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Winning Editors: Contest Results

Congratulations to the two winners of the Quick Editing Contest! First-place winner is Wayne Schiess, Director of Legal Writing, University of Texas Law School. The second place goes to John Cline, founder of The Speaking Company. Both did a fine job of revising the 139-word sentence.

First, here is Wayne Schiess’s version:

The Contractor must be an expert in human-resource development, with the skill to use a variety of teaching and learning methods–including technology-based methods–to consult with management and employees. Specifically, the Contractor would carry out these four functions:

  1. Management adviser. Advise on ways to develop and maintain a balance between an organization’s strategic plans and its human-resource development programs;
  2. Training planner. Carry out systematic studies to determine the immediate and long-range training needs of employees in complex fields such as information technology, science, and engineering;
  3. Motivational trainer. Provide training to reduce problems of employee morale, excessive employee turnover, and low employee productivity;
  4. Career counselor. Provide career counseling to help employees identify realistic career goals and get required skills. Consult with management and employees on changing technologies, obsolete workforce skills, and the challenges of organizations in transition.


Although this version is virtually the same number of words as the original, it feels shorter. Breaking up the mega-sentence into short chunks helps create that feeling. But using simpler language also makes the content seem like a breeze to read. The job titles such as “Management adviser” and “Training planner” help readers immediately recognize whether the job is a match for them.

Here is John Cline’s edited version:

Candidates for this Contractor position should be knowledgeable and skilled in applying human resource development (HRD) learning theories, principles, and methods. Proven experience working with management to develop and maintain the balance between an organization’s strategic plans, goals and HRD programs is required. Candidates should also have experience in providing consultative services utilizing a wide variety of learning methods including technology-based methodologies.

Duties and responsibilities include:

  • Conducting systematic studies at a facility to determine the immediate and long-range training needs of employees engaged in complex work (e.g., information technology, science and engineering).
  • Evaluating employee morale problems, excessive employee turnover, and instances of low productivity relative to training opportunities.
  • Providing career counseling to employees to assist them in identifying realistic career objectives and obtaining required skills through training initiatives.
  • Providing consultative services relative to changing technologies, obsolete workforce skills and the challenges of organizations in transition.


Like the other winning version, John Cline’s entry  breaks the original long sentence into logical chunks, and it provides four bullet points with excellent skimmable headings. Unlike Wayne Schiess’s version, which uses crisp, plain words, John Cline’s uses much of the sophisticated language of the original sentence. Examples:

  • Schiess: Help employees identify realistic career goals and get required skills. 
  • Cline: Assist them in identifying realistic career objectives and obtaining required skills.
  • Schiess: Consult with management     Cline: Providing consultative services
  • Schiess: technology-based methods     Cline: technology-based methodologies

Both writers have done an excellent job of breaking up the long sentence. Schiess has gone a step further and rendered the job requirements in wonderfully plain English. Cline has kept the sophisticated flavor of the original, an approach that is often required when we edit other people’s work and when the edited version must fit with other job listings. Cline’s language is likely to appeal to the HRD professional, who (in my long experience in the field) uses methodologies as often as methods.

What do you think about the two versions of the job requirements? Does one of them make the job sound more appealing to you? Does one make the job or the employer sound more demanding? Does either version suggest a higher salary? Please post your comments.

Congratulations and many thanks to these two winners!

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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.