Exercise Write a Third Draft

In the following example, Stuart, an analyst for a city government agency, has followed the steps outlined in the book thus far. "My boss told me it is imperative that I be precise in my writing," explains Stuart, "and I agree. She needed a report about school renovations. I want the report to be clear and straightforward.

"My objective is to arm my boss with plenty of facts and figures for her next town hall meeting. She's a top adviser to the mayor, so she appears with him often and needs to be able to field questions and feed him facts. She's completely a Producer, so I try to use a lot of lists and graphs to help her get the information she needs quickly. She's on my side and has the resources she needs to do the job, so it's an Easy writing assignment. The report needs to be quite formal, because it's part of the public record. I selected the PAR organizational structure to focus on the bottom line, which I knew would make the report most user-friendly to my boss.

"I wrote it and used the Empathy Index and principle of FURY to revise it. Now I'm ready to finish it up."

An introduction in a report or proposal typically presents an overview of what's to come, piquing readers' interest. As you'll see, Stuart's introduction does a good job of setting the scene and providing a big-picture synopsis. However, it suffers from several flaws. After you read the following paragraph from Stuart's second draft, you'll find instructions. Here's Stuart's draft:

With last year's budget cuts integrated throughout the agency, we've been tracking their effects on our performance in several key areas including repair of streets and fixing potholes, snow removal, trash collection, collecting goods for recycling, including updating guard railings on highways, and we can demonstrate and show that turnaround time from initial complaint or report receiving to ultimate repair, replacement, or adjusting it has taken 23 percent longer, on average. While we all, every one of us, have risen to the challenge of providing the citizens of this great city excellent service, this is unacceptable, as I'm sure you'll agree.

Revise Stuart's introduction by following the steps that have been outlined 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 Stuart'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. If ideas expressed in the modifying phrases are important, are there more precise words you can substitute for longer phrases?

5. Is parallel construction maintained throughout?

Rewrite Stuart's paragraph with an eye to increasing its clarity and simplicity while preserving the meaning and tone.

How did you do? Compare your thinking to Stuart's as you review his comments and revision.

1. Look for compound sentences. If you find one, consider breaking the sentence into two or more separate units.

"I realized that the first sentence was way too long. Seventy-one words. Wow. It was compound and complicated. The first thing I did was break it into two separate units."

With last year's budget cuts integrated throughout the agency, we've been tracking their effects on our performance in several key areas including repair of streets and fixing potholes, snow removal, trash col lection, collecting goods for recycling, including updating guard railings on highways. We can demonstrate and show that turnaround time from initial complaint or report receiving to ultimate repair, replacement, or adjusting it has taken 23 percent longer, on average.

"When I divided it, I got two sentences, one forty-two words long, the other twenty-eight words long. Still too long. The original second sentence was thirty words long. But it's not a compound sentence."

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?

"I decided to separate all thoughts in the entire paragraph as a tool to help me make the introduction more concise. Here are the thoughts I want to express."

1. Last year's budget cuts have been integrated into this year's activities.

2. They've affected our performance.

3. We are responsible for:

• repair of streets

• repair of potholes

• trash collection

• recycled goods collection

• repair of highway guard railings

4. Our response record has suffered, dropping 23 percent since the budget cuts were initiated.

5. We're trying to do the best we can.

6. We need to do better.

7. We believe that you, the citizens, think we need to do better.

8. We hope you will agree to a tax increase so that we can have adequate funds to provide the level of service you want.

"I realized that I'd skipped the last thought completely—on purpose. Requesting an increase in taxes is where we're heading, but we're not there yet. And it's not my place to write about it. It's not even my boss's place. It's her boss's job—the mayor's.

"In any event, I identified eight separate thoughts. That's a lot of thoughts to include in two, or even three, sentences. Plus the sentences are still too long. What I did as my first stab was to add bullets, because I know my boss likes them."

With last year's budget cuts integrated throughout the agency, we've been tracking their effects on our performance in several key areas, including:

• repair of streets and fixing potholes

• trash collection

• collecting goods for recycling

• updating guard railings on highways

We can demonstrate and show that turnaround time from initial complaint or report receiving to ultimate repair, replacement, or adjusting it has taken 23 percent longer, on average. While we all, every one of us, have risen to the challenge of providing the citizens of this great city excellent service, this is unacceptable as I'm sure you'll agree.

3. Think about Stuart'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. If the ideas expressed in the modifying phrases are important, are there more precise words that can substitute for his longer phrases?

5. Is parallel construction maintained throughout?

"I looked at these three steps together. I had lots of redundancies and misused modifiers. Plus, I had parallel construction problems. I went phrase by phrase. Here's my next version."

With last year's budget cuts fully integrated, we've noted an effect on our performance in several key areas:

• repair of streets and potholes

• collection of trash

• collection of recyclable goods

• repair of highway guard railings

The turnaround time from first report to completed repair has taken, on average, 23 percent longer than it did last year.

"I cut the entire last sentence. I didn't need it. The more I kept my focus on my objective, the better my writing got."

Notice how Stuart eliminated repetitive words and phrases, aligned construction to ensure a parallel structure, and simplified the content.

What do you think? Is it clearer? Certainly it's shorter. What's your view? Is it more reader friendly? Is it more usable by Stuart's boss at a town meeting?

Most people agree that it is better. Stuart applied the principles we've discussed in a methodical manner, and his writing improved. "Plus," he explained, "I learned to write keeping parallel construction and avoiding redundancy in mind. By writing cleaner communications in the first place, I speeded up the entire process."

When you begin to write with the four tactics in mind, it will take you less time to produce better communications, and your efforts are more likely to succeed.

In this chapter, you've learned how to write concisely and clearly, add a positive tone, and maintain parallel construction. You've seen how assimilating tips to avoid these pitfalls helps you write tighter, more readable initial drafts.

Whether you wrote with these four tactics in mind, or revised to apply them, your communications are close to complete. You're ready to confirm that your grammar and punctuation are correct.

In the next chapter, you're going to learn to decide what level of proofreading is appropriate for you and your projects in advance, and you'll use specific proofreading techniques to quickly and easily find grammar and punctuation errors.

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Chapter Six

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