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A good style should show
no signs of effort. What is written should seem a happy accident.
– W. Somerset Maugham
What was the writer of this piece trying to do? Do you think he succeeded?
This example shows how my top 10 tips can turn confusion into communication.
An unsightly appearance is created by the adhesion of road dirt and other particulates to the surface of a vehicle. The integrity of the paint film may also be impaired, leading to premature corrosion. For this reason, car owners are advised that their vehicle should be washed regularly, but in recent years questions have been raised as to the desirability of using large quantities of water to perform what is seen as at best a marginally important operation. It is possible, however, to reconcile the need to maintain a clean vehicle surface with the conservation of water supplies by washing the vehicle using a small container of water together with a hand applicator.
The vehicle is first washed using two gallons of a mild detergent solution, starting at the top and working downwards, taking care not to abrade the paint film by excessive pressure, with the most contaminated water being reserved for the wheels, which are washed last. Two gallons of clean water is then used with the applicator to perform a first rinse, followed by a further two or four gallons, as required, which are poured vigorously over the vehicle in order to create a rapid flow of water by means of which any remaining detergent and/or surface particles are removed.
Such a system is more convenient than it may appear at first sight, whilst giving results quite as satisfactory as those obtained by the use of an automated car wash machine, which typically employs 32 gallons of water as opposed to the six or eight gallons of water required when the vehicle is washed by hand.
Washing your car with a bucket and sponge instead of using the car wash can save at least 16 gallons of water.
You naturally want your car to look good and not go rusty before its time. But how can you avoid using 32 gallons of water (the amount used by a typical car wash) on what some people think of as mere vanity?
It's easier than you think. Just fill a two-gallon bucket with soapy water and sponge your car from the top down, keeping the sponge really wet and using a light touch so you don't scratch the paint. By the time you get to the bottom the water will be filthy – but still good enough for the wheels.
Refill the bucket with clean water, sponge the car again, and you're ready for the fun bit. Abandon the sponge: get another bucket of water and chuck it over the car in a series of well-aimed splooshes that wet every part of it. If your car is not too big, you're done. With a bigger car, you’ll probably need another bucketful.
Your car will be just as shiny as the car wash gets it. But you’ve used a lot less water, and no fuel at all because you didn't drive there. If the neighbours stare, you’ve earned the right to stare straight back.
The writer was trying to tell you how to keep your car clean without wasting water. But his message is obscured by clumsy construction and a pompous style. Most of the changes, which I hope you will agree make the piece clearer and more readable, came straight from my top 10 tips. Let’s go through them.
That’s why checking comes last on my list. Essential, but pointless if you don’t get the rest right. And the best way of doing that is to take something you’ve written and subject it to ruthless scrutiny using these tips. Painful? Yes. Pointless? No.