Archive for the Uncategorised Category

United Airlines: how not to write an apology

Tuesday, April 11th, 2017

Airplane with blood spatter
Did you see United Airlines’ response to that shocking footage of a passenger being dragged off a plane? It’s worth reading as a textbook example of how not to write an apology. (more…)

Sentence structure: How to make your sentences much easier to read

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

Drawing of scientist holding a beaker

These extracts say the same thing but using a different sentence structure. Which one do you find easier to read?

Version 1

The use of polymers to produce prosthetic heart valves that have the positive attributes of current commercial and mechanical valves without any of their drawbacks, has been a focus of research since the 1950s. (34 words)

 

Version 2

Since the 1950s, scientists have been trying to use polymers to produce prosthetic heart valves that have the positive attributes of current commercial and mechanical valves, but without any of their drawbacks. (32 words)

 

The subject matter is the same. The language is equally technical. The sentences are of similar lengths (in fact, both are longer than the maximum length I would recommend for business writing).

Yet most people would say version 2 is far easier to get through. But why? To find out, we need to look closely at the sentence structure of each. (more…)

Empathy mapping: How to get inside your reader’s head

Friday, January 20th, 2017

Empathy mapping: cartoon of map with the word 'empathy' written on it

‘Who is my reader?’

It’s the first question any professional writer asks herself – or her client – before she sits down to write. (more…)

How your culture shapes the way you write

Friday, October 7th, 2016

cartoon of a world globe and restaurant cloche

We all agree that business writing should be clear, concise and direct, right? As any business writing expert – myself included – will tell you, you need to keep things simple, get straight to the point and ditch the jargon.

But what you may not know – and what many business writing experts also fail to realise – is that this attitude to writing is not universal.

In fact, the idea that you should ‘keep things simple, stupid’ is culturally determined. For many writers whose first language isn’t English, the idea that ‘clarity is king’ is greeted with surprise. (more…)

Business proposals: how to persuade at every level

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

cartoon of street signpost indicating two different directions
A student recently asked me about writing business proposals that will be read by a variety of readers. Here’s his question:

In a multi-level sales process, who is my audience?

I’m a leader with a management consultancy firm, and approving our work often requires multiple levels of leadership to read our work. Sometimes it’s the end user who does the reading and then recommends his pick to the buyer. Other times the top buyer does all the reading. In cases in which a writer doesn’t know exactly whom to write to, how do you chose which reader you should be channeling?

Here’s my answer: (more…)