Archive for October, 2008

Why you should write for grandmothers and Martians

Friday, October 31st, 2008

I open every course I teach by asking participants what they find most difficult about writing. One of the most common things I hear is a lack of confidence when it comes to writing about topics on which the writer isn’t an expert. How can a marketer write knowledgeably about a complex new financial product? Or how can an HR person write clearly and relevantly about a highly specialist role in IT? (more…)

Seven ways connect with your readers by writing like you speak

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

In his “Manage Your Writing” blog, Kenneth W. Davis is urging people to be more conversational this week. It’s good advice, and writing like you speak is a great way to connect with your readers. So here are seven practical tips on how to develop a more conversational writing style. (more…)

What happens when you don’t bother to get a writer in

Monday, October 27th, 2008

This, from a full-page ad for Hill & Knowlton, who describe themselves as “a leading international communications consultancy”. I spotted it in the “Thought Leader Series” supplement, which came with a recent issue of “PR Week”: (more…)

Words that should be banned (or in this case just used as they were originally intended): Meritocracy

Friday, October 24th, 2008

So Goldman Sachs has announced it’s cutting ten percent of its workforce.

I’m not sure why the media has made such a big deal about this announcement – I was under the impression that the world’s greatest bastion of “meritocracy” has always had regular culls to weed out the “non-performers” and those who were “the wrong cultural fit” (for the latter read: “didn’t buy into the whole Goldman Sachs cult thing”).
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Tautology Tuesday: “Cultural arts”

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

You’d think that no one truly interested in either culture or the arts would use the tautology “cultural arts”. After all, the arts are a part of culture and culture includes a variety arts. Either “culture” or “the arts” will do – and will certainly be more accurate than using the phrase “cultural arts”. (more…)

Writing for your boss? Just begin with “Dear Doris and Bertie”

Friday, October 17th, 2008

Occasionally I come up against resistance when I’m evangelising for plain English on one of the courses I teach. And the most common argument people give for refusing to change goes something like this: “But my boss wants me to use fancy words and jargon – it just sounds more professional and I’ll hold myself back if I don’t play the game.”

I’m not convinced that your boss really does like your bad corporatese, but if you believe this to be the case, perhaps you might like to direct your boss to a certain Warren Buffett. (more…)

Tautology Tuesday: “Bespoke and customised products”

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

It’s not enough that you’ve bored me rigid with that overused tailoring metaphor, “bespoke”. By pairing it with “customised”, a word meaning exactly the same, you’re telling me you think I’m too dim to understand what you’re getting at. (more…)

Tautology Tuesday: how to avoid inflation when introducing a bulleted list

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

This week’s tautology is a phrase that seems to precede every bulleted list in every corporate document I come across: “include, among (or amongst) others”. (And the 2,444,000 instances of the phrase returned by a quick Google search prove that this tautology is, indeed, rife). (more…)

If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out

Friday, October 3rd, 2008

The title of this post is one of George Orwell’s rules of writing in his much-quoted 1946 essay, Politics and the English Language. And it’s a rule that business writers would do well to take more notice of. (more…)