Style Quiz #9: Simplifying Sentences

By Mark Nichol

Improve these sentences by restructuring them to be more direct and by removing extraneous words.

1. Mary and John had fostered relationships with government and park officials and were allowed to submit a counterproposal.

2. The incident was tragic all around and should not have played out as it did.

3. These are annual events that provide members with the opportunity to network and build collaborative relationships.

4. There is so much that remains to be done.

5. It could lead to genetically inferior and vulnerable animals if inbreeding were to continue.

Answers and Explanations

1.
Original: Mary and John had fostered relationships with government and park officials and were allowed to submit a counterproposal.
Correct : Mary and John, who had fostered relationships with government and park officials, were allowed to submit a counterproposal.

The two verb phrases in this sentence are not intended to be equivalent in emphasis, so the first one should be rendered parenthetical to indicate that the second one contains the key information.

2.
Original: The incident was tragic all around and should not have played out as it did.
Correct : The incident, tragic all around, should not have played out as it did.

This revision, by enclosing the note about the incident’s tragedy as a parenthetical, eliminates a weak verb and makes the sentence more concise and focused.

3.
Original: These are annual events that provide members with the opportunity to network and build collaborative relationships.
Correct : These annual events provide members with the opportunity to network and build collaborative relationships.

Again, deletion of a weak verb (and the associated deletion of that) renders a sentence stronger and more concise.

4.
Original: There is so much that remains to be done.
Correct : So much remains to be done.

Elimination of the expletive “There is” allows for simplification and shortening of this sentence.

5.
Original: It could lead to genetically inferior and vulnerable animals if inbreeding were to continue.
Correct : Continued inbreeding could lead to genetically inferior and vulnerable animals.

This statement is rendered more direct and concise by relocating the key information — continuation of inbreeding — to the head of the sentence as its subject in place of the vague it.

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1 Response to “Style Quiz #9: Simplifying Sentences”

  • Mike McMillen

    #3 is clichéd and jargon-filled.
    Suggest: Members meet and build relationships at these annual events.

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