Before & After | Manufacturing Intelligently

This before-and-after example comes from a working report, called Manufacturing Intelligently. It was developed several years ago by the National Institute for Standards & Technology (NIST).

NIST is a federal agency that works with industry to develop and apply technology, measurements and standards. This particular report explored ways to streamline and optimize manufacturing operations.

That sounds interesting and perhaps useful, doesn’t it? Let’s take a peek.

Before
The point is not so much the individual intelligence of the workers as it is their capacity to bring their collective abilities to bear on strategic and tactical objectives of the firm. This sounds like a truism, but it isn't:  these objectives are not merely motivational messages, though these are clearly important, but clear and coherent views of the firm itself, conceived both as a social microcosm within which the workers have a well-defined place, and also as a single player among many in a complex and changing economic landscape!  Word count:  90

What does that mean? Good question.

It might help to know the report uses “firm” when it really means company. To decipher the rest of the message, try these steps:
1. Eliminate unnecessary words (Transition)
2. Focus on the remaining key concepts (Transition)
3. Create a cleaner version (After)
4. Axe the exclamation point (After)
5. Make it more direct and concise (Translation)

Let's see how that works.

Transition
The point is not so much the individual intelligence of the workers as it is their capacity to bring their collective abilities to bear on strategic and tactical objectives of the firm. This sounds like a truism, but it isn't:  these objectives are not merely motivational messages, though these are clearly important, but clear and coherent views of the firm itself, conceived both as a social microcosm within which the workers have a well-defined place, and also as a single player among many in a complex and changing economic landscape!

After
The point is the workers’ capacity to bring their collective abilities to bear on strategic and tactical objectives of the firm. Objectives are not merely motivational messages, but clear views of the firm, as a social microcosm within which the workers have a well-defined place and as a single player among many in a complex and changing economic landscape. Word count: 59 | Reduction: 35%

Translation
The workers’ ability to accomplish the company’s strategic and tactical objectives is more than a motivational message. Objectives help groups and individuals define their place within the company structure and help the company define its place in a complex economic landscape. Word count: 41 | Reduction: 55%

The original excerpt epitomizes arglebargle in action. The full report consists of 29 pages, jam-packed with content written just like the example.

Somewhere in the report might be buried valuable concepts with the potential to transform manufacturing. If so, no one will ever know it.

Rather than Manufacturing Intelligently, a better title might be Manufacturing Unintelligibly.

And that's the point. When you wrap great ideas in convoluted language and pretentious terms, even the best ones get lost in the clutter. Simple, clear writing allows your great ideas to shine. 

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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Another fine example! Now, if we could just get Congress to read your article...

Barbara Spencer Hawk said...

Great point. How much more efficient might Congress be if they reduced their "content load" (and ours) by 53%?

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