You know it’s going to be a long day…

May 5, 2011

You just know it’s going to be a long day when you get a 100+ page document to edit from one of your authors and the first sentence is:

“The opportunity exists to enhance [software product] to enable the capture and retention of data relating to quarantine events while the event is assessed to determine whether it is an incident, non-conformance or not a quarantine or project related issue.”

Fortunately, the rest of the document wasn’t as bad as the first couple of sections. But this sentence alone took me about 5 to 10 minutes to nut out and reword so that it made sense. It was a while ago since I edited this document, but I think I split this sentence into two or more sentences.

My editing aims are the three Cs:

  • Clear
  • Concise
  • Consistent

All with the aim of reducing another C: ‘Confusion’.

In this example, clarity trumped conciseness — I figured it was more important that the reader understood what was being said, rather than making it shorter.


  1. That first sentence is a doozy.

  2. Hi Rhonda! Carol Anne from the LW list here. My tech writing class starts up next week (5/9), and the first things I discuss are writing clearly, concisely, and consistently. Would you consider sharing with my class the rewrite of this sentence above, and your thought process to get to the rewritten sentence?
    Thanks for your consideration!

  3. So what was your version?

  4. Come on. At least there is a comma in it :-)

  5. Unfortunately, I can’t find my edited version. As I said, this was a while ago (at least 12 months), and I only found this doozy in an email to a work colleague that I found while cleaning out my Inbox. About every 6 months, I clean out my previously edited documents, so that’s why I don’t have this one.

    Rewording it now, I came up with this on a first pass:

    The opportunity exists to enhance [software] to enable the capture and retention of data relating to quarantine events, at the same time the event is being assessed to determine whether it is an incident or a non-conformance, or is not a quarantine- or project-related issue.

    I’ve still kept is as one sentence. Why? Because there is really only one idea in this sentence (I’ll split a sentence into two or more sentences if there is more than one central idea). And that idea is to enhance the software so that it can capture/retain data at the same time that data is being assessed/categorized. The other words are qualifying the type of data captured (quarantine events) and the type of assessment being done (incident, etc.)

    I’d like to hear how others would reword this sentence. Be aware that similar documents I did find had this as the first sentence under the heading ‘Opportunity Statement’, so that’s why the first part of the sentence remains.

  6. […] week or so ago, Carol Anne asked me to document my process for editing and rewriting a particular paragraph. I had forgotten what I did, but recently I had another easy one to do and this time I tried to be […]

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