- On January 21, 2020
The head of our Health and Human Services department recently clocked in with a 61-word sentence about the Administration’s decision to ban certain e-cigarette flavors while keeping others. Here’s what he said. See if you can fully grasp it in one quick read:
By prioritizing enforcement against the products that are most widely used by children, our action today seeks to strike the right public health balance by maintaining e-cigarettes as a potential off-ramp for adults using combustible tobacco while ensuring these products don’t provide an on-ramp to nicotine addiction for our youth.
I got tripped up (and I follow what’s going on in the tobacco industry). Between the length, jargon, and equivocation, I had to read it several times—something you never want your readers to have to do. Most will bolt before they do that.
While there’s no one right sentence length—good writing relies on a mix of short, medium and long—usage experts agree that the average length should hover around 25 words.
Here’s what I would have said—in 4 digestible sentences:
We are banning most flavored e-cigarettes, the ones most widely used by children. By taking them off the market, we are ensuring these products cannot become a gateway for our youth to become addicted to nicotine. At the same time, we are allowing certain e-cigarettes to stay on the market to give adults a path to quit smoking other forms of tobacco. With these actions, we are trying to strike the right public health balance.
Whether you believe that is another story.