Jeremy Butterfield Editorial

Making words work for you

Before and After

“Before and after” examples

What do you think of this extract from a government policy document? What is wrong with it?

BEFORE: “Specific considerations will need to be given to what assistance minority groups will require to fully participate and contribute to the design, development and delivery of policies and services.”

Here’s what I think is wrong with it:

      1. The first sentence is in the passive. There’s nothing wrong with the passive in the right place, but this is not the place for it.
      2. There are too many abstract nouns: consideration, design, development, delivery. Using verbs instead is more powerful.
      3. It is verbose. Why have both participate and contribute; doesn’t the second entail the first? Why have design, development and delivery (though the alliteration of three words beginning with d- might work elsewhere).
      4. It uses formal, long-winded words such as assistance and participate. Shorter words make your message more direct.
      5. Can you deliver a policy? Don’t you deliver something more concrete?

I edited it to remove those flaws.

AFTER: “We need to investigate how to help minority groups play their full part in developing policies and delivering services.”

It is 33% shorter, and I believe it is a lot clearer.

BEFORE: “Have you got issues impacting mobility?

AFTER: “Do you have difficulty moving about?

Which would most people prefer to be asked?

Which would you prefer to be asked?

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