Cuba Is Complicated, But Writing Should Not Be

Cuba is complicated. That's what our guides told us when we asked questions about how things work in the country: Es complicado. Salaries, food, ownership, restoration, politics, global relationships–Todo es complicado. 

Cuban classic car

But writing about Cuba should not be complicated. Writers should strive to communicate complex topics as clearly and simply as possible. 

Are you up for a challenge? Below is a 102-word complicated sentence excerpted from a book about Cuba. How would you simplify it? How many sentences would you break it into? Feel free to change wording where it will simplify the message. 

Yet even if there was no love lost between the man and the Cuban government, because Payá articulated some criticisms of the regime that were shared within respected state institutions, and because he did so without appearing to be as much a tool or creation of outside actors as other dissident initiatives, the decision by the regime to allow the Varela Project to survive, even in a very low-key way, may have foreshadowed, if only by a matter of timing, the public’s eagerness for and the government’s capacity to manage a wider public debate about the revolution’s future without risking counterrevolutionary upheaval.

Bombardeo del 15 de abril  1961  by Servando Cabrera Moreno

I look forward to reading your revised paragraph.

You can get more practice revising long sentences–including your own–in Business Writing Tune-Up

Note: My husband and I spent two wonderful weeks in Cuba on a Road Scholar tour. I highly recommend it if you are interested in Cuba and can invest the time and money. (Ismar, thank you for your generous companionship. Rena, thank you for the paragraph.) 

Lynn
Syntax Training

9 COMMENTS

  1. My 10-minute attempt.
    Would appreciate your rating – how many marks out of 10. 🙂

    Paya, a long time dissident of the Cuban government, articulated some criticisms of the regime that were shared within respected state institutions. He did so without appearing to be a tool or creation of outside actors as other dissident initiatives. This nudged the regime to allow the Varela Project to survive, even if in a very low-key way. The regime’s decision could also have been driven by an attempt to foreshadow, if only by a matter of timing, the public’s eagerness for the same. In the process, the government showed its capacity to manage a wider public debate about the revolution’s future without risking counterrevolutionary upheaval.

  2. Dear Lynn,

    Here I submit my contribution:

    There was no love lost between Payá and the Cuban government. Within some respected state institutions there were criticisms of the regime. And Payá had vented these criticisms.
    However in doing so he did not appear to have been coerced by outsiders as other dissident initiatives seemed to have been. Therefore, despite his actions, the Valera Project was allowed to survive, albeit in a very low-key way.
    This may have been a sign that now the time had come that the public was eager to discuss the future of the revolution. And that now the government could manage a wider public debate without risking counterrevolutionary upheaval. (106 words – 4 more than the original text.)

    With regards,

    Yvon

  3. Paya articulated criticisms of the regime shared within respected state institutions. Because he did so without appearing to be a tool or creation of outside actors, the regime allowed the Varela Project to survive in a low-key way. This may have foreshadowed the public’s eagerness for and the government’s ability to manage a wider public debate about the revolution’s future without risking counter-revolutionary upheaval.

  4. Kumar, nice work! I don’t want to give it a numerical rating, but you have done an excellent job of simplifying and breaking up the content. You repackaged one long, complicated sentence into five crisp ones.

    There’s one change I suggest: In the sentence “The regime’s decision could also have been driven by an attempt to foreshadow,” I don’t believe it’s accurate to say that the regime was attempting to foreshadow. Foreshadowing is something that occurs; no one controls it. It is not recognizable until after events take place that show something was indeed foreshadowed.

    Thanks for your 10-minute effort!

    Lynn

  5. Yvon, your revision is superb. You have turned the leaden content into something clear and enjoyable to read.

    I don’t know what you do for a job, but this short exercise would be a terrific example of your editing skills if you were interviewing for an editorial position.

    Thank you for posting your work.

    Lynn

  6. Nicki, great work! You have rewritten the passage so that is is concise and easy to read. You have made excellent choices in what you deleted, cutting the paragraph by more than a third!

    If I were your editor, I would be tempted to add a couple of words to make sure the piece is completely clear. First, I would retain the phrase “that were” in the opening sentence. My reasoning is that “criticisms of the regime shared within respected state institutions” makes me ask for a second “Are the criticisms shared or is the regime shared?” I will understand if you reject that suggestion. But “criticisms of the regime that were shared within respected state institutions” is instantly clear to me.

    I would also add the word “decision” after “this” in your phrase “This may have foreshadowed.” I believe stipulating what “this” is always makes writing clearer for readers.

    Thank you for your excellent version.

    Lynn

  7. Here’s my 88-word, 4-sentence version, which I completed before reading the excellent versions above:

    There was no love lost between Payá and the Cuban government. But he articulated some criticisms of the regime that were shared within respected state institutions. And he did so without appearing to be as much a tool or creation of outside actors as other dissident initiatives. The regime’s decision to allow the Varela Project to survive, even in a very low-key way, may have foreshadowed the public’s eagerness for and the government’s capacity to manage a wider public debate about the revolution’s future, without risking counterrevolutionary upheaval.

    Yes, I kept one 41-word sentence. I felt readers could handle it at the end of the paragraph.

    As editors on the job, we normally need to retain the writer’s voice. Before we start work, we need to determine whether we are doing light editing, major editing, or a complete rewrite.

    I am grateful for the examples above. Each one helped me see opportunities for improving the paragraph. Thank you, Kumar, Yvon, and Nicki.

    Lynn

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