I'd have written you a shorter letter, but I didn't have the time.

--Thomas Jefferson, quoting Blaise Pascal

In composing, as a general rule, run your pen through every other word you have written;
you have no idea what vigor it will give your style.

--Sydney Smith

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.

--William Strunk, Jr.

Computer scientists appreciate efficiency. We prefer to complete a task in fewer lines of code or less storage space (so long as correctness and clarity don't suffer). Usually this optimization requires further thought and effort, beyond our initial working version of a program.

So it is with writing. We all disdain wordiness, but it takes an author time and effort to pare prose down to its elegant, efficient essence.

This assignment: Find a passage of nonfiction prose writing approximately five pages (1500 words) long, and revise it to maintain the same content in three pages (900 words). Carry this out at two levels: Pare down the verbosity by rewriting individual sentences and phrases (e.g., substitute "many" for "a number of") and remove any content that isn't strictly necessary to the author's message (this will require you to consider the author's audience and what they really do--and don't--need to know).

Turn in three things: (a) a copy of the original passage (a photocopy is fine), (b) another copy of the original passage marked with your revisions, and (c) a clean copy of your final, shortened revision.

For a bit of extra credit, you may shorten the same passage still more by substituting appropriate diagrams, mathematical formulas, or itemized lists for the equivalent prose, and turning in that still-smaller version as well. But your original 40% reduction from five pages to three should be done in prose alone.

Further guidelines: Refer to the course reference sheet for other advice and requirements. It's a good idea to look over that sheet before every assignment.