Let's take it one step at a time.
Hilda Solis, the US labor secretary, replaced the standard black limousine used by cabinet members with a new Chevrolet Equinox SUV. The Equinox is more fuel efficient and maneuverable on crowded Washington streets. So far, so good.
On August 31, Solis explained her decision to Dave Cook of the Christian Science Monitor at a media breakfast (video of her answer).
This is what Solis said:
What better example could I set if I encouraged my staff to go and purchase and seek how we could acquire a vehicle that would for me would send a signal that we’re for supporting our American workers, American-made products, fuel efficient as well. 44 wordsLet’s take a deep breath, and focus on deciphering her statement. First let’s eliminate all the unnecessary words.
What better example could I set if I encouraged my staff toAfter
go andpurchase and seek how we could acquirea vehicle that would for me would send asignal thatwe’re forsupporting ourAmerican workers, American-made products, fuel efficient as well. 28 words
Now let’s clean up the wording and fix a few grammar issues.
What better example could I set than to encourage my staff to purchase a vehicle that supports American workers and American-made products? It’s fuel efficient as well. 27 wordsThese simple changes reduced the word count by 39%. There are other fixes we could make to further streamline and clarify this statement, but I’ve tried to remain true to Solis’ wording and style.
People are often encouraged to write the way they speak. Please don't. When we talk, we use convoluted structures and disjointed phrases as shown above. A better strategy is to speak the way we write, with clarity and precision.
Now, let's take a quick look at a few relevant facts.
Solis heads the US Department of Labor, and she made the featured statement a few days in advance of the Labor Day holiday, which celebrates American workers and their value in our society and economy.
Solis stated she chose this vehicle to support American workers, American-made products and fuel-efficient buying decisions.
According to the GM website, the Equinox is assembled in Canada using Canadian-made parts, which would appear to make it a Canadian product. It's so popular, GM of Canada has been hiring more workers to respond to demand.
What's the message?
Solis selected a particular vehicle to set an example and encourage people to buy American-made products and support American workers. Unfortunately, the vehicle she chose is produced in Canada.
While Solis undoubtedly spoke and acted with the best of intentions, she and her staff simply didn't do their homework. As a result, the message she sends is mixed at best.
This example is a useful reminder that whatever key message we're trying to convey, it needs to be simple, clear, direct and accurate.
Before & After (series)
GM website: Chevrolet Equinox Production Begins at Oshawa Assembly
US government: DOL Mission