Makeover Exercises


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 Chapter Three: Two Common Problems


Makeover Common Problems 1.  Rewrite the following passage, intended for a general audience, removing unnecessary set phrases, transitions, intensifiers, and qualifications.  Eliminate any repeated information or overexplanation.  Change the sentence structure if you like, but include all the major ideas of the original.  Reduce the passage by half or more.  How do your revisions change the writer's voice?

 In conclusion I feel it necessary to state that our current welfare system for distributing benefits to the poor is none other than ineffective not because it supports that proportion of the people who may find themselves in need but because of the way in which benefits are administered, or misadministered, even as we speak.  Imposing demeaning need requirements (requirements that must be met before a person is acknowledged to be in need of welfare benefits) and regulations based on someone else's arbitrary moral beliefs, however they arose, on downtrodden welfare recipients is shameful and counterproductive.  In words of one syllable, why not just provide every man, woman, and child whose income is under a certain figure to be determined by policymakers in light of current fiscal realities with enough money to bring them up to the threshold figure so defined and let those persons spend the money in any way or fashion they feel inclined to spend it?  Present figures indicate that on average it costs fifteen thousand dollars a year to provide an average amount of benefits to a family of three--usually a father, a mother, and a child or a mother and two children, though other configurations are of course possible.  About half that money goes to cover administrative costs, which include enforcement costs on regulatory red tape or needlessly complicated regulations.  If we just gave those funds to the families in question to use as they wished, no strings attached, they would be better off than under the current system, which provides less support (because much of the money goes into administrative costs or overhead) and keeps them under the thumb of the government by making them conform to unnecessary and intrusive regulations.

Makeover Common Problems 2.  Rewrite the following passage, intended for a general audience.  Correct its over-simple sentence structure by combining ideas and clarifying logical connections.  If you need help, refer to Chapter 9, "Achieving Structural Variety."  Change the sentence structure as you like but include all the major ideas of the original.  How do your revisions change the writer's voice?

 Many marketers put customers to work.  This represents a saving.  The work used to be done by employees, and they had to be paid.  Customers carry merchandise home themselves.  They use their own cars and pick up appliances and furniture and even building supplies and these things used to be delivered.  Customers serve themselves in groceries and restaurants.  They are their own tellers in banks.  They assemble barbecues and toys and pump gas.  Many items are now sold by mail.  More every year are sold over the Internet.  This saves merchandisers even more.  Customers serve themselves in these transactions.  They supply their own sales pitch.  They fill in their own order forms.  They provide their own store settings.  They pay for delivery.  The merchandiser's role is reduced.  The merchandiser merely links customers and suppliers.


 Chapter 4: Finding the Right Words


Makeover Right Words 1.  Rewrite the following passage to provide an effective mix of formal and informal, general and particular, abstract and concrete words.

 About a jillion years ago earth's only natural satellite impacted our planet and rebounded into shallow space where it was captured in an orbital trajectory.  There it remains at the present time.  This conclusion is based on analysis of the composition of the satellite in question, which turns out to be greatly at variance with the makeup of mother earth.  Data from the lunar research satellite Clementine substantiate hunches that the moon and earth are of separate origin and tend to refute notions that the lunar orb might have broken away from the earth while both were hotter than hell, in fact in a molten state.  Other theoretical wild hairs, like the idea that the moon and earth formed at the same time or that the moon was sucked into the earth's gravitational grasp and captured in orbit without a collision to take the steam off its speed, just don't hold water.

 Makeover Right Words 2.   Rewrite the following passage to provide an effective mix of long and short, learned and commonplace, connotative and neutral words.

 Lewis Thomas characterizes cumbersome medical technology such as the now little-used iron lung, clanking artificial hearts, and various disgusting and invasive treatments we have devised for cancer as "halfway technology."  A key feature of this abominable technology is that it is based on medicine's abject failure to understand underlying disease mechanisms and administer directly to the root cause of the problem.  When root causes are ultimately comprehended treatment becomes blessedly economical and efficient.  Arduous nursing and surgical intervention to mitigate the symptoms of typhoid fever used to extend for long, weary months as the disease ran its course.  Now the sinister illness may be vanquished in a day or two using the comparatively inexpensive nostrum chloramphenicol.  

Chapter 5: Finding Fresh Words

Fresh Words Makeover Passage.  Rewrite the following passage to eliminate clichés and usage problems, correct quoting technique, and supply at least two original figures of speech.  For usage problems, consult Appendix A.  What effect do your changes have upon the writer's voice?

 Warehouse shopping clubs jump up and down about they're prices, the lowest available on more household goods, appliances, and hardware then you could shake a stick at.  These prices are real, not just an allusion.  To make a long story short, warehouse store savings come from low cost marketing and militantly plane stores stripped as bare as a baby's bottom where customers wonder up and down on there own.  The clubs advertise once in a blue moon and offer as few frills as possible, usually sitting paletted goods straight off the boat from manufacturers on cold steel shelves and selling them with almost no personnel service.  As a result expenses average a vanishingly small 8 percent of sales as opposed to 22 percent at grocery stores, which are themselves slick operators compared to other retailers.  Club markups are lower than a snake's belly.  Consumer Reports sites warehouse clubs' 10 percent margin, far below those at other stores, stating "less than half the 20 to 24 percent average markup of items sold in supermarkets . . . even higher at department stores, which typically sell items at 40 to 50 percent above their cost."  


Chapter 7: Definite Actors and Actions


Actors and Actions Makeover Passage.   Use a combination of techniques--naming definite actors, avoiding unnecessary abstractions and nominalizations as subjects, supplying strong verbs, eliminating unnecessary passives, removing interruptions between major sentence elements--to strengthen the following passage.  Change the sentence structure however you like, but keep all the major ideas of the original.  How do your revisions change the writer's voice?

 Public funding and preferential legislation that favor improvement in the fuel economy of private automobiles and trucks ought to be opposed by popular opinion.  The cost/load ratio of automobiles and other gas powered private conveyances such as trucks and vans might be vastly improved upon by mass transit options, whose efficiency as people transporters can be up to hundreds of times greater.  Lower maintenance costs and pollution per passenger mile, traffic reduction, and increased safety can also be gained from mass transit systems such as busses and trolleys.  Freight can be handled more economically and with less environmental damage by railroads and even air lines than by trucks.  Excessive amounts of fuel, even allowing for continuing improvements in economy, are burned by trucks, and expensive roadways and interstate highways are increasingly damaged by their overabundant use.  In an era when fuel reserves are threatened, traffic is constantly rising in volume and danger, and infrastructure damage is increasingly common and expensive to repair, use of automobiles and trucks should be curtailed.  Mass transit systems and more efficient ways of moving freight should be encouraged instead by decision-makers.  


Chapter 8: Coherence


Coherence Makeover Passage.  Revise the following passage to improve its coherence.  Be sure to use each of the techniques described in this chapter--making grammatical subjects name "known" concepts, adding transitional devices, and creating parallel and subordinate sentence structures.  Think about which technique works best in each case.

 Human beings' desire to have everything their own way was remarked on by Freud.  Darwin has light to shed on this trait.  Gluttony, lust, greed, and anger could help early humans survive.  More food might help a person survive and reproduce.  The tendency to hoard food for oneself and one's relatives would be encouraged by natural selection.  Whether the food was gained honestly would not matter.  Natural selection might favor those willing to fight.  They could cow others.  They could monopolize resources.  They could attract mates.  Now guns and knives make it easy to do more damage to others.  The old impulses still survive.  Infidelity is adaptive.  Males spread their genes around.  Protection and access to more providers are benefits for females.  Creatures strive for evolutionary advantage.  Passing your genes to as many of the next generation as possible is evolutionary advantage.  Early humans lived in tougher times.  Altruistic behavior is something we can afford.  They couldn't.  Many of the traits of the evolutionary winners have been passed to us.  Saint Augustine knew a lot in the 5th century.  He didn't have a Darwinian explanation.  Our corrupt nature was "already present in the seed from which we were to spring."  This was said by Augustine.

                                                          Based on Robert Wright, "Science and Original Sin."

Chapter 9: Assigning Emphasis

 Emphasis Makeover Passage.   Use a combination of techniques--nuclear stress, transformations, and grammatical bulk (in moderation)--to correct emphasis problems in this passage.  Change the sentence structure however you like, but keep all the major ideas of the original.  How do your revisions change the writer's voice?

 Objections to the elaborate packaging that has become a feature of American grocery marketing are partly right and partly wrong, experts say.  Much waste is avoided by this packaging.  For instance, American producers get a larger percentage of available foodstuffs to market than producers do in China, mostly because our packaging is so much more effective than packaging is in China.  The well-known problem of landfills heaped with discarded packaging is probably balanced out by savings in this area.  But marketing purposes are also served by packaging.  Not retarding waste but these other purposes are its real function, according to critics.  Deceptive packaging can make consumers think they're getting more of a product than they really are.  Emotional appeal is another aspect to consider.  Shoppers used to interact with salespersons in the old days.  Producers might even supply their food to them directly.  Now they wander up and down aisles filled with reassuring familiar faces--on packages.  The logo on Tyson chicken or Campbell's chicken-noodle soup is comforting to people who have never seen a chicken factory and do not know a butcher personally.  Their trust makes them buy.

Chapter 10: Controlling Rhythm

Rhythm Makeover Passage.   Rewrite the following passage, using a variety of breath units and stress-manipulating techniques, and a better balance of long and short words to improve its rhythm.  What effect do your revisions have on the writer's voice?

 Asynchronous processors are computer central processing units (CPUs) uncontrolled by clock crystals.  Every operation occurring in asynchronous CPUs can proceed at  optimal velocity.  No job must slow down to the pace of others to keep all operations in step.  You would think that a chip on which every job goes as fast as it can would be quicker than one on which one job is held back to keep pace with the others, but this does not seem to be true so far.  Indeed, although in asynchronous processors selected operations occur swiftly compared to a variety of others, the processor frequently must wait on the results of laggard operations before forwarding information so the computing process can procede.  But since no clock crystal must send time signals to each part of the chip, clockless CPUs can save up to four fifths of the power needed for synchronous chips with the same capacities.


Chapter 11: Structural Variety


Variety Makeover Passage.  Use combining techniques to provide a variety of sentence structures and breath units in this passage.  Choose some combinations to promote coherence (Chapter 6), to make nuclear stress fall on important words (Chapter 7), or to ensure that important ideas appear in major grammatical constructions like separate sentences and independent clauses.

Around 1700 the Comanches lived in New Mexico. They were a small tribe. They lived by hunting and gathering. Then they got horses. This changed them. They became fearsome warriors. They were called the “Spartans of the Plains.” They resisted European expansion on two fronts. They resisted the Americans. They resisted the Mexicans. By 1750 they controlled all of New Mexico. They dominated Texas. They ruled in parts of Louisiana. They ran free in northern Mexico. They lived mainly on buffalo herds. These herds were vast in the early nineteenth century. About 7 million buffalo lived then in Comanche territories. Horses lived there too. Those territories were home to about 2 million wild horses. The Comanches kept another 120,000 domesticated horses. These horses allowed the Comanches to fight effectively. They fought with Europeans. They fought other Indian tribes too. The horses allowed the Comanches to kill buffalo as well. They killed about a quarter of a million buffalo a year.

Based on Frank McLynn, “Spartans of the Plains,” a review of Pekka Hämäläinen’s
 The Comanche Empire


Chapter 12: Rules of Thumb

Rules of Thumb Makeover Passage.  Use the writing tips from this chapter to revise the passage that follows.  How do your revisions change the writer's voice?

 Under the principles of feng-shui, or "wind and water," a system for choosing building sites that dates from the Han Dynasty (202 B.C.--A.D. 220), the Chinese--the world's most populous nation--developed what could be called a tradition of mystical surveying.  This group, whose country is physically the third largest in the world, adapted themes from their three great religions--Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism--which included such things as the yin and yang of Taoism, the five directions and five elements of Buddhism, and the 64 hexagrams of the Confucian I-Ching, along with astrological lore, to determine the most auspicious locations for public buildings and private homes.  Before building began, a consultant called a feng-shui hsien sheng, or "doctor of the vital force" was called in to assess the landscape and lay out the site by studying the shape of surrounding peaks and hills, the location of boulders, the direction of streams and prevailing winds, and other factors in order to pick out a site that was aligned in various ways with the vital forces of the setting, the seasons, the elements, and the stars.  Sometimes the site would be altered on the basis of the feng-shui hsien sheng's findings to obtain results that would not have been possible without human intervention.  Trees would be planted, streams diverted, boulders moved, even hills reshaped in an effort to manipulate feng-shui values so that a building could be placed where the owner wanted it without incurring the risk of evil forces and bad luck.  Some have become convinced that the well-known Chinese expertise in gardening can be traced to these early efforts to alter the feng-shui values of building sites.

                                                                                Based on Witold Rybczynski
The Most Beautiful House in the World

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