Grammar and Lists: The business case for consistency.

Typos, dense paragraphs, but also more fixable issues like inconsistent grammar in our lists can make our readers work too hard to absorb our message. We don’t want our readers to wade through lists; we want them to quickly skim them. In this quick, pre-Thanksgiving blog, we offer three lists with inconsistent grammar and quick edits to fix them.

List #1: Children’s Wading Pool Rules

wading pool

In this swimming pool rule list, the inconsistent grammar has three annoying (but highly fixable) issues including:

  • Too many items for the reader to absorb
  • Inconsistent grammar impeding the clarity of the list (and the safety of the swimmers)
  • Wordy constructions including passive voice and redundancies
  • Buried bottom line information

Consider this kind of edit which groups like ideas together and removes weak verbs, passive voice, and redundancies.

Children’s Wading Pool Rules

To ensure a safe and enjoyable visit, please ensure the pool doesn’t exceed 16 persons and follow these three core rules:

  1. Children must have a adult cardholder supervising and non-toilet-trained children must wear a swim diaper.
  2. Children mustn’t jump, stand, or run on the middle island. Duck slide rules include: one person at a time, feet vs. head first, and no climbing up.
  3. Supervising adults must ensure children don’t throw toys and tidy toys after use. Also, see the following items don’t enter the wading pool: barbells, kick boards, noodles, diving bricks, or personal flotation devices.

List #2: Whirlpool Rules

Wading pool rules

Similar issues exist with this ominous list and an additional problem with repeating the word: ‘warning’ and the phrase ‘may not use the whirlpool.’ Consider this kind of edit for brevity and consistency.

To best enjoy our whirlpool, please ensure no more than 13 persons enter at one time. Also, follow these safety warnings:

  • Avoid entering the pool if you’re a minor under age 16, under the influence of alcohol or drugs, suffering from heart disease, diabetes, or blood pressure issues
  • Ensure you enter and exit the pool carefully, avoid rough housing, bring no glass in the pool (or to the pool area)

To help keep the pool area neat and the water clean, we also ask patrons to:

  • Shower before entering the pool
  • Avoid the pool if you have a communicable disease or an open wound
  • Avoid changing diapers of infants at the pool area
  • Avoid bringing animals to the pool area
  • Leave food, tobacco, or drink out of the pool

List #3: Prevent Spreading Invasive Species


This final list becomes such an easy fix as the writer/editor kept excellent design techniques to help us skim with beaucoup white space, effective italicizing and bolding to highlight key ideas, and overall consistent grammar.

My only suggested edit for this otherwise effective list becomes that last list item. Rather than, Never move plants or live fish away from a waterbody, keep that ask consistent with Avoid moving plants (or live fish) away from a waterbody.

What we learned

See how liberating, quick, and satisfying editing lists can be? To recap, we’re simply:

  • Grouping like ideas/asks together
  • Removing repeated ideas
  • Reducing wordy constructions and redundancies like passive voice, weak verbs, and camouflaged verbs.

In doing so, we:

  • Save space and word count
  • Retain our readers by helping them quickly skim


Happy editing, and happy Thanksgiving. More blogs on brevity live here. 





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