How Not To Writte… A business report

We’ve all been there. The boss comes in at ten to five and says ‘Oh, by the way, we need a quick report on the [name of client you’ve never heard of] account… by tomorrow… you can get that on my desk for the morning?’

The horror! The outrage! The pint that was calling your name! The complete terror of writing a report that doesn’t make the MD fall asleep within three pages of opening it.

But fear not, we have some helpful ideas for making that blank piece of A4 into a report that’s the work of corporate genius, and not a pile of donkey pish that’s used as lining for the boss’s cat’s litter tray.

Do:

  • Number one rule in corporate writing, as in life and Starbucks orders, is KEEP IT SIMPLE. And (equally important for report writing) KEEP IT SHORT.
  • Number two rule in corporate writing – don’t laugh at the phrase ‘number two’, and then…
  • Focus on the important facts. Identify the key messages you want to get across and keep it sharp, snappy and sexy (…maybe not sexy, but you know what we mean). In other words, put an ‘executive summary’ of the really juicy stuff right at the start of the report. Your boss and the rest of the management team are busy, busy people – they want to know the really world-shattering stuff that’s relevant to the business and the client relationship…and then get in a few rounds of golf before lunch.
  • Know your audience. The same as you wouldn’t do a sexy strip tease for all your neighbours, same goes for writing reports – don’t show it all at once and be careful who you expose it to. By knowing your intended audience you can hone your language so they understand quickly what you’re banging on about, and usually get what you want. If you don’t get what you want maybe that’s the time to consider, ‘taking it all off’.

Don’t

  • Use it as a place to have a rant at everything that’s wrong with your job, boss or company, especially if you haven’t done your research and have tangible facts to back it up. Yes, we all know that Paul in Ops is a total dick but where is the empirical data on this? Have you compared Paul’s dickishness to others in the office? Have you tallied the results across all departments? Have you outsourced your research to see if it’s, in fact, a common factor amongst all Pauls? If so, brilliant – crack on, provide those statistics, show us your mighty pie chart and then you can conclude that Paul is, in fact, a dick.
  • Use the dreaded business jargon, it’s dull and makes YOU look like a knobber. No point in optimising your organic growth potential in a saturated market, unless you and Paul from Ops are collaborating on making a business porno. (See even Pauls have their uses).
  • Fill the report with hundreds of oh-so bloody exciting bar graphs and pie charts. By all means, include some data visualisation of the BIG insights, but don’t try and blind people to your woeful ignorance of this client by going bat-shit-mental with the graphs and charts – it’s not big, and it’s not clever!  (Unless it’s about pies, then it’s amusingly ironic, so crack on).

How Not To Writte… A 21st century person’s guide to wordsmithery

Words are a bit of a bugger, aren’t they.

We’re surrounded by words all day, every day. They tell us what to buy, what to think, how to feel and even help us to tell an office co-worker to stop using our organic unsweetened soya milk. We put them into sentences and paragraphs in a hopefully pleasing order and spend hours reading the words that people have sent to us… and then replying.

And yet, very few of us think we’re ‘a good writer’. Most of us probably don’t think we’re a writer at all. We’d probably scoff at anyone who said ‘Hey, you know what, actually you ARE a writer’.

You, [insert first name/pet name/embarrassing school nickname], are a grade one, genuine, no-doubt-about-it WRITER.

Feel free to take a while to really scoff loudly at this point (You can even look over your glasses at us with haughty disdain and try the snort of disbelief). Have a bit of a tut too, if you want. Let it out. Come to terms with the truth.

Done that? Good.
So, there you have it. We’re all writers now.

Whether you’re updating your Facebook status, filling your CV with proactive-sounding lies about your ‘business skillset’, or leaving a romantic message for a loved one on a scrappy Post-it note, you’re a writer.

That’s the good news. Hurray! Group hug/firm handshake/your choice of exuberant expression of happiness etc. But, brace yourself, there’s some bad news around the corner…

The bad news

You might be a TERRIBLE writer. Repetitive, dull, formulaic and utterly, utterly dreadful. But it’s not your fault – we’re all terrible writers these days, mainly because we’ve never been taught properly how to use those tricky nouns, verbs and adjectives to truly express our own deeply personal feelings, thoughts and ideas.

We’re taught to conform to a certain way of writing when, in fact, we should all sound different – we’re all unique on the inside, so why should our writing sound the same on the outside? [Editor: A good question, I’m glad you asked that. Writer: Thanks, Ed…have you lost weight? Editor: Shush, you, you’ll make me blush].

So how do you become a better writer?

*drumroll + fanfare + sound of the Red Arrows flying past*

START READING THIS BLOG!!

Sharpening your word skills

‘How Not To Writte’ is the modern writer’s salvation* (possibly). We’re going to take your limp prose, your predictable business emails and your dull-as-dishwater social media updates and help you avoid the common pitfalls and writing traps.

– We’re going to tell you the ‘Dos’ – the positive, brilliant and exceptionally sexy things you can do to make your writing more engaging, truthful and original.

– And we’re going to tell you the ‘Don’ts’ – the dumb mistakes, the unnecessary waffle and the turgid old guidelines from the school rulebook that you can rip up and forget.

It’s not a foolproof system (we’re not perfect writers ourselves, of course, one of us even used the phrase ‘diversifying our demographic’ before being promptly walloped with a whitebait. It’s ok, we’re not usually violent). But by dipping into these blog posts and taking away some of those all-important Dos and Don’ts, we’re confident you’ll start seeing an improvement in your writing and communication skills.*

Get ready to improve your wordsmithery

So, brace yourself, gird your loins (whatever that means) and get ready to dive into How Not To Writte. It’s packed full of writing advice to turn you into the writer you’ve always wanted to be.

Off you go then… trot along (or gallop, or canter, or whatever horsey preference of movement you’d like to undertake to hot hoof it over to a blog, with some words in it)…

Read the very first How Not To Writte post here

*LEGAL DISCLAIMER: If, having read this blog you find your writing to still be the biggest pile of soggy bilge, How Not To Writte takes no responsibility…