How to Turn an Awful Sentence Into a Crystal-Clear One

In the 1970s, a frustrated reader handed Roy Peter Clark an editorial that contained this daunting sentence:

“To avert the all too common enactment of requirements without regard for their local cost and tax impact, however, the commission recommends that statewide interest should be clearly identified on any proposed mandates, and that the state should partially reimburse local government for some state imposed mandates and fully for those involving employee compensations, working conditions and pensions.”

Clark translates this as follows:

“The state of New York often passes laws telling local government what to do. These laws have a name. They are called ‘state mandates.’ On many occasions, these laws improve life for everyone in the state. But they come with a cost. Too often, the state doesn’t consider the cost to local government, or how much money taxpayers will have to shell out. So we have an idea. The state should pay back local government for some of these so-called mandates.”


1. The reader benefits from shorter words and phrases.

2. The reader benefits from simple sentences.

Somewhere, George Orwell is smiling.

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