Worst sentence ever

Ever wonder what’s behind the Ethos CRS magic?

Here’s an example of how we deconstruct bad writing—and put it back together again.

Take a look at this sentence:

In determining the appropriate location, range and scale of suppliers to be included in the proposed Standing Offer panel arrangements arising from this Request For Tender, the Commonwealth will, in addition to the tender evaluation criteria detailed at clause 6.1.1 above, consider the extent to which any proposed panel arrangements will provide the Commonwealth with optimal value for money and with sufficient capability and capacity to meet its strategic outcomes for this procurement.

To tackle this beast, you need to identify the three basic components of a sentence: the subject, the verb and the object.

First, the subject. In this sentence, it’s right in the middle: the Commonwealth.

Second, find the main verb of the sentence. This is trickier. Half of it is easy to spot—it’s right next to the subject: will.

The other half of the verb is lurking after the prepositional phrase (in addition to the tender evaluation criteria detailed at clause 6.1.1 above) … consider.

To then work out the object, we ask, What will the Commonwealth consider? the answer—and object—is the extent to which any proposed panel arrangements will provide the Commonwealth with optimal value for money and with sufficient capability and capacity to meet its strategic outcomes for this procurement.

But what is the sentence really trying to say?

Surely the Commonwealth is considering suppliers that provide best value for money—rather than proposed panel arrangements etc. etc.

The rest is figuring out what else the sentence is trying to say—under what conditions the suppliers will be considered, what they’re being considered for, and so on—and then whittling it down to as few words as possible.

Here’s our initial solution:

In deciding which suppliers to include in the proposed Standing Offer panel, the Commonwealth will consider those that meet the tender criteria and are good value for money.

That’s much clearer, and certainly much shorter. However, although we’ve reached the core of the sentence, the details are, in fact, important. Tenders are tricky and necessarily legalistic documents. That means including certain phrases and words that, in any other document, you could leave out and all would be understood.

So perhaps, in this case, the sentence would best be rewritten as this:

In deciding which suppliers to include in the proposed Standing Offer panel, the Commonwealth will consider whether or not they meet the tender criteria set out in clause 6.1.1. The Commonwealth will also consider whether or not they provide good value for money, and have the capability and capacity that the job requires.

At Ethos CRS we do what we do because we want to make a difference. We hate the sludge and jargon that infects our documents, muddles our brains and makes important processes inefficient. Just imagine if every policy proposal, financial report and speech were written with style and clarity: our government would work better and our businesses would flourish. No doubt about it.

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