- On June 4, 2019
One of the things I edit most are sentences that include lists of points. We cram in too many. Take, for example, this sentence from a fact sheet about a company’s expertise in data analytics for the commercial real estate industry:
Our engagements range from predicting tenant turnover, to demand forecasting, to optimization of property usage, to building rating systems on properties, to retention predictions, to client segmentation, to matching buyers and sellers, to predicting best buyers.
My head is hurting! Yours could be, too.
A brain can take in only so much information, so I advise people to keep their lists to no more than three things. This is especially important when dealing with business jargon.
Here’s what I’d do to remedy the example:
· Drop a few items, particularly those that seem redundant
· Break the list into two sentences, and start the first with Our engagements include
· Make the list items in each sentence parallel in construction
This is easier to grasp: Our engagements include predicting tenant turnover and forecasting demand. We also match buyers and sellers, build property rating systems, and optimize property usage.
There are always exceptions—times when you can tack on a few more items without losing your reader. Here’s one from a recent study that we should all take to heart:
Research shows laughing can boost your immune system, reduce stress, help protect against illnesses like heart disease, and help you earn better test scores.
Now that is no laughing matter.