Grade Levels II

I wrote two sentences recently that contain a paragraph of material each. They’re not perfect sentences, but their advantages over the paragraphs they represent make them fit models of writing that earns better grades. The magazine Mother Jones publishes a series of articles on counterintuitive ecological topics called Econundrums.

Grade-worthy 1

My favorite Mother Jones Econundrums puncture the inflated claims of greenness too often made by commercial operations determined to sell us something they pretend has big environmental advantages.

This sentence packs a lot of material and delivers it in a steady stream that needs no punctuation. Commalessness is not a requirement of good writing, but it’s good evidence of fluency, which I do require. Let’s unpack the sentence into its component claims.

The Unworthy Bloated Paragraph it Came From

Commercial operations are in business to sell us something. They know a large percentage of consumers would prefer to buy something that is kind to the environment. They will choose a green product over a similar but planet-killing product if they can find one. But companies don’t necessarily make the “greenest” products. Often they exaggerate the environmental friendliness of their products to trick us into making purchases that don’t really benefit the planet. Mother Jones Econundrums sometimes puncture the inflated claims of the companies that exaggerate their environmental benefits. Those are my favorite Econundrums.

Grade-worthy Example 2

Electric cars make me furious, for example, because their manufacturers pretend exhaust pipe emissions are the only measure of a car’s environmental impact, conveniently ignoring the damage done to the planet by producing the electricity in the first place, a huge percentage of which is lost to transmission line inefficiency before it ever gets to the car.

The sentence could be better phrased, but it’s certainly not as clumsy at the bloated paragraph it represents, which takes way too much space to spell out the same claims:

The Unworthy Bloated Paragraph it Came From

Electric car manufacturers claim that their cars are environmentally friendly. They claim that they cause less environmental damage than cars that burn gasoline. They support that claim by measuring only the amount of environmentally-damaging exhaust that gasoline engines emit when they’re driven. It’s true that their electric cars don’t emit gasses, but they are wrong to claim that exhaust gasses are the only way to measure environmental impact. The electricity required to power their cars is not environmentally clean because it can’t be produced in the first place without damaging the planet in some way. What’s more, a huge percentage of the electricity generated at power plants is lost in the miles of transmission wires from the plant to the charging station before it ever gets into the car. Therefore, claims that electric cars are cleaner than gasoline engine vehicles make me furious.

As I did at the close of the first Grade Levels post, I invite you to respond here if this is helpful, or if you feel the need for additional samples, better models, or even revised versions of your own paragraphs before or after you’ve posted them. If I can model better writing for you, I’ll be happy to try.

About davidbdale

Inventor of and sole practitioner of 299-word Very Short Novels.
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