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A Quick Editing Contest

I just received an email with a sentence long enough to reach from Seattle to Sydney. It’s 139 words–a stringy list of job requirements that test the reader’s endurance. If the writer had formatted the content clearly and simply, this excerpt from a job announcement would have been easy to skim for key information. But instead, it’s this:

Knowledge Required by the Position:
The Contractor shall be knowledgeable, and skilled in applying, human resource development (HRD) learning theories, principles, and methods sufficient to advise management on developing and maintaining the proper balance between organization strategic plans, goals, and HRD programs; to utilize a wide variety of learning methods, including technology-based methodologies,  to provide consultative services; to undertake planned systematic studies to determine the immediate and long range training needs of employees engaged in complex work (e.g., information technology, science, and engineering) at a facility; evaluate the merits of employee morale problems, excessive employee turnover, and instances of low productivity relative to training opportunities; provide career counseling to employees to assist them in identifying realistic career objectives and in obtaining required skills through training initiatives, and provide consultative services relative to changing technologies, obsolete workforce skills, and the challenges of organizations in transition.

The contest is to produce the best edited version of the sentence.

The prize is a copy of my guide, 60 Quick Word Fixes. The guide explains and illustrates 60 confusing word pairs such as affect/effect, bad/badly, complement/compliment, and comprise/compose. Up to five prizes will be awarded. Winners can choose a hard copy or a PDF of the 32-page guide, which I will send to you with my compliments. (Of course, everyone who enters will win the satisfaction of rewriting a bad sentence and sending it to someone.)

To enter the contest, edit the 139-word sentence so that it communicates clearly. Break the monolith into readable chunks. Keep all the useful content but organize it so that readers will read and understand it. Email your version to me (in British, Canadian, or American English), and please permit me to publish your work on this site if it is among the top five.

Judging. I will use my best judgment to pick the winners.

Contest deadline: Monday, July 10–plenty of time to revise one sentence, right?

Have fun! Then send me your work.


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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.