda Bracey (whose note to me simply says, “Here’s one I came across in one of my team’s documents”):

Comparison of results for parameters determined from in situ monitoring in accordance with Sections 4.2.1 and 4.2.2 of the approved Monitoring Plan show comparable results.

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)

I confess that I wasn’t a big fan of Seinfeld. But I recall that it was described as “a show about nothing.” This week’s sentence is about, well, nothing.

Start with the fact that both ends of the sentence obliterate each other in a fascinatingly weird tautology. “Comparison of results … show comparable results.”

A more honest account would’ve said We watched things. Nothing happened.

But that’s a problem, you see, because some consultant got paid a lot of money to conduct a survey and report that things did happen. The consultant crafted the tautology to obscure the truth and to make it seem as though things happened, throwing in a useless Latin phrase for good measure. (That’s how you can tell the consultant was paid handsomely.)

To sound like you're saying something, throw in a Latin phrase. @Larry_Kunz Click To Tweet

Oh, and one more thing: because the nonhappenings took place in accordance with an approved Plan (capitalized to sound more important), don’t blame us for the nonresults.

None of this week’s players captured the essence of this Seinfeldian sentence. The one who came closest, I think, was Kimberly Hume, who shrugged her shoulders and gave us this:

The compared results are similar.

conciseness in writing

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)

Here’s our Challenge Sentence: “Comparison of results for parameters determined from in situ monitoring in accordance with Sections 4.2.1 and 4.2.2 of the approved Monitoring Plan show comparable results.” [25 words]

  • In situ is a nice term in the right context, and maybe the target audience for this sentence is a lead-pipe cinch to understand it, but I’m betting against. Safer to stick with English.
  • We don’t know what they’re comparing these results against. Let’s assume a preceding sentence, something like … We have extrapolated results from earlier studies and from simulations.
  • We’re always tempted to simply throw away the stuff we find most annoying. In this case, for me, that’s the long parenthetical. But Marcia’s pesky rules tell us to leave in everything relevant.

We have results extrapolated from earlier studies and from simulations. Monitoring in the real world, when done in accordance with Sections 4.2.1 and 4.2.2 of the approved Monitoring Plan, shows similar results. [22 words]

An unimpressive 12% reduction in words, with a considerable increase in readability.

I hope someone comes up with something better…

Well … no winner this week.

I think Ali’s entry does the best job of straightening out the main clause:

We monitored [X] and [Y] in [the workplace] and the results were similar. 


So Ali gets first runner-up; but, if this came from, say, something written by a government agency or from a company working in a regulated environment, we would likely get flagged for dropping the “in accordance…” section.

Marcia’s Pick (Marcia Johnston speaking)

Cross my heart, I didn’t peek at Larry’s answer until I had written my own. Here goes.


What the heck does this sentence mean? All I can tell is that the first and last phrases repeat each other. “Comparison of results … show comparable results.” Holy tautology! That sentence is as circular as a snake eating its tail.

My best shot at improving this sentence is to chop off its head—the first four words. The result still wouldn’t be clear, but at least it wouldn’t be circular.

Since I can’t untangle the sentence’s meaning, I throw up my hands at the prospect of picking a winner this week. I’d love to proclaim Kimberly Hume’s revision the winner for its directness—The compared results are similar (Now that I can understand!)—but I’m not sure that this revision means what it needs to mean.

To all who played, I proclaim you snake wranglers of the highest order—persistent snake wranglers at that since I inadvertently published that post with commenting turned off at first. Thanks again, Julian Cable, for alerting me to what I had done in time to give at least some of you a chance to play.

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 34

The overriding point is that our existing staff should be assimilated into the acquiring company.

Your revision: _______________________
[Scroll to the bottom and put your revision in a comment by Friday, Feb. 26.]


Index of Challenge Sentences

Did you already share this? Share it now:

38 thoughts on “Tighten This! Challenge Sentence 36 [writing/editing game]

  1. Important: The acquiring company should assimilate our existing staff.

    (Unknown audience: prospective purchasers, actual purchasers, third party, or staff.)

  2. Better yet, “More important, our staff will work for [company name].” Rhonda’s version seems to assume that only the employees will read the sentence.

    Ms. Johnston, in “Word Up,” you seem to change your original sentence’s meaning when you revise “Nothing is more revealing than movement.” to “Nothing reveals like movement,” since the original something else could reveal as much as movement reveals.

  3. Thanks for both comments, Bill. You’re right about the subtle change in meaning in the revision of that sentence in “Word Up!” To choose between the two versions, you’d have to decide which phrasing more accurately conveys your meaning. The be-free version doesn’t automatically make the best choice. I suggest that writers wake up to the be-verbs, at least, and decide whether dumping them serves the reader. Usually it does.

Comments are closed.