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Editing: It saves your readers’ sanity

December 1, 2018

Bottom line: Even something as simple as a birthday invitation can benefit from editing!

A client and I have recently been discussing academic journal writing and lamenting why it’s so stilted, wordy, written in the third person, and generally hard for an audience (especially a general audience) to understand. Our email discussion was triggered by an article in The Atlantic: The myth of dumbing down.

A few days later he shared with me a birthday invitation he’d received from an academic he knew. It was some 950 words long! While it mostly used plain conversational language (there was at least one ‘therein’…), it was way too wordy. The essentials of the message were lost or well hidden in the word salad.

I couldn’t help myself—I edited it down to 250 words and sent it back to my client, purely as an example of how editing could keep the message but communicate it in clear, plain language.

Below is the original version (with all personal and place names changed) and my edited version. The original also included the names of those who were attending and those who’d put in their apologies, which I deleted from both versions.

Original version (950 words)

Dear Family and Friends,

This email will communicate (hopefully final) details regarding the re-scheduled 50th-birthday dinner-party for me at Gurpreet’s Indian Restaurant at 280 Highline St., Anytown, on Saturday 1st December.

VENUE: I realise that some of you have eaten at Gurpreet’s Anytown restaurant in the past and so will know how to find it. But for those of you who need instructions about its location I detail them in the following section. The restaurant is on the south side of Highline Street (= Main street of Anytown and Rosella) and is just two-shops east (i.e., towards the Melbourne CBD) of what used to be the Main Town Hotel on the SE corner of Highline Street and Mountain Street (which former hotel is opposite the Anytown Post Office). The restaurant occupies a converted terrace-house and is conspicuously signed at the front above and at street level; its map location is: 2018 edition UBD, Map 32 A6; see also Google Earth image attached).

PARKING: Highline Street is metered along its entire length as are many of the side streets running off it to the north and south. The meters on Highline Street are turned off each day at 7:00 pm but not on the side streets (so I’m told) and resident-permit restrictions apply in some of these side streets after business hours.

There is a 30-minute FREE parking concession along the whole of Highline Street, but you still need to get the relevant ticket from the meter and display it on your dash board. So if you were to find a parking space on Highline Street relatively close to the restaurant after 6:30 pm and obtain a 30-minute free ticket and display it on your car dash, you would not have to worry about getting a parking fine for the rest of the evening.

Nearby to the restaurant, there is also a Council-owned free parking lot on the north side of Battle Street (2018 edition UBD, Map 32, B7) just west of its acute-angled junction with Highline Street at Federal Square (this lot is not exceptionally large off, and possibly ‘busy’ on Saturday nights). This lot is best accessed while driving east on Battle Street (so as not to have to turn left against the oncoming traffic if otherwise driving west). There is a 2-hour time-limit in this parking lot but I think that restriction ends at 6 or 7 pm (read the signs therein); so if you park there after 6:00 pm there shouldn’t be any trouble about being fined (see Google Earth image attached for location of this parking lot).

Additionally, there is free unlimited parking on all four sides of the MacDonald Terrace, a divided-lane street (with very wide intervening green-strip) that runs parallel to Highline Street one block north of Highline Street between Birchbroom Road (on the west) and Roundhouse Street (on the east). There is also free parking on Carton Road (= eastward extension of MacDonald Terrace; see attached Google Earth image). Parking on MacDonald Terrace and/or Carton Road will entail having to walk up-slope for a whole block to the restaurant, so is not recommended for anyone with mobility problems.

Anyone with a disability parking-permit can park anywhere free of charge any time unless signed-posted otherwise.

TIME OF ASSEMBLY: Can I suggest that we start assembling at Gurpreet’s between 6:45 and 7:15 pm? If we are all assembled by say 7:00 or 7:15 pm, then we could begin the dinner at 7:15 or as soon as possibly thereafter. Please try to be punctual so as to facilitate an ordered start to the dinner.

DRINKS: Gurpreet’s is both licensed and BYO. I suggest you buy the house beers (which include both Indian and local brands), but bring your own wine (because the restaurant wines are relatively expensive — this is true of all restaurants because the licence to sell alcohol is very expensive!). A large variety of both Indian and local non-alcoholic drinks are available. Also, there is a bottle shop with a large range of beers and wines just around the corner from the restaurant (= the only surviving licensed element of what used to be the Main Town Hotel), so if necessary additional drinks can be purchased there.

MENU: Some of you I know have dietary restrictions. Hence I suggest that those persons order their main course(s) separately, while the rest of us share the Banquet Menu. Anyone who doesn’t want to share in the banquet menu can order separately. I have already discussed this suggestion regarding the menu with the proprietor and that is OK with her.

RESTAURANT CONTACT DETAILS: In case anyone has last minute problems with attending the get-together or arriving there on time and need to alert the restaurant, it’s landline’s and mobile numbers are: Landline: 5555-5555; Mobile: 0413-555-555

Proprietor: Shivani Singh (= Gurpreet’s wife; she usually now looks after the Anytown restaurant and her husband [Gurpreet] and their two sons [Deepak and Vikas] look after their other restaurant at Highline Harbour and at their Function Centre at Congress; I don’t know whether Gurpreet and/or either of his sons will be at the Anytown restaurant on Saturday night).

PUBLIC TRANSPORT ACCESS: Busses 41 and 57 leave from Stand A at the QVB in the Melbourne CBD and stop in Mountain Street beside the Anytown Post Office (and across the road from the bottle shop). Both these buses will return you to the Melbourne CBD from bus-stops virtually outside the restaurant.

Edited version (250 words)

Details for my 80th birthday dinner

Date and time: 6:45pm for 7:00pm, Sat 1 Dec 2018

Place: Gurpreet’s Indian Restaurant, 280 Highline St, Anytown (almost opposite the Anytown PO); 5555 5555 or 0413 555 555

Food and drinks:

  • Banquet Menu. If you have dietary restrictions, order your main course separately
  • The restaurant is licensed and BYO. Suggestion: Purchase beer there, but BYO wine. There’s a bottle shop around the corner

Parking:

  • Metered parking to 7pm along Highline St (first 30 minutes free—so you could get there at 6:30, but you must display a ticket on your dashboard)
  • Free but small parking lot on the north side of Battle St, near the junction with Highline St at Federal Square; usually 2-hour limit, but check signs as likely no limit after 6 or 7pm. Best access is if you’re driving east on Battle St
  • Free unlimited parking on all sides of MacDonald Tce between Birchbroom Rd and Roundhouse St (parallel to Highline St and one street away). Avoid if you have mobility issues as you have to walk up a hill
  • Free parking on Carton Rd (extension of MacDonald Tce). Also avoid if you have mobility issues
  • Side streets: Avoid; likely only for residents with permits.

Public transport: Take bus 41 or 57. Both depart from Stand B at the QVB and stop in Mountain St beside the Anytown PO (across the road from the bottle shop and restaurant). The bus stop for the return trip is outside the restaurant.

***********

Contact me (details on the About page) if you think your written communications could benefit from editing such as this.

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