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Rewrite creatively.

In the last issue, we rewrote the original draft (right) of "Population and Urban Land Use," a small section of a 500-page 1966 report, Implementation of the California Water Plan. The rewrite proceeded sentence by sentence (numbered in our examples) until it reached that stage called "Intermediate Rewrite" (below). The Intermediate Rewrite cut the Original Draft exactly in half -- but cut without reorganizing. Our final rewrite, which begins on the next page, will cut even more text, but will do so by reorganizing the order of words.

Once again, we'll proceed by means of a slide show. Place a card over Slide #68 and its accompanying discussion. Read Slide #67 and its related question. Answer the question. Then slide the card down the page to expose Slide #68. The Slide #68 commentary answers the Slide #67 question, then asks a new question. Answer it and continue down the page.

ORIGINAL DRAFT: Population and Urban Land Use (425 words)

[1] The population of California has more than doubled in every 20-year period since 1860, except between 1880 and 1900. [2] Accompanying this spectacular growth has been a drastic shift in population distribution between rural and urban areas. [3] In 1860, only one-fifth of the population lived in urban areas but by 1960 the proportion living in such areas had risen to about seven-eighths. [4] These changes have strongly influenced the pattern of water utilization in California.

[5] The long-range population projections used by the Department cover periods of sixty years or more and are derived, primarily, from data provided by the U. S. Bureau of the Census. [6] Estimates and 20-year projections of the California Department of Finance, together with analyses of birth, death, and migration rates are also utilized. [7] Consideration is given to such economic factors as industrial development and employment.

[8] On the basis of these considerations, future population of the State as a whole was estimated. [9] This total was then subdivided by counties.[10] The latter projections were then grouped and/or subdivided as necessary to estimate the population of each hydrologic study area.

[11] The population of the State and of the eleven hydrologic study areas for 1960 and 2020 are shown in Table 4.[12] These estimates are shown graphically for the State on Figure 13 and for the hydrologic study areas on the even-numbered figures from Figure 14 through Figure 34.

[13] It is estimated that in 2020 California's population will approximate 54 million. [14] This represents an increase of 38 million over the 1960 figure.[15] Slightly more than one half of this increase will occur in the South Coastal and San Francisco Bay areas, with the remainder in the other, presently less-populated areas of the State. [16] It is anticipated that, in 2020, the proportion of the State's population residing in these two metropolitan areas will be only 63 percent compared to 77 percent in 1960.

[17] Population projections, density of population and optimum land use were the principal factors employed in estimating the number of acres of land that will be required for future urban development.[18] Department estimates shown in Table 8 indicate that by 2020 nearly six million acres will be needed.[19] Between 1960 and 2020, it is estimated that there will be an average annual increase of 65,000 acres.[20] This represents an acreage requirement comparable to the present area of Sacramento. [21] Most of this requirement will occur in and near the present population centers, including the Los Angeles-Orange Counties metropolitan area, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara, San Francisco Bay area, Sacramento, Stockton, Fresno, and Bakersfield.


[1] Since 1900, the population of California has more than doubled every 20 years. [3] In 1860, only 20 percent of the people in California lived in cities. [3] By 1960, this figure had risen to about 90 percent. [4] Under such circumstances, the pattern of water use has changed dramatically.

[5-6-7] Population projections are derived from considerations of birth, death, and migration rates; industrial development and employment; and from data provided by both the U.S. Bureau of the Census and the California Department of Finance.

[13] In 2020, an estimated 54 million people will live in California. [15-14] More than half of the 38 million increase in population predicted for California between 1960 and 2020 will occur in the heavily metropolitan San Francisco Bay and South Coastal areas.

[17] Estimates of the acreage required for future urban development are based upon considerations of land use, population densities, and population projections.

[18] By 2020, urban areas will have expanded to six million acres.[19-20] Between 1960 and 2020, urban areas will increase each year by an estimated 65,000 acres--an area roughly equivalent to that of the present city of Sacramento. [21] Much of this increase will occur near San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara, Sacramento, Stockton, Fresno, and Bakersfield, and in the San Francisco Bay and Los Angeles-Orange Counties metropolitan areas.

Q & A: Slides 67-72

Slide #67: Before starting our final rewrite, we should consider how our text, "Population and Urban Land Use," relates to nearby parts of The California Water Plan. It falls under "Projected Growth, 1960--2020." The section following is "1960 and Projected Requirements." The titles of the two sections are non-parallel. How -- and why -- do we make them parallel?

Slide #68: How an outline sets up section heads can influence the way we write those sections. Avoid even minimal problems. The head for Section I suggests projections through 2020. That for Section 11 provides no end date. Supply it: 1960--2020. Then consider viewpoint in Subsection A, our rewrite text. In context, which seems our major topic, people or land?

Slide #69: When you concentrate viewpoint you clarify content. Because subsections B and C stress agricultural land use, we'll title Subsection A Urban Land Use, and rewrite any "population" content so as to present it from the viewpoint of urban land use. Then we'll provide B with a new heading, Agricultural Land Use, and subordinate the former B and C to it.

Slide #70: Our new sub-subsections (1 and 2) unfortunately retain their original non-parallel titles -- the first seemingly treating agricultural crops; the second, agricultural land. Once again we must change titles, this time making 1 and 2 reflect the revised title of Subsection B. How will the reader benefit when we rewrite text to accommodate the change in viewpoint?

Slide #71: Writing goes wrong in many ways. The tighter the outline the better the writing. Now let's experiment. Let's move the text we've been rewriting. Let's make Urban Land Use Subsection B rather than A. In the process, former B will become A. How will the change affect our final rewrite?

Slide #72: At the very least, the change will affect the first and last sentences of our final rewrite. The first sentence will have to look back to the Agricultural Land Use subsection. "There's where we were," it will say as it introduces our new topic. And the last sentence will anticipate the next section: "Here's where we're going." Perhaps you ask, "What about those heads and subheads? Aren't they sufficient indication of where we are and where we are going?" Can you answer your own question?

Q & A. Slides 73-78

Slide #73: Although heads work well for file cards, they aren't enough for text. Text ought not jerk from topic to topic like television commercials. It should glide as the canoe whose paddler prepares for rapids when their roar announces rough water ahead. Consider what you may have written about agricultural land use. What transition sentence might you place at X?

Slide #74: Your X will differ from ours -- perhaps a mere "Turning from land use, we...." Yet transition can allow you to add green moss to the sterile stones of fact, fact, fact which march down your page. Transition calls for imagination and can provide change of pace.... On the basis of 1) date, 2) DRAMA,_and 3) population viewpoint why might we eliminate Sentence 1?

Slide #75: 1) For reasons given last issue, Sentence 1 now begins with 1900 rather than 1860; readers will ask why. 2) The geometric doubling can't continue; stacked like cordwood, Californians would overtop the Sierras. 3) Our focussed viewpoint, urban land use, lets us drop a twice-questioned population sentence. ...How might we stress the time lapse underlined?

Slide #76: The change for once stresses the non-parallel. It adds interest by stressing the time lapse without losing the second date. (Anyone can add 100 to 1860.) ... Yet parallel works best most times. This figure is awkward. (To see why, replace it with 20 percent.) For a parallel construction, what percent ought to be the subject? And what (perhaps) should be the verb?

Slide #77: Twenty percent and ninety percent make fine contrasting parallel subjects. We've taken the contrast further by replacing the abstraction with people (few and most) while retaining the numbers as clarifying asides. ...Lived in cities is perhaps too exact an echo. Before tackling it, replace of the people in California with one concrete word.

Slide #78: Solve one problem and create several more. Our urban land use text fails to dramatize the contrast. Where did those 1860 Californians live? And how will that fact help us remove the grating exactness of the lived in cities echo? This constant interplay between mind and word, this carving of wood, this hewing of stone, is what distinguishes the professional writer from the writing professional. Every day, the competent technical writer employs the tools of the competent creative writer.

Q & A: Slides 79-84

Slide #79: Let's restate the problem. Were we to write Sentence X and Sentence 3 as a geometric proportion, we would find the proportion flawed: crops and farms are to PEOPLE AND CITIES as people and cities are to PEOPLE AND CITIES. No way! We must present the underlined text in terms of the outlined text. Do it.

Slide #80: See what's happened. The comparison and contrast within Sentence X provides parallel subjects, verbs, and objects Crops / make / state; people / make / state). So also does that within both sentences 3 Californians / lived on / farms; most / lived in / cities).Further, the latter sentences parallel the former. Clarity reigns....Considering our outline, why does Sentence 4 fall too early?

Slide #81: The text we are rewriting, Urban Land Use, falls between Agricultural Land Use and Water Requirements. A sentence stating "Under such circumstances, the pattern of water use changes dramatically "both looks back to our land use discussion and forward to our water requirements section. It belongs at the end -- not the middle -- of Urban Land Use. We'll drop it here; add it later.

Slide #82: Last issue, we condensed and combined three sentences (64 words) into this one sentence (35 words). Its two parts (from considerations...from data) are more closely linked than the words suggest. Considerations are considerations of data relating to... but the substitution shows the text to be redundant because the data related to is the data provided by. Fix the sentence..

Slide #83: The fix shown indicates deletions, additions, and A-B-C-D order of our rewrite. Our next slide puts it together.

Slide #84: Once again we face the problem of non-parallel construction. Needlessly, we classify three of our entries as RATES, one as development, and one as nothing. Each of these entries could be expressed as a rate. Do so.

Q & A: Slides 85-90

Slide #85: With the deletions shown and the italicized insertions made, each of the entries can be classified as a rate. (Somehow, industrial growth rate reads better than industrial development rate -- probably because it's shorter.) Go on the next slide.

Slide #86: Sentences 13 and 15-14 follow the population discussion just concluded;, they tell where people will multiply. Sentence 21 will follow an urban land use discussion; it tells where cities will expand. Clearly, the cities will expand where the people will multiply. Which of the redundant discussions should we drop and why?

Slide #87: Remember. Our viewpoint is that of urban land use. Thus we need stress only the increase of 38 million people. We can hold off stating where those people will live (San Francisco Bay and South Coastal areas and other areas cited in Sentence 21) until we discuss the expanding city boundaries. And we can condense what remains of 13 and 15-14. Do it.

Slide #88: With the deletions and italicized changes noted, we've made one sentence of two while reducing 41 words to 9 words. Now let's review what we've so far accomplished.

Slide #89: The essential elements of our text thus far read as you see them. However, the underlined explanation relating to the sources of our population projections needn't interrupt the narrative flow of the paragraph. In what three other places might it fall?

Slide #90: The interruptive sentence might better follow Sentence 13-14-15 and fall at the end of our paragraph. Or it might -- as shown -- fall as a footnote to the text. Even more appropriately (because less interruptive), it might fall as a footnote to Table 4, which reports complete population projections. You'll recall that our intermediate rewrite dropped the original Table 4 citation. At the time, we said, "We'll return the citation when we can see where it best fits in our final rewrite."

Q & A. Slides 91-96

Slide #91: Just as Sentence 5-6-7 cites the source of population projections, Sentence 17 cites that of urban acreage projections. Recast 17 so that its presentation parallels that of 5-6-7. By placing like elements in similar packages, you help your readers grasp your message more quickly.

Slide #92: You may have written urban development projections , but these could include additional high-rises and a convention center on existing city land. City acreage projections states exactly what we mean. ...Now: why might we consider population densities and population projections redundant. And which of the pair might we eliminate?

Slide #93: For sake of simplicity, eliminate population densities. The idea of density is contained within projections. But what about considerations of land use? If population projections are derived from federal and state data, then city acreage projections are derived from ... what? Employ a more appropriate noun than considerations.

Slide #94: Both sets of projections are derived from data. Say so.

Slide #95: What's "wrong" with the chronology of these successive sentences? How might we eliminate the problem?

Slide #96: We might place Sentence 18 after Sentence 19-20: Between 1960 and 2020 ... ; By 2020.... Declarative sentences retain chronological order unless they have good reason to avoid it. Make their math easy. The curious reader will ask, "Six million acres less 65,000 acres annually for sixty years gives me how many acres in 1965?" If you write the segments in A-B order and then answer that question, you can drop segment C. Try it.

Q & A: Sides 97-102

Slide #97: The slide rounds our answer (2.1 million acres) to two million acres. However, the underlined words continue to complicate simple chronology. Rearrange them.

Slide #98: We wrote: between 1960 and 2020. Then we wrote: to six [in 2020]from ...two [in 1960]. Thereby, we needlessly muddled those time-lines which our rewrite (left) unmuddles. But what simpler word have we been using for urban areas? And where do those areas lie?

Slide #99: The urban areas cited are California cities. Say so.

Slide No. #100: Again and again, we've said:Be specific!" Thus, we might expand our sentence by listing those San Francisco Bay and Los Angeles--Orange County cities. But Figure 13 (we'll cite it shortly) maps those areas and highlights those cities. Let illustrations illustrate, not duplicate. Those who know California should replace the underlined cities with an area.

Slide #101: The cities previously noted lie in California's southern Central Valley. Reference to this region is appropriate in a report directed primarily to California citizens. Similarly, we can replace the underlined words with another more-general region familiar to Californians. What is it?

Slide #102: San Diego, Santa Barbara, and the Los Angeles-Orange counties metropolitan areas lie along California's south coast. Remembering the map (Figure 3) that will face this paragraph, let's further simplify. Let's drop the remaining cities in our list. And let's change the underlined preposition. The cities will expand into nearbyland. But we must reword that qualifier when we replace cities with areas. Do so.

Q & A: Slides 103-108

Slide #103: The increase lies in --not near--the valley, and along--no near" the bay and coast. We ought to have caught the error when the sentence was longer, but didn't. Long sentences encourage such error. Slide #104: By dropping the words underlined, how might you combine Sentence 18-20 and Sentence 21? But hold on! If long sentences encourage error (and often sabotage the "plain English" encouraged by readability indexes), how can we justify the combination sought?

Slide #105: Justify? No way! Excuse? Maybe. Although sentence length in our final rewrite will range from 9 to 38 words, average length will be 16 words; median length, 11.5 words. Eight sentences will average 11 words; two, 34 words. Good writers keep average length short, but vary length to reduce reader boredom.... Can you make much and increase more specific?

Slide #106: As population increases, cities expand. The latter is the more specific word. In Webster's New Dictionary of Synonyms (Merriam, 1973), to expand is "to increase in size." In John Updycke's Mark My Words (Harper, 1949), expand "pertains to increasing from within."... Not just much of it, but most of it. ...Treat Sentence 17 as we treated its earlier incarnation. How?

Slide #107: The content of Sentence 17 parallels that in Sentence 5-7. It proves less disruptive to narrative flow if it footnotes rather than precedes Sentence 18-20. As a footnote, it no longer need specify city acreages. And, as a footnote, it ought to cite the table which provides the projections. OR: the parenthetical Table 4 might replace our asterisks, and the note move to the table.

Slide #108: We're done!. Slides #108 and #109 provide our completed text -- less the footnotes. We've underlined both our introductory transition (Sentence X) and a new transition (sentences Y and Z) intended to shift the discussion from people in cities to their effect upon urban expansion. What do you think of our transition? What technique, often associated with creative writing, does it employ?

Q & A: Slides 109-113

Slide #109: Through use of metaphor, sentences Y and Z (the city overflows) prepare us for this paragraph. The final sentence of transition (4) is that which earlier (in Slide #81) we determined to place here so that it looks forward to our next topic: water requirements.

Slide #110. Once again our outline locates the text we rewrote, IB: Urban Land Use. And once again we ask about its headings. Is Growth (heading I) appropriate for content related entirely to Land Use? Can Requirements (heading II) be made more specific? The closer our headings anticipate our intended content, the more likely we'll stick to that content as we write.

Slide #111: Once more corrected (and abridged) our outline now provides a word count for each major section: about 1200 words each in Sections I and II. But the form of our corrected outline seems to require a new topic, IIB: Urban Water Requirements. The author failed to provide it, and we're editors, not authors. Where have we erred? How do we compensate?

Slide #112: We erred early -- back when we chose (reasonably we thought) to emphasize the urban land use viewpoint in a section the author wrongly gave multiple viewpoint: Population and Urban Land Use (Slide #69). A water plan which does not project urban water requirements needn't bother projecting urban land use. We must reconsider our theme (Slide #112). And...

Slide #113: We must start over! Don't be disheartened. Editors and writers worry words like cats worry rats. We toss them in the air, let them escape, pull them back, maul them, chew tails and ears, go for the neck, blissfully dine. Those planning to become editors and writers will understand this. But what of future engineers and others whose jobs will require that they write? To them, we say:This exercise has explored the approach of the editor. Your approach differs? Employ an editor."

Trainer helpsheet

I rise at first light and I start out by rereading and editing everything I have written to the point I left off. That way I go through a book I'm writing several hundred times. Most writers slough off the toughest but most important part of their trade -- editing their stuff, honing it and honing it until it gets an edge like a bullfighter's killing sword.(1)

Few professionals who write seek an edge like a bullfighter's killing sword. An attorney tells me, "I dictate my stuff. Edit it when my typist returns it." And a psychologist who teaches at a state university says with obvious pride, "I rewrite everything three times." To complete the Final Rewrite of our present edit, we'll have recast most sentences five times. Yet we're -- all of us -- some three hundred edits short of the killing sword.

Would outlines help? Technical writing instructor Blaine K. McKee reports that of 80 STC members he asked about outlines, 95% used either topic or sentence outlines, only 5% used no outline at all.(2)

A Director of the California Department of Water Resources -- where our text was written -- for some years required report authors to use an outline approved long before writing began. He wanted to sharpen his killing s word early and thereby lessen the bloodletting of review. Among the outlines was that shown in Slide #67. It follows a form recommended in reference books such as The Chicago Manual of Style (1982) and Merriam-Webster's Compact Writers Guide (1987).

Like the Director of Water Resources, many teachers argue that outlines lessen the need for rewrite.

* In English Composition, we read:

"An outline enables [an author] to

see clearly the structure of his

plan....Instructors...frequently require


are due."(3)

* In Guide to Technical and Scientific

Communication, we read: "Formal

outlines often turn up as tables of

contents in finished manuscripts."(4)

But although such textbooks warn writers not to employ outlines as molds from which to lift a rigid, pre-ordained text, most outline advocates -- be they teacher or agency reviewer -- urge exactly that. Certainly this often was true at Water Resources. "You did not follow the approved outline," a recreation planner would note. "Do so!"

I once considered sending a rewritten report past a difficult supervisor by replacing its new section heads with approved outline heads dropped at random (but in "correct" sequence) among the reorganized paragraphs. Unfortunately, the supervisor retired before I could test the strategy.

Instructors who prefer outlines press them with dull competence, while actual writers dismiss them with creative zest.

* Here is writer William Zinsser (On Writing Well): "We are ... still prisoners of the lesson pounded into us by ... teachers.... We can still visualize the outline ... (I, II and III).... But the reader hears the laborious sound of cranking. ...He quits."

* Here is journalist Stephen White

(Written Word): "Having created the

outline, [this) writer abandons it."

* Here is essayist Jacques Barzun

(Simple & Direct): "In my early days

I prepared a good many...full outlines,

only to find that my thoughts

while writing would not follow the

track.... Connections that seemed

self-evident ... turned out to be

weak.... Accordingly, I gave up the

master plan...."

* And here is lawyer David Mellinkoff

(Legal Writing): "Some people

insist that they cannot write from a

working outline.... This group has

a special need for the postmortem

outline.... Put what you have written

into outline form. It may convince

you that you are not through


That's the best advice of all. And that's what we'll do in this lesson.

The shelves in my office library hold some five hundred dictionaries, grammars, language histories, biographies, and usage, style, drafting, form, table, and graph books -- all related to writing, layout, and printing. A few college texts, two dozen computer manuals, and a dog-eared introduction to high school journalism complete a collection which grows weekly as -- grazing on words -- I browse the bookstores. Not one of the writing books covers copyfitting.

What goes? Where must we turn to examine those useful tricks I learned 40 years ago as associate make-up editor for The Cleveland Press: "Cut 2 inches from the page 6 side bar!"

Try "Shrink to Fit." The Aldus Magazine article (October 1991) assumes what writing texts don't: writer interest in layout. "Whack away widows! Trim from the end."

Widows are words hanging lost at the end of paragraphs (as here). To gain a whole line, trim any nearby word5.

Trimming from the end was possible when newspaper writers wrote "pyramid style." Such text began with the point of a story and broadened to include expanding detail of ever less importance (as below). Without help from the newsroom, typesetters could trim from the end to fit stories into their allotted space.

Art Nauman, ombudsman for The Sacramento Bee says, "We don't use the pyramid. Such writing was dull. Our screens show what fits."

... Just as my screen shows me this page as I tap my keys and slide my mouse to copyfit electronically.

Copyfitting forces the writer to focus thought," Nauman says. "It's a creative mental exercise that requires clear thinking."

Where did I apply the process? Not to the slides (perhaps your first guess) but to the slide commentary. The three drafts fixed the total length of the slide text (113 slides). To place that text, I merely snipped it into successive pieces and fit them onto successive slides.

But the standard depth of those slides fixed the nine-line length of each Q & A comment. Otherwise you couldn't move down the page with that helpful 3-by-5-inch card.

Write long to read short. As with crafting a sonnet, chops till it fits. Let your killing sword slice a word here, a phrase there, till your longer comments just fill the nine lines. "More often than not," says Aldus Magazine, "changes forced by fit problems... improve the copy." Then, not fearing to let sunlight spill between, whack away at any comments whose lax first drafts end suspiciously on their ninth lines.

Aldus then explores electronic changes made possible by the PageMakers program.

1) Such as "tracking."

2) Such as "tracking."

3) Such as "tracking."

5) Or perhaps "set width."

6) Or perhaps "set width."

7) Or perhaps "set width."

"Tracking" is a PageMaker command which sets the space between selected words and letters from "very loose" (#1, above) to "very tight" (#3). "Set width" is a PageMaker command which modifies letter width in any point size: #5 is "normal"; #6, an "acceptable" 97% of normal; #7,80% of normal--unacceptable because obvious.

Instead of copyfitting to condense copy, says Aldus, you can cheat: track or set width. "If you're careful ... no one will be the wiser."

Having reached the point where I could trim no more, I took that advice last issue. I tracked about six paragraphs.

But Aldus and I forgot the sharp eyes of longtime Technical Communication editor Frank Smith. "Copyfit," he told me. "Don't play computer games." (Well, he was gentler than that, but the message was clear.)

He even said where to chop.

"Hold on," you may ask. "How can you plan where everything fits? Where are the typesetters? Don't they do the fitting?"

Not for this column. Beginning last issue, I set the type on my PageMaker. Technical Communication presses photocopy the finished pages.

"Why not work straight from the floppies?" you ask.

"We tried that once," Frank Smith says. "It didn't work." The difficulties are discussed by the University of Chicago Press in its Chicago Guide to Preparing Electronic Manuscripts(1987).

The Press found itself unable to employ the command codes which authors inserted into their disks: boldface, italic, justified margin, emdash, whatever. Such codes, unlike those for the alphabet, vary among computer programs. To gain experience, the Press for a short time converted codes for every electronic manuscript it received:1 in 1981, 10 in 1982, 20 in 1983. Then it became selective. In 1986, it converted only 15% of its list: seventeen manuscripts. By 1991, according to Press spokesperson Rina Ranalli, it was converting only 17%: 33 manuscripts. "These days, almost every book comes in on a floppy," she says. "But we have to assess which books are what we call electronic candidates -- books which we can publish directly from the disk."

The Guide explains: "Unless the publisher has a computer system that is compatible with the author's,... the author is ... the one responsible for entering the editing changes." Many authors can't read the copy marks used to request the changes. And many refuse to make them.

Let's now apply a RightWriter[R] grammar checker to our three drafts of "Urban Land Use."

Right Writer User's "Extensive testing of RightWriter's readability calculation shows an average error of less than 2%."

Column 1 of the table below reports readability indexes for the three drafts as calculated directly from the Rudolf Flesch and Robert Gunning formulas which we quoted last issue. Column 2 reports those indexes as calculated by RightWriter[R]. The RightWriter error rate [(Col. 2 - Col. 1) / Col. 2] averages not 2% but 35.4% for the Flesch indexes; not 2% but minus 4% for the Gunning. (A minus error rate indicates a reported index lower than actual; a plus rate, one higher than actual.)

Our sample texts include dates 1960), other numbers (Table 8), and hyphenated words (one-fifth). For reasons reported last issue, we must retype these entries as non-hyphenated words: nineteensixty, Table Eight, onefifth. Once we do so, RightWriter[R] "reads" them as Flesch, at least, intended. Its largest error (12.7%) then is relatively insignificant: it misreports Flesch readability by one grade level -- college junior rather than college freshman. Neither level is "plain English."

Worse, perhaps, Flesch (though not Gunning) doesn't find our much-touted Final Rewrite to be plain English. On the 100-1 Flesch scale, plain English falls at 70-50. The readability of our Final Rewrite, 39.2, is that of a college Junior.
            Actual            RightWriter Reports
Drafts       Index      As type(*)       As Retyped(**)
                      Index  % Error    Index   % Error
                       Flesch Readability
Original      19.9   34.0    41.5      18.6    -7.0
Intermediate  17.8   32.9    45.9      15.8   -12.7
Final         39.2   48.3    18.8      37.0    -5.9
Mean Error                                     -7.1
                      Gunning Fog
Original      16.1   15.3    -5.2      16.9     4.7
Intermediate  13.4   12.8    -4.7      15.1    11.3
Final          9.6    9.4    -2.1      10.9    11.9
Mean Error                   -4                 9.3
(*) But excluding the sentence-number callouts.
(**) Dates spelled out (nineteen sixty); hyphers cut (onefifth).

If you study the previous table, you'll find that the retyping required for an accurate RightWriter[R] calculation of the Flesch Readability Index lessens the accuracy of a RightWriter calculation of the Gunning Fog Index. That's because RightWriter wrongly counts the retyped dates as "long words" in the Gunning readability formula. (Though when it types them as digits, it fails to count them at all.) We can't fix RightWriters. But perhaps we can change our text to get a "good" RightWriter response. Let's try.

* RightWriter[R] examines writing

strength. It finds that our Original

Text is cluttered with passive voice

verbs, long sentences, weak

phrases, and uncommon words. It

finds that our Final Rewrite remains

heavy with passives and long sentences.

Although we may not agree

with this assessment, we can eliminate

all passive voice verbs. We

split three sentences into

* Then RightWriter[R] examines jargon:

words known only to specific

professions. As "possible" jargon,

it marks utilized, utilization, optimum,

migration, dramatically, agricultural.

These words comprise less than one

percent of our Original Draft, but

almost two percent (three words)

of our Final Rewrite. The latter "contains

a good deal of jargon." We

question the programming, but

strike agricultural and dramatically.

Our resultant RightWriter[R] Rewrite text (facing) receives the highest possible RightWriter praise: This writing has a strong style." I'm inclined to agree. RightWriter has helped us to a better product. The Gunning Index is now 7.1; the Flesch, 55.7; both plain English.(6)

Perhaps Alexander Friedlander said it best. He's the Drexel University professor hired to assess RightWriter[R] worth. "Technical writers ... could gain much benefit [but] novice writers usually lack the ... skills to make effective use of [such] programs."(7)


Acrazed gunman shot and killed Edwin "Wart" Drood early this morning. The killer, a local wino known to hate milk, eluded police when he staggered off the East End Overpass and plum. meted into the Susquehanna. The bullet dropped Drood as he delivered milk along his morning route. It passed through two quarts of whipping cream, entered the left eye, exited behind the righ tear; and obliterated the large wart from which Drood drew his sobriquet.


(56 words; Flesch Index 39.2)

[X]If crops make California an agricultural state, people make it an urban state. [3]In 1860, most Californians (80%) lived on farms;[3]One hundred years later most (90%) lived in cities[13-15)By 2020, California will contain another 38 million people.(*) [Y]Any one bottle will hold only so much water.[Z]Only so many people can pour into any one city before the city itself overflows,

[18-21]Between 1960 and 2020, California cities will have expanded from their present two million acres to six million acres -- most of it in the southern Central Valley, and along San Francisco Bay and the south coast (Figure 13).(**) [4]Under such circumstances, the pattern of water use changes dramatically.

RightWriter REWRITE

(164 words, Flesch Index 55.7)

If crops make California a farming state, people make it an urban state. In 1860, most Californians (eighty percent) lived on farms. One hundred years later, most (ninety percent) lived in cities. By 2020, the State will contain another thirty-eight million people.(*) Any one bottle will hold only so much water. Only so many people can pour into any one city before the city itself overflows.

From 1960 to 2020, California cities will have expanded from two million acres to six million. Some of this land lies in the southern Central Valley. Much of the rest lies along San Francisco Bay or the south coast (Figure 13).(**) The change in land use generates a change in water use. (*) [5-6-7]Population projections (Table 4) are derived from U. S. Bureau of the Census and California Department of Finance data relating to rates of birth, death, migration, industrial growth and employment. (**) [17]Acreage projections (Table 8) are derived from land use data and population projections. (*) You'll find population projections reported in Table 4. We derived these from U.S. Census and California State Finance data on birth, death, migration, industrial growth and employment. (**) You'll find acreage projections reported in Table 4. We derived these from data use data and population projections. (1) Ernest Hemingway, quoted in Jon Winokur, Writers on Writing (Philadelphia: Running Press; 1986). Elsewhere (and more succinctly) Hemmingway said, "The first draft of anything is shit." Winokur does not cite sources. (2) "Types of Outlines Used by Technical Writers," in Guide for Writing Better Technical Papers, edited by C. Harkins & D. Plung; New York: IEEE Press, 1982. (3) Charles H. Vivian & Bernetta M. Jackson; New York: Barnes & Noble, 1961. (4) Donald E. Ziffimerman and David G. Clark; New York: Random House, 1987. (5) Trim whole. (But then correct the sense.) (6) RightWriter[R] report, 8.3 and 54.1, respectively. (7) Report to Bob DePree, Macmillan Compute, Publishing 24 July, 1990.
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Title Annotation:part 2; includes related article
Publication:Technical Communication
Date:Aug 1, 1992
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