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Attack on wordiness, Thursday lab (153)

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  1. Nicole Manske
    September 18, 2008 at 2:47 am

    Journal Star.com
    Wednesday, Sep 17, 2008
    Deadly crash raises safety doubts about SoCal rail

    Paragraph 2: The catastrophic collision of a Metrolink commuter train and a Union Pacific freight train last week also prompted calls for national safety reforms.
    “Also” is unnecessary. I would take it out and have the sentence simply use the action verb, “prompted.”

    Paragraph 3: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants a review of state and federal rail oversight, and Congress is considering compelling railroads to install satellite-linked technology that can detect runaway trains and put on the brakes _ an idea that has languished for years.
    Instead, “is” can be thrown out, and “is considering” could be changed to “considers.”

    Paragraph 8: In 2005, 11 people died and about 180 were injured when a man who later claimed he was suicidal parked his sport utility vehicle on the tracks in Glendale. The driver was convicted of murder.
    “Sport utility vehicle,” is an unnecessary description and irrelevant to the story. “Vehicle” would suffice.

    Paragraph 11reads: The Federal Transit Administration study, which examined records from January 2001 to July 2006, found that the accident rate on Metrolink was about average for commuter rail when passenger miles traveled were considered.
    This long sentence contains 33 words, when 14 to 17 are preferred. This could be avoided by removing the word “which” and creating two sentences. This accomplishes two tasks. You are left with short, active sentences rather than long passive ones. Therefore it could read:
    The Federal Transit Administration study examined records from January 2001 to July 2006. It found that the accident rate on Metrolink was about average for commuter rail when passenger miles traveled were considered.

    Paragraph 14: The National Transportation Safety Board has subpoenaed the engineer’s cell phone records to see if he was sending text messages just before the crash.
    This is yet another example of the passive voice which can easily be transformed into a positive with the removal of “has.”

  2. Jamie Klein
    September 18, 2008 at 4:14 am

    Daily Nebraskan
    Wednesday, Sep 17, 2008
    National Guard lends a hand

    Paragraph five:
    “Sherman was registered as a full-time student, but because he would miss two weeks of class, he decided to drop his entire course schedule because he didn’t feel he could succeed.”

    I would change the paragraph to read:

    Knowing he would miss two weeks of class, Sherman decided to drop his entire course schedule.

    This way, the important information comes out in a smaller paragraph – which makes for an easier read.

    Paragraph 11:

    “He didn’t know what he would be doing until he arrived in Louisiana, but he expected to help people by handing out food and water or cleaning up debris from the hurricane’s wrath.”

    I would change the sentence to read:

    He didn’t know what Louisiana would bring, but Sherman thought his duties would include distributing food and water or cleaning debris.

    I just shortened the sentence by 12 words, but kept the same style. Instead of “he would be doing until he arrived in Louisiana” I said “what Louisiana would bring,” because I think that is what the story meant to say. The sentence prior mentioned him working in Alexandria (part of Louisiana), so I felt there was no need to mention his arrival. I also shortened what Sherman thought he would be doing in Louisiana by changing “handing out” to distributing and I chose to leave out “from the hurricane’s wrath.”

  3. Garret Durst
    September 19, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    Garret Durst
    August 8th, 2008
    Michael Phelps Biography: http://www.nbcolympics.com

    Paragraph 1:

    The article described how Phelps won the 200m free easily and wasn’t even really contested in the event. I wish I was a swimming expert but saying that doesn’t give me any perspective on how great an achievement that was. What is a good margin of victory in swimming? How much time did he win by? All of this would have been helpful to the reader. And I think that we all know how dominant a swimmer Phelps is and by stating it again and again is unnecessary.

    Paragraph 5:

    At first glance, Phelps might look like a typical swimmer. Well, what exactly does a typical swimmer look like. The average fan doesn’t know what the typical swimmer looks like. They should have added what a typical swimmer looks like with some description and details. This would have helped me understand what a typical swimmer looks like.
    In this paragraph, they also describe how Phelps has flexible ankles. How do we know he has flexible ankles and what is there to prove that? I feel that they are just stating the obvious and not giving the read more detail about Phelps’ physical characteristics. This article should have more facts on what it means to have flexible ankles or a long torso because most people don’t understand that concept.

    Overall, this was a great article to read, but a few minor details could have helped the reader. This article also kept stating the obvious. We all know that Phelps is the best ever and we don’t need to keep repeating it.

  4. William Whited
    September 20, 2008 at 11:02 pm

    Daily Nebraska

    Literary festival expands limits with Charles Bock

    http://media.www.dailynebraskan.com/media/storage/paper857/news/2008/09/19/Features/Literary.Festival.Expands.Limits.With.Charles.Bock-3441076.shtml

    Third block of text: The text is long-winded and has “extra” words it doesn’t need such as “‘one’ of the star ‘individuals’.” You could split the block of text into two sentences.

    Original: “Bock will be one of the star individuals at this weekend’s Omaha Literature Festival, organized by University of Nebraska-Lincoln English professor Timothy Schaffert, and the author said he’s excited for the reciprocity that events such as these offer and he’s trying to make the most of the opportunity.”

    Revised: “Bock will be featured at this weekend’s Omaha Literature Festival organized by University of Nebraska-Lincoln English professor Timothy Schaffert. Bock said he’s excited for the reciprocity that events such as these offer and he’s trying to make the most of the opportunity.”

    The fifth block of text: “Omaha Lit Fest was originally created” shows me that the word “originally” is not necessary.

    The sixth block of text: “expand its limits” appears to be an oxymoron. The word “limits” is not necessary. The sentence should end on “expand.”

  5. Sarah Tenorio
    September 23, 2008 at 9:04 pm

    Daily Nebraskan 9/23/08
    No indoor furniture outside, City Council says in 5-2 vote

    Paragraph 8: A simple drive through the North Bottoms neighborhood was enough to convince Councilman Jon Camp to vote against the amendment. He said several similar ordinances the city council has passed – such as one that prohibits people from having their grass longer than six inches – don’t get enforced, and he doesn’t think another will help.

    I would just cut a few words. A drive through the North Bottoms neighborhood convinced Councilman Jon Camp to vote against the amendment. He said similar ordinances city council passed – such as one that prohibits having grass longer than six inches – don’t get enforced, and another won’t help.

    Paragraph 9: Ken Svoboda was the only other member of the council who voted against the ordinance.

    Ken Svoboda was the other member voting against the ordinance.

    Paragraph 11: In order for a person to be fined for having a couch on his or her porch, someone has to file a complaint, after which the person with a couch on their porch will have the opportunity to remove it. If they refuse, they can be charged with a $200 fine for a first offense, $250 for a second and $300 and six months in jail for a third offense.

    I though this paragraph was a little confusing. Also the reporter used “they” instead of “he or she” so I wanted to figure out a way to get around it. After a complaint has been filed, the offender has a chance to remove the indoor furniture. If he or she refuses, he or she can be fined $200 for a first offense, $250 for a second and $300 and six months in jail for a third.

    Paragraph 13: At a Sept. 15 meeting, the City Council heard more than 12 people speak in support of the ban and no one against it. On Monday, Cook hinted at making changes to the legislation if anyone brings up any complaints.

    At a Sept. 15 meeting, the council heard more than 12 people speak for the ban and no one against it. On Monday, Cook hinted at making changes to the legislation if there are complaints.

  6. Elizabeth Gamez
    September 24, 2008 at 1:20 am

    Legislature candidates discuss issues
    9/23/08 Daily Nebraskan

    Graph 1:
    -There were no jarring remarks between candidates during a day of debates at the Saint Paul United Methodist Church on Monday.
    -There were no jarring remarks between candidates on Monday’s debates at the Saint Paul United Methodist Church.
    “During a day” could just be Monday.

    Graph 2:
    -Eight candidates vying to be state senators of four Nebraska districts that include much of Lincoln faced off against each other in a debate sponsored by the Lincoln and Lancaster County League of Women Voters.
    -Eight candidates faced off for the four Nebraska districts, which include much of Lincoln, in a debate sponsored by the Lincoln and Lancaster County League of Women Voters.
    If they’re candidates it’s understood that they are vying. Faced off against each other is redundant.

    Graph 3:
    -Each of the candidates was given three minutes for opening and closing remarks, and two minutes to answer each question followed by 30 seconds to make a rebuttal.
    -Each candidate was give three minutes to open and close, two minutes to answer each question, and 30 seconds to rebut.

    Graph 8:
    -Marvin said that making the city a more diverse place was also important because it would improve Lincoln financially by bringing companies to Lincoln. One of the main points he made through out the debate was that bringing companies to Lincoln was vital to the city’s success.
    -Marvin said that diversifying the city would improve Lincoln’s financial success by bringing in companies.
    The second sentence says the same thing as the previous.

  7. September 25, 2008 at 1:45 am

    “State Drops FEMA plan amid priority differences”
    Daily Nebraskan
    Sept. 24. 08

    “But Nebraska’s participation has been postponed indefinitely because of lack of funding, differences in priorities and other natural disasters the state is dealing with”

    Revised: Nebraska’s participation has been postponed due to a lack of funding and differences in priorities and disasters the state handles.

    “Best stressed the program is completely voluntary and pointed out that if a state wanted to participate, they may be eligible to receive more grant money from FEMA to execute it”

    Revised: “Best stressed the programn is voluntary and noted that if a state participated, they may be eligible to receive grant money from FEMA to execute it”

  8. Teresa Lostroh
    September 25, 2008 at 2:40 am

    I figured I would “attack” my own DN article from today.

    Speakers explain facets of new farm bill (Sept. 24)
    Teresa Lostroh, Daily Nebraskan

    Original: Lubben said the new legislation, which is an altered version of the 2002 farm bill, touches on three big issues: farm income safety nets, land conservation and the new players in the agricultural sphere.

    Altered: Lubben said the new legislatioin, an altered version of the 2002 bill, touches on three big issues: farm income safety nets, land conservation and the new players in agriculture.

    I took out “which is” in the first sentence, because those words are often overused. I also switched up the last sentence a bit by removing “sphere.”

    Original: Secondly, millions of acres of land are reserved through the Conservation Reserve Program, a feature of the farm bill. In the new legislation, the maximum amount of land protected through the program will decrease by 7 million acres.

    Fixed: Secondly, the farm bill reserves millions of acres of land through the Conservation Reserve Program. In the new legislation, the CRP will protect 7 million fewer acres.

    Original: In terms of the impending presidential election, Lubben believes the biggest ag-related topic will be who the new president will lend an ear to for agricultural advice.
    Because neither Sen. John McCain nor Sen. Barack Obama come from strong agricultural backgrounds, Lubben is interested in whom the potential leaders will look to, especially who will be in the new president’s cabinet as the secretary of agriculture.

    Fixed: Because neither Sen. John McCain nor Sen. Barack Obama come from strong agricultural backgrounds, Lubben believes the biggest ag-related topic in the impending presidential election will be who the president chooses as an agricultural adviser.

  9. Matthew Butts
    September 25, 2008 at 4:17 am

    The Sunday Times
    “Evolutionary Fitness: the diet that really works”

    Original: This bouncy, clear-eyed, low-insulin, horny rebuke to unfit fat slobs everywhere was born in Davenport, Iowa, but his home town is really LA, where he finished high school and was signed to a minor-league baseball team.

    Changed: After he graduated from highschool, Arthur signed with a minor-league baseball team.

    I chose to eliminate the bouncy, clear-eyed stuff because it had all been said before. I had the picture of the man in my mind, I didn’t need more of the same.

    Original: Advocates of FBCG believed that the big dietary change behind our new miseries was increased consumption of animal fats on the basis that, for early man, there were lots of vegetables and fruit lying around, but a good kill would be rare

    Changed: Advocates of FBCG believed that the big dietary change was increased consumption of animal fats on the basis that, for early man, a good kill would be rare.

    We have already established that we are talking about being fat. The point of this sentence and the following sentences is the ammount of fat consumption by ancients, the fruits and vegetables line adds nothing.

    Original: But what’s different about Arthur is, first, he is not selling anything, except for subscriptions to his website.

    Changed: I’d take it out. It undermines the point the paragraph is trying to make.

  10. Courtney Robinson
    September 25, 2008 at 4:35 am

    The Washington Post (on-line) Thursday, September 25, 2008; Page A01 By Lori Montgomery and Paul Kane (Washington Post Staff Writers)
    titled: “Bush Calls Bailout Vital to Economy, Will Meet With McCain and Obama: Proposal Takes Shape in Congress, but Broad Support Is Lacking”

    The Washington Post has a problem with wordiness. Their problem mainly steams from their long sentences, which can be broken into two or even three sentences.

    Below, in accordance to keeping my blog “brief,” are three examples of this.

    The lede reads:
    President Bush said yesterday that the credit crisis that had seized world markets could devastate the U.S. economy unless Congress acted quickly to approve a $700 billion bailout plan for the nation’s financial system, a message aimed at reluctant lawmakers as much as a deeply skeptical public.

    Change:

    Yesterday, President Bush said, to reluctant lawmakers and the skeptical public, the credit crisis that had seized world markets could devastate the U.S. economy. He said Congress should approve a $700 billion bailout plan to aid the nation’s financial system.

    OR

    Yesterday, President Bush told reluctant lawmakers and the skeptical public that the credit crisis that had seized world markets could devastate the U.S. economy. He said Congress should approve a $700 billion bailout plan to aid the nation’s financial system.

    The third paragraph reads:
    Warning that “America could slip into a financial panic,” Bush blamed the crisis on “easy credit” in the housing markets and urged Congress to act soon because the “widespread loss of confidence” in the financial sector could affect all levels of the domestic economy and cause the nation to “experience a long and painful recession.”

    Change:

    Warning that America could slip into a financial panic, Bush blamed the crisis on “easy credit” in the housing markets. He urged Congress to act soon because the “widespread loss of confidence” in the financial sector could affect all levels of the domestic economy and cause the nation to “experience a long and painful recession.”

    The 14th paragraph reads:

    Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke tried to change that yesterday during appearances before two congressional committees, where they struggled to paint a dark picture of the harm that would befall the economy if the bailout not approved. But the former Wall Street dealmaker and the former economics professor failed to deliver the stark message lawmakers were seeking.

    Change:

    Yesterday, Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke tried to change that, during their appearances before two congressional committees. However, the former Wall Street dealmaker and the former economics professor failed to convince lawmakers as they struggled to paint a dark picture of the harm that would befall the economy if the bailout was not approved.

  11. Max Wohlgemuth
    September 25, 2008 at 6:11 am

    My story was on the front page of msnbc.com at 1 am on September 25th. The story was titled, “Bush: ‘Our entire economy is in danger’.”

    My example of wordiness is the 2nd paragraph:

    “His dire warning came not long after the president issued extraordinary invitations to presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain, one of whom will inherit the mess in four months, as well as key congressional leaders to a White House meeting on Thursday to work on a compromise.”

    The word dire does not add much meaning to the word warning in this context. It just contributes to the sentence being long and awkward.

    The phrase “not long” could just be “shortly.”

    Furthermore, the story refers to Obama and McCain as “presidential candidates” and then goes on to say, “one of whom will inherit the mess in four months.” This phrase is redundant. The reader already knows this from referring to the two as “presidential candidates.”

    My revision of the whole paragraph would be:

    “His warning came shortly after the president issued invitations to presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain, as well as key congressional leaders to a White House meeting on Thursday to work on a compromise.”

  12. PJ Hunsicker
    September 25, 2008 at 6:23 am

    Huskers lose playoff round, title in Kansas
    Daily Nebraska
    Michael Schaefer

    First, a lot of instances where the word “that” is used in an unnecessary fashion. Too many to get into detail.

    In paragraph 11, he writes, “Freshman Natalie Gleadall joined White in the top ten by tying for seventh.” He could have just written, “Freshman Natalie Gleadall tied for seventh.” Boring, yes, but much more brief.

    In paragraph 12, “The Huskers found themselves down four strokes going into play on Tuesday, but it was strong performances for a couple veterans that helped rally the team back into contention.” Short version: The Huskers were down four strokes going into play on Tuesday, but strong performances by a couple veterans helped rally the team back into contention.” Slightly shorter.

  13. Allyson Felt
    September 25, 2008 at 7:16 am

    Nebraska needs 4 sets to beat Kansas
    By TODD HENRICHS / Lincoln Journal Star

    Paragraph 3:

    “The sellout crowd of 4,123 at the NU Coliseum was able to celebrate Larson’s record-setting ace for a few scant moments, but once that was in the books, the only real drama was seeing how long it would take for Nebraska to finally put away Kansas, the team picked to finish 10th in the Big 12 Conference this season.”

    — Not only is this a very difficult to understand, it is only one sentence with around 50 words in it. It could have easily been split in half. I would totally take out “the team picked to finish 10th in the Big 12 Conference this season” because it is not needed. If Henrichs felt this statement was completely necessary, it could have been in a different sentence. There is simply too much information being given in this paragraph and it is confusing to the reader.

  14. Stephani Ruiz
    September 25, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    Grand Island Independent
    by Robert Pore
    September 24, 2008

    Johanns, Kleeb vow ethanol support

    Lede: While Nebraska’s two Senate candidates, Republican Mike Johanns and Democratic Scott Kleeb disagree on many issues, both are supportive of the nation’s ethanol industry and the federal policies and incentives that have helped that industry grow.

    Change: Nebraska’s Senate candidates, Republican Mike Johanns and Democratic Scott Kleeb, may disagree on many issues, but both support federal policies and incentives that have helped the nation’s ethanol industry grow.

    I just took out a couple of words and reworked the last part of the sentence to make it shorter because it is redundant to say “ethanol industry” and then “industry” later on in the sentence when it can be avoided.

    Paragraph 6: At a time when the nation’s economy faces some critical challenges as Congress debates whether to spend $700 billion to bail out Wall Street and with the U.S. spending $700 billion annually on foreign oil, Kleeb said this is not the time to abandon the ethanol industry.

    Change: As Congress debates whether to spend $700 billion to bail out Wall Street and the U.S. is spending $700 billion annually on foreign oil, Kleeb said this is not the time, economically, to abandon the ethanol industry.

    When I noticed “time” was mentioned both in the beginning and end of the sentence, I tried to condense it so that the word didn’t have to be repeated.

    I notice quite frequently, that articles covering political issues tend to be more wordy. I don’t know if this is because the concepts are hard to explain in a way that all readers will understand it, or if its because (especially online) they’re done in a hurry, but it seems to be a pattern I’ve noticed. Also, some ledes are too long and the reader isn’t going to want to finish the article when the lede is drags on. In these two instances, I found a way to get the same message across in a more direct way, something that I need to keep in mind in my own writing as well.

  15. Marlenia Thornton
    September 25, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    “Thunder Collins – once a promising young recruit for Nebraska football who left the team early amid a streak of off-field incidents – was arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder on Wednesday.”

    The quotation is from the Thursday, September 25, 2008 edition of the Daily Nebraskan. The quote is a lede from an article about former University of Nebraska-Lincoln I-Back Thunder Collins in the Sports section. Typically, a lede is supposed to be less than 30 words and this lede is 32 words, which I believe is too wordy for a lede. Although it’s only two words over the preferred limit, I think this lede could shorten simply by moving the long description of the football player in between the dashes to the following paragraph.

    Example:
    Edited lede: Thunder Collins was arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder on Wednesday.
    Next paragraph: Collins was once a promising young recruit for Nebraska football, who left the team amid a streak of off-field incidents.

  16. Grant Triplett
    September 25, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    Daily Nebraskan
    Winner-take-all delutes unique system
    http://media.www.dailynebraskan.com/media/storage/paper857/news/2008/09/25/Opinion/Hall-WinnerTakeAll.Delutes.Unique.System-3451377-page2.shtml

    (Don’t use “unique.” The story mentions that Maine has the same electoral voting technique we do, so it’s not unique. The story uses it four times and the headline ues it once.)

    “In most states, whoever wins the most votes statewide wins all of that states electoral votes. It’s called, simply enough, the “winner-take-all” format.”
    (get rid of “statewide” and “simply enough”)

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