We non-native speakers don't have a native ear. How can we know which one is better style? Style is not something we can judge based on grammar rules. So how can we tell? Which one of the two bold parts is better style? Please explain why.

Requiring skilled professionals to stay in the country where they trained can help to prevent brain drain.

Making it mandatory for skilled professionals to stay in the country where they trained can help to prevent brain drain.

  • 2
    Generally, being more concise is considered better style, unless there is some specific reason not to be. What do you think the benefit of writing "making it mandatory for" instead of "requiring" is? It's a lot more words and you almost lose track of what's happening by the time you reach the end of the sentence. And "mandatory" is hardly an easier word than "require," so you aren't even writing using simpler vocabulary.
    – Esther
    Sep 5, 2022 at 15:21
  • Thank you very much. Do you mean that "making it mandatory" is actually bad style? Sep 5, 2022 at 15:26
  • 2
    It does seem so to me.
    – Esther
    Sep 5, 2022 at 15:27

2 Answers 2


Style changes with both time and audience.

What is generally considered good English style today for most audiences is clear and concise. The order is important; clarity is more important than concision.

Style is personal. Not everyone agrees. If I was rewriting and had written either of those sentences, I’d be asking why “can”? Why “help”? Why “making it mandatory” rather than “mandating”? Is there a valuable nuance in meaning between “mandate” and “require”? Do I mean “professionals” or “skilled workers”? So I might end with

Mandating that skilled workers stay in the country that trained them reduces brain drain.

Not everyone would make those choices, but most will think about whether the intended meaning is as clear as possible without unneeded verbiage.


The style that is best depends very strongly on the intended effect on the intended audience.

The context might also include such things as who is doing it and what form "requiring" and "mandatory" were to take. It could be a law, a social expectation, a guild rule, or any of several other things.

Note also that there is a very small difference in meaning between the two forms suggested, and that will highlight the difference in effect they might have.

  1. The "requiring" form emphasizes the action on the skilled persons. That is, the thing that is having the effect is the heavy-hand requiring of those people that they do something. The action is aimed quite directly at the skilled persons. You might have better effect using this form if you were speaking to a group of people who were short on doctors because many doctors had moved to another country. "We will require them to stay." Meaning that those who need doctors should reach out and prevent the doctors leaving.

  2. The "making it mandatory" form emphasizes the action of creating a rule. That is, the thing that is having the effect is creating the rule. The action is less direct. You might use this form when speaking to a group of lawmakers such as the representatives in the country's legislature. "You should make it mandatory for them to stay." Meaning the lawmakers should make a law.

So either might be preferred, depending on the audience.

I will curtail my discussion of the actual advisability of any such efforts due to the effects on the morale of the doctors (or other skilled persons) so retained.


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