Barry, a sales manager for a large printer, explains, "I'm always wordy. I find myself writing run-on sentences and I don't use modifiers well."
Take a look at Barry's E-mail draft asking his sales staff for their analysis of why sales are down.
After looking thoroughly at your reports on last month's sales calls describing who you saw and what objections to closing the sales were raised, and reviewing those special and extraordinary events such as the blizzard in the upper Midwest, as well as standard events such as President's Day, there seems to be no clear or definitive reason why sales are down. In anticipation of our next regular meeting, I would like to solicit your good ideas about what's going wrong and what we all and each of us can do to impact it. (Two sentences of sixty-one and thirty-two words average forty-six-and-a-half words.)
You'll note that Barry's E-mail is long and unclear. You'll also note many modifying words and phrases. As you work to revise it, follow the steps that have been outlined thus far in this chapter:
1. Look for compound sentences. If you find one, consider breaking the sentence into two or more separate units.
2. In complicated sentences, consider how many separate thoughts and ideas are being expressed. Can any be eliminated? Are any redundant? Can separate thoughts be written as separate sentences?
3. Think about Barry's use of adverbs, adjectives, and modifying phrases. Are they needed? Or are they diminishing the impact of his verbs and nouns, and thus should be eliminated?
4. Decide if the ideas expressed in the modifying phrases are important. If they are, are there more precise words that can substitute for the longer phrases?
How did you do? Following the steps above, start by looking for compound sentences. Are there any coordinating conjunctions (one of the BOY'S FAN words)? No, there aren't.
Next, list separate thoughts being expressed in each sentence. The first sentence:
After looking thoroughly at your reports on last month's sales calls describing who you saw and what objections to closing the sales were raised, and reviewing those special and extraordinary events such as the blizzard in the upper Midwest, as well as standard events such as President's Day, there seems to be no clear or definitive reason why sales are down.
The thoughts and ideas expressed are:
1. I've looked at your reports.
2. I've read whom you called on and why they said no deal.
3. I've considered whether special events such as blizzards would account for weak sales.
4. I've considered whether the shortened work month (because of the President's Day holiday) would account for the weak sales.
5. I can't understand why sales are down.
Five separate points, all independent and necessary, are a lot to integrate into one sentence.
In the second sentence, there were three separate thoughts expressed:
In anticipation of our next regular meeting, I would like to solicit your good ideas about what's going wrong and what we all and each of us can do to impact it.
1. I'm getting ready for our next sales meeting.
2. I want to know what you think the problem is.
3. I want to know what you think we can do to fix the problem.
We now have a total of eight thoughts to express. Were there any redundancies? Did you select more precise words? Eliminating redundancies and evaluating modifiers makes shortening and separating thoughts and ideas easier.
There are many good ways to concisely communicate those eight thoughts. Barry decided to focus on his bottom-line objective. "I wanted them to submit ideas by Tuesday, before the meeting," he explained. Read Barry's revision and then his comments:
After scrutinizing last months' sales reports, the reasons for the downturn remain unclear. Even after considering events such as the blizzard in the upper Midwest and the President's Day holiday, there seems to be no definitive reason why sales are down. What do you think is the problem? What should we do differently? Please E-mail me your ideas by Tuesday, and I'll present them at the next sales meeting. (Five sentences totaling sixty-nine words [13 + 28 + 7 + 5 + 16 = 69] average just under fourteen words per sentence.)
"I decided to get rid of the junk and focus on the key points. Taking my draft and listing the ideas I wanted to express was great! After I did that, I focused on tightening up modifiers like 'looking thoroughly.' That means 'scrutinizing,' so I said 'scrutinizing.' Overall, I was pleased with my final revision. It was simpler, more focused on my objective, and much clearer."
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