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Peter Norton of NMS Wins Writing Contest (Marketing Memo, February, 2005)

Peter Norton, Webmaster at NMS Communications, has received a Barnes & Noble gift certificate for his "winning" submission to our 2004 Bad Writing Contest. Here is Peter's entry:

Termination & Cancellation of Maintenance

You may cancel maintenance at any time. However, in doing so your organization will be subject to the then current XYZ re-instatement policy regarding the licenses in which maintenance was cancelled. If maintenance is cancelled prior to the Expiration Date, you still qualify for all terms under maintenance until the Expiration Date. At that time, the maintenance on the licenses will be canceled & subject to the then current XYZ re-instatement policy. XYZ will honor your full current term of the agreement that has been paid in full. In term cancellations will not result in a check refund.


Contracts and other legal documents lend themselves to repetition and overly complex language.

Problem: In the above example XYZ is reluctant to say that they don't give refunds. Therefore, XYZ uses ponderous and repetitive language. Here is a summary of their termination policy:

  • You may cancel maintenance services (sentence one).
  • If you cancel, you will be subject to re-instatement penalties (sentences two and four).
  • Even if you cancel, services will continue (sentences three and five).
  • You will not receive a refund if you cancel (sentence six).

Revision: If you cancel your maintenance contract, you will not receive a refund, and your maintenance contract will continue in effect until the Expiration Date. Furthermore, if you cancel your maintenance contract, you will be subject to XYZ's re-installation policies.

Reread reports and email messages before distributing them. Eliminate repetitive sentences, and recast unclear sentences. Ask someone else to review what you have written.


Acquisition services: Are you interested in talking with companies about mergers or acquisitions? We will work with you to establish search criteria and develop a search process, timeline, and budget. Then we will present you with the companies that best meet your criteria. We can also make the initial overtures to the companies you select and set up preliminary conversations.

Monitoring services: Would you like to monitor new developments in a market or technology without burdening your staff? We can monitor technologies, product categories, or industries, synthesize our findings, and provide you with regular updates.

Winett Associates provides market analysis and writing services.

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