CONTEND and CONTENT have totally different meanings.

Here is another sentence gem from The Birmingham News this past week:

Goforth also contented that he felt that Superintendent Craig might be getting pressured by certain board members to make that recommendation and not on his own.

 Whew!  What a mess

–First of all, CONTENTED is an incorrect word choice.  CONTENT, when used as a verb, means to satisfy.  The correct verb here would be CONTEND, which means to argue from a certain point of view.  Goforth is presenting the argument that the superintendent might be getting pressure about his decision.

–Second, as I often suggest in my business writing workshops, one of the THAT words here needs to go to what I call the THAT pasture.  THAT HE FELT THAT is just too wordy.  In this case, the phrase is also redundant because if Goforth CONTENDS that the superintendent is being pressured, then he feels that way, and it isn't necessary to say both things.

–Third, the last phrase in the sentence (highlighted in green) is confusing and not parallel.  I would reword this part completely to clarify the meaning.

–Fourth, whenever possible, I recommend using active voice (certain board members might be pressuring Superintendent Craig) instead of passive voice (Superintendent Craig might be getting pressured by certain board members…)

Here is my recommendation (on my own) for improving this sentence:

Goforth also contended that certain board members might be pressuring Superintendent Craig to make their recommendation rather than his own. 

Please let me know if you agree with my conclusions.  I CONTEND that they make the sentence easier to read.


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