One of the best gifts you can give to yourself and a great use of that momentum you built up from preparing your apps for Round 1 is to get organized.
If any part of your life got neglected while you put all of your attention on your applications, then now is a great time to fix things!
Did you let the paperwork pile up?
Did you cancel any important appointments, like with the mechanic for your car’s regular maintenance, or with your doctor to get a check-up?
Have you gotten your flu shot?
Are there whole colonies of dust bunnies living under the bed?
Did you leave your dry cleaning at the cleaners for more than a month?
What about that unfamiliar charge that hit your credit card that you kept meaning to contact the bank about?
When was the last time you went to the gym?
Now is a time to break out that to-do list for life and get cracking!
In Snarkville, now that we’ve dug out from under the piles of essays we’ve been buried under, and happily supported many BSers on their way to getting those applications submitted, it’s time for us too to look around and see what else has been neglected.
There have been a number of posts that we started where we said, “Stay tuned for more later!!” including the start of a career goals essay review for LBS (OMG we posted that in –>June<-- and never went back to it!!), and a post where we asked all of you to weigh in on how a sentence should be written.
We’ve also gotten a number of essays submitted for consideration in our freebie review service here on the blahg. Much as we always would want to respond to those in real time when they come in, alas, the most typical tendency for many BSers is to only send them over at the very last minute, when there’s just no time to review on a freebie basis before deadline. However, we still like to respond to them – and we certainly encourage anyone reading this who’s got a deadline further out on the horizon to try it out. Send it in and see what happens!!
We’ll start with our own Catch Up with the To-Do Tasks project right now by talking about that sentence we asked you folks to comment on. Here’s the subject sentence:
It is the failing of liberal technocrats to think reason governs how people act.
We asked you to try your hand at rewriting it, and these are the suggestions you submitted:
- Thinking that reason governs how people act is the failing of liberal technocrats.
- Liberal technocrats have failed by thinking that reason governs how people act.
- Liberal technocrats are wrong to think that reason governs how people act.
- To think that ‘reason governs how people act’ exemplifies the failure of the liberal technocrats.
When we struggled with this ourselves (without looking at the attempts that you guys’d already made), these are the options that we came up with:
Liberal technocrats’ failing is due to their thinking that reason is what governs people’s actions.
Liberal technocrats have failed because they think people’s actions are governed by reason.
Both of those kinda suck. Maybe the second one ain’t so bad but it still seems cumbersome, and perhaps not totally accurate to what the original writer meant.
This was so difficult that we wanted to review the original sentence in context. The original article appeared on the Financial Times right after the U.S. election last fall, and since registration is required to view that article, we’ll extract a chunk of it here:
Mr Obama took office at a geopolitical inflection point. As he prepares to leave, few any longer dispute the fact of relative US decline. For all his high aspirations, Mr Obama was unable to stop the process. Can Mr Trump reverse it? One of Mr Obama’s core traits is to believe that reason governs how people act. It is the perennial failing of liberal technocrats to suppose human affairs are settled by rational argument. When people failed to see the merits of the case — whether Republican legislators, or foreign leaders — Mr Obama would retreat into injured silence. The world has been a disappointment to Mr Obama. When Vladimir Putin’s Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, John Kerry, the outgoing secretary of state, said: “You just don’t in the 21st century behave in a 19th-century fashion by invading another country on [a] completely trumped up pretext.” But that is how the world often operates. The US had done just that to Iraq in the 21st century. (emphasis added)
Hunh. Look at that. Those two sentences actually aren’t that bad.
It was some EDITOR who crammed those sentences together to make a hook for the article that caused the problems.
Seeing that, we went back and tried again:
It is the failing of liberal technocrats to think THAT reason IS WHAT governs how people act.
Even if you just introduced the word “that” into the clause, it would have improved readability.
So let’s examine what BSers submitted.
#1 From buffalo:
Thinking that reason governs how people act is the failing of liberal technocrats.
This sentence is in passive voice, which isn’t ideal; passive voice weakens the phrasing since it places the actor (in this case, the liberal technocrats) far away from the action (in this case, failing).
It properly captures what the original writer meant, but it’s a little cumbersome due to that passive voice thing.
#2 From OmManiPadmeHBS:
Liberal technocrats have failed by thinking that reason governs how people act.
This one is better because the failure is clearly tied to those who have done it, based on the phrasing (active voice). However, we will quibble with the choice of the preposition “by.” This is purely subjective, but to the ‘Snark, the phrase “failed by thinking” is just not quite as precise as we would like. It’s good, don’t get us wrong, but we want to have more of a cause -> effect relationship established, through a word like “because” or “due to” or something that shows what’s responsible for the failure. Everybody thinks. So, saying that the technocrats failed by thinking is just not as clear as we want. It was the WAY they were thinking was the problem, right? Not just the act of thinking itself. However, as a rewrite to fix the issues of readability, this sentence is pretty good.
#3 From arkanian86:
Liberal technocrats are wrong to think that reason governs how people act.
This BSer was honing in on that same thing we identified, that it’s the way they were thinking that’s the problem (“wrong to think” more clearly expresses this). However, saying they are wrong is not the same as saying they failed, is it? Hmmm.
#4 From Jack Ma:
To think that ‘reason governs how people act’ exemplifies the failure of the liberal technocrats.
This one best preserves the ideas of “failure” and the fact that it’s the thinking that is wrong – but the phrasing of ‘exemplifies’?? Not sure. Yes, we can say it is what the original writer must have meant, but somehow it’s pulling it a little off the center of focus. At least, for us.
For readability and clarity, we have to agree with what the poll results said:
@arkanian86, your version was the runaway winner!
Thank you to all who posted their suggested sentences, and to all who voted on them too!
The takeaway message from this exercise is this:
When you come across a sentence that does not make sense to you, stop and figure out what the writer is saying, and see how you would rewrite it.
Yes, that’s awfully interruptive to the flow of your reading. If you’re just trying to breeze through an article about the how last weekend’s games might impact your fantasy football , then it’s not likely that you’ll want to stop and rewrite a sentence. But if you want to get better at this writing stuff — which you should, since communication is critical to leadership — then you’ll make it a habit to do so.
And if you want to make the most of this downtime between deadlines, then dust off those to-dos and see what progress you can make in the next week, in tightening up your life and getting everything ship shape again.
We will be doing the same around here!