13 arguments to try next time someone accuses you of dumbing down (and 1 you should avoid)

November 12th, 2013

The most common objection my clients make to clear, concise writing is that making stuff easy to understand is dumbing down.

The question fellow writers ask me most often is “how do I persuade my clients being clear and concise isn’t dumbing down?”

Here’s what I tell them. Read the rest of this entry »

Readability: it’s not just about sentence length

November 5th, 2013

Fellow writer Daphne Gray-Grant recently argued the case for varying the length of your sentences to increase readability.

She quoted two bits of writing to illustrate the point – you can read her analysis here.

I want to look at the two extracts from a different perspective because I think something else is going on too. Read the rest of this entry »

Employee engagement: if you’re not asking this one question, you’re not really getting it

October 29th, 2013

Look, if you really want to “engage” your employees, don’t faff around with message maps. It’ll only waste your time, your team’s time and the CEO’s time.

What’s more, said CEO will begin to wonder why, exactly, he’s paying you to waste his time faffing around with message maps. Read the rest of this entry »

Communicators, is this why you’re not getting “buy-in” for your work?

October 23rd, 2013

Message map cartoon: "If this is a map, how comes I'm lost?"

So, have you ever developed a message map?

No?

Well you need to, according to a certain well-known organisation for internal communicators whose purpose is “to embed IC best practices and skills”. Read the rest of this entry »

The sobering truth about how your “readers” really see you

October 16th, 2013

Cartoon about engaging readers

At the Professional Copywriter’s Network Conference, leading direct mail writer Andy Maslen revealed he’d never written a piece of direct mail in his life.

Nope, he was proud to say he wrote junk mail for a living.

Why would an expert in his field describe his work in such derogatory terms?

Doesn’t exactly sound impressive on your CV, does it? Not really something to include in your elevator pitch, perhaps. Read the rest of this entry »

Six vital things you missed in your last comms audit (part 2 of 2)

October 9th, 2013

I love that 45 people who can't write get to rewrite the writing of the one person who can write.
Comms managers, when did you last measure how all those bits of communication get produced? And not just how they get distributed and received?

Let me guess, never.

Well, as I suggested last week, you’re missing a trick. Because understanding your team’s writing process could save you time, money and a lot of hassle. Read the rest of this entry »

There’s a massive hole in your corporate communications audit – and we’ll show you how to fix it (part 1 of 2)

October 2nd, 2013

Any smart comms specialist will have given some thought to doing a communications audit at some point.

A comms audit can tell you a lot about how well you’re doing your job as a professional communicator. Read the rest of this entry »

Professional Copywriters’ Network Conference 2013

September 24th, 2013

If you’ve booked yourself a place at the Professional Copywriters’ Network (PCN) Conference on 11 October, do come and introduce yourself. I’ll be sitting on a panel and doing a workshop on how to write like a human being.

If you’ve not booked a place yet, why not sign up now?

The PCN is the UK’s largest membership association for commercial writers. Their first conference will be a unique opportunity to develop your skills, explore new perspectives on copywriting and meet up with other writers.

Who should attend?

The conference is designed for anyone with an interest in copywriting:

- Copywriters who want to learn new skills and discuss the latest ideas

- Business owners who write copy for their websites, blogs and marketing campaigns

- Marketeers who either write copy themselves or outsource to external writers

- Brand and business writers who want to find out what’s going on in other areas of the profession

- Academics who want to hear from leading copywriting experts

Details of the conference

When: Friday, 11 October 2013, from 9.30am to 4.45pm

Where: Haberdashers’ Hall, Smithfield, London

Cost: £245.00

How to book: Online here

Good repetition, bad repetition

September 18th, 2013

The ancient Greeks and Romans certainly knew a nice turn of phrase when they saw one. In the first in a series of posts on rhetoric, Doris and Bertie’s resident classicist, David Pollack, invites you to experiment with the age-old technique of anaphora. Read the rest of this entry »

Five words and phrases that are guaranteed to make your reader’s hackles rise

September 11th, 2013

Expressing yourself clearly in a foreign language is hard enough, but how about expressing yourself clearly while also not offending anyone?

Last week, I ran a series of workshops on professional communication at the University of Cambridge. All the participants were new graduate students whose first language isn’t English and I introduced them to the “roundabout” nature of much English office speak. That indirect way we ask for things and give feedback that is designed to keep everyone feeling happy and good about themselves.

But it struck me that even native speakers can struggle to use language that builds bridges rather than barriers.

Here are five words and phrases that you might think sound polite and professional, but that are guaranteed to get your reader’s back up (this reader at least). Read the rest of this entry »