How Not To Writte…House Sale Particulars

The UK housing market isn’t exactly looking buoyant at the mo, but many of us are still looking to up sticks and put our house on the market. Whether that’s down to a change in personal circumstances, the need to free up capital or merely a lifelong search to find a mortgage rate that doesn’t leave you bankrupt and begging your parents for beer as payday approaches, there’s always going to be someone ready to nail a ‘For Sale’ board to the garden fence.

But how do you ensure that those nice people who can get a mortgage, or indeed the lesser spotted ‘cash buyer’, see your advert and want to buy your very own ‘mi casa’?

Do:

  • Point out your home’s selling points. Yeah, obvious we know, but remember people from outside your locale may be looking to relocate, so if it’s great for families, has low crime rates, incorporates a beautiful balcony or its own well-established vineyard, make sure you mention it.
  • If the house is ripe for redevelopment, investment and extending, let people know that it has potential. Some people LOVE a ‘project’ to work on, as even a cursory glance at Homes Under The Hammer on daytime TV will tell you.
  • Put the damn postcode on the advert. There’s nothing worse than trying to locate your dream home and realising you’ve been looking in the wrong ‘Middle Codswallop’, or that your ideal house is conveniently situated next to Yorkshire’s largest sewage works.
  • List the property’s best points first. Great selling points can include having a garden, a built-in garage, resplendent views of the countryside, large and roomy bedrooms or a brand spanking new Italian-designed kitchen that looks like it’s straight out of a brochure.
  • Include details of the parking arrangements and transport links, number of rooms, heating type and whether there are local shops etc (Ed: No need to mention the regular lock-in at the pub, or that your home is located equidistant to diddly-squat).

Don’t:

  • Say cosy, bijou, compact, or easy-to-maintain living space to describe your property – we all know this means postage stamp-sized lounge, where in one stride you can make a cup of tea/go to bed/have a wee.
  • Use the phrase park/city/area adjacent – any savvy buyer will be aware that this means you’re trying to extend the reach of a catchment area to include your property, which actually sits in the not-so-attractive area five miles outside the city.
  • Forget ancillary rooms and areas. If you’ve got a shed (and it’s staying) shout about it! Many a chap (or chapess) have been won over by the thought of escaping into the garden for peace and quiet with a copy of the Littlewoods’ lingerie pages and a tight grip on their power tool. (Ed: *makes mental note never to visit your shed*)

How Not To Writte… A Wedding Invitation

Weddings, eh. A social occasion much beloved by aunties, drunk uncles and teary eyed parents the world over – and for the rest of us an excuse for a massive shindig at dad’s expense.

If you and your life partner have decided to make it all official and tie the knot, you’re going to need to write that all important invite for the big day. Many months of preparation will go into making this day go with a bang, and equal amounts of care, attention and design skill will go into perfecting the ideal wedding invitation too.

So if you want to guarantee a speedy RSVP, and a lingering feeling that this is going to be the wedding of the century, here’s the lowdown on writing that invite.

Do

  • Be clear about the essential details: When? Where? What time? That’s the holy trinity you need to get right. Think ‘www or world wide web’, or ‘wedding will work’ if that helps keep this mantra clear in your head. It’s also probably a good idea to include your names, so people know who’s getting married. You can go formal if you want but remember your mates might not know you as the honourable Alistair and Archibald, so sticking with Al and Archie is just dandy.
  • State that you need RSVPs (Ed: for the uninitiated, RSVP stands for répondez, s’il nous plait, which is swanky French talk for ‘please reply’). Ultimately, just state somewhere on the invite that you need replies and, most importantly, by when. Feel free to include an RSVP card, so people don’t have to raid their drawers for lavender scented notelets (yes, these we are a thing).
  • Indicate if the invite is for the person or persons named only, or includes any ‘plus ones’. Standard etiquette is that plus ones are referred to as ‘and guest’, which hopefully negates your mate Sandra turning up with half the rugby club.
  • Be very clear whether or not children are allowed. It’s perfectly reasonable to have an adult-only do, but be aware that this may limit your guests’ attendance, or time spent with you. But if you don’t want the little buggers running round the dancefloor singing the theme from Justin’s House, make it very clear.
  • Put extra details like gift registries, directions or more info about the style of your wedding something other than the invite. You could even set up a wedding website, if that’s your kinda thing and you have lots of young, hip and trendy types coming along (Ed: get us – hip and trendy!). However, do ensure you also include this information on a standard bit of paper that can be passed to older or technophobe relatives who won’t know their internets from their fishnets.

Don’t

  • Be sappy and overly sentimental. Yes, we know romance is wonderful and you’ve found the love of your life and it’s all white doves, soulful sunsets and UTIs from all the shagging, but there is nothing more irritating to the rest of us than sickening displays of affection. We’re British (Ed: not you, overseas readers!) – so that’s reserved for dogs and John Lewis’ adverts.  
  • Use a font that’s so curly, antique or otherwise ‘fancy’ that no bugger can read it – you do want us to come don’t you?
  • Get so worked up about etiquette that you mix up your Madams with your Sirs, your ten o’clock with your 2pm or your wedding breakfast for the evening buffet. Ultimately, you want this group of people, let’s call them A, to turn up to a place you have chosen, let’s call that B, at an appropriate time, let’s call that C – and generally you want to have a good time. So ultimately It’s Dear A, Please go to place B, at C and we’ll have a jolly old shindig, wot ho!
  • Be too prescriptive – be it clothing choices, colour schemes or matter of arrival Your guests are here to enjoy your big day with you, not be part of a military siege to take over Marylebone Registry Office, complete with a SWAT team of ushers.

How Not To Writte… A Limerick

Yes, it’s National Limerick Day here in the UK today (12 May 2017)! The day is marked to commemorate the birthday of Edward Lear , the celebrated British writer, creator of literary nonsense and owner of one of the Victorian era’s most luxuriant and bushy beards – and the person who did most to popularise the poetic form we all know as the limerick.

Not sure you know what a limerick is? Here’s one we’ve just scribbled down for your delectation:

There was a young writer of words,
Whose prose became strange and absurd.
He tried to be clever,
With prose and whatever,
But his poems never quite scanned or rhymed… (Ed: bugger!)

So, if you think you can do better (and we’re pretty sure you can) here’s the dos and don’ts of writing your own limerick.

Do:

  • Stick to the strict AABBA rhyming structure of a Limerick. Your first two lines, and your final line must rhyme, unlike our tragically bad example. And it’s this rhyme scheme that makes your first choice of place/location so critical – if your subject is from Constantinople, you’ve got to find TWO more rhymes for that (Ed: good luck!!).
  • Work with the original conceit of ‘There once was a…’, or ‘There was a…’. These forms give you plenty of scope to insert names of people, animal, plants and objects… yes really! For example, ‘There was a young man called Bill…’,  or ‘There once was a venus fly trap/pretty young cat/anglepoise lamp…’ ok, possibly not the last one.
  • Make a rhyming dictionary your new best friend – rhymezone.com have a great one for free. You don’t want to be left bereft of a rhyme when you get to the end of your new limerick opus, so go through the rhyming options and see which word most tickles yer fancy.

Don’t:

  • Start your limerick with ‘There was a young man from Nantucket…’. You’ll be stuck for a rhyme that isn’t offensive or obscene and it will all end in tears, believe us. See also ‘There was an old man named Lunt…’
  • Although… there was a young man from Nantucket, who fell in love with a pretty pink bucket, they flew to the moon, and returned far too soon, as they ran out of fuel in their rocket… (Ed: good save with the ending there!).
  • Attempt to get Lear-esque with your imagery. Come up with your own style, try out as many variations as you can…and see which option raises the most smiles/giggles/looks of horror. Limericks, after all, are all about being silly, so knock yourself out.

If you’re feeling inspired, why not write your own limerick and send it to us… go on, you’re a poet and you don’t know it 😉

How Not To Writte… On Google+

You know that noise you get in cartoons when someone tells a really terrible joke and the obligatory tumbleweed rolls lazily past as the wind whistles all around? That’s what it sounds like when you log into Google+.

Google has brought us many brilliant and useful things – who, after all, searches for ANYTHING online and doesn’t use the Google search engine? Probably just people who work at Microsoft and are made to use Bing on pain of having red-hot pokers shoved in unpleasant places if they so much as look like they’re going to do a Google search. (Ed: *runs a Google search* “Do Amazon ship red-hot pokers that are compatible with Bill Gates?…”)

So we all love the Google search engine, right?

But Google+ is without doubt the worst social network of them all – there, we’ve said it and it’s out in the room! Phew, I bet you all feel better now, right? You thought it was only you, didn’t you? Even that little ‘+’ at the end is annoying, sitting there looking all smug and winking at you with its one little cross eye, twitching nervously at it contemplates whether to bollocks up your search optimisation.

Do:

  • Post your blog links and content here. Let’s face it, there’s only one reason to be on Google+ and that’s because posting your content and links on Google+ will help the search engine optimisation (SEO) of your web pages, blogs and digital marketing.
  • Post regularly. Because it’s all part of the one big Google family, if you do a quick status update on Google+, it’s more likely that your link will come higher up the search rankings – and that’s the pinnacle of your content dreams after all, right?
  • Use hashtags (# these annoying little finnicky buggers) to flag up your content – unlike Facebook, where using a hashtag marks you out as a prize tool, in Google+ tagging your posts may actually help you find the right audience for your latest treatise on why Fraggle Rock should be recommissioned (Ed: Good idea. Get on it, ITV!)

Don’t:

  • Try using Google+ as a social place to hang out, shoot the breeze and post the usual kind of chatty status updates. As a social networking site, it has all the ambience and attraction of a Wetherspoons boozer at 3pm on a Tuesday – in other words, it’s almost empty, and the people you DO meet will definitely not be your first choice of companion, drinking or otherwise.
  • Loiter once you’ve posted that update. Write it, stick in your hashtags and publish it: then get the HELL out of there! Stay around any longer and you may well be digitised and pulled into the Google mainframe to spend a Tron-like existence trapped for eternity in the HTML code of Chrome. Apply the Primark shopping approach: go in, get what you need, get out and hope no-one has spotted you paying £1.50 for your undercrackers.
  • Add anyone you actually know to the ‘Circles’ in Google+. This is Google’s way of grouping people together by friendship/work/customer type, and it’s all a bit too ‘sorting people and putting them in a box’ for our liking. Avoid at all costs, and talk to your real friends on Twitter or Facebook… or Snapchat if youse is like well young, innit.

 

How Not To Writte… A Novel

They say everyone has a book inside them (and we don’t mean in the ’embarrassing visit to A&E’ sense). We all have a story to tell, a journey to share or an idea that sounds like it could be worked into a passable novel.

But if you’ve just come up with the best idea ever for a chick lit flicker – featuring the forbidden love between a chocolate company owner and his down-at-heel cleaning lady – how do you get this blockbusting idea out of your head and into 100,000 words of tear-enducing literary prose?

Do:

  • Commit to writing, a LOT, and then some, and then some more, again… and wash, and repeat.
  • Learn the basics of editing skills. You don’t need swish software but you DO need patience and – in our opinion – rewards for getting your edits done. Chocolate works well (Ed: there’s a theme emerging here… ). Editing is not a necessary evil, it is just part of the whole process; you HAVE to do it – so make it as comfortable as possible.
  • Print your chapter or section out if you can when doing your editing. Plonk yourself down in a nice comfy chair, drink of choice in hand, sit back and relax. With whatever pen/pencil/quill you prefer, slowly go through the text, correcting the typos, grammar and things that make no sense. Does it scan, can you read it out loud, have you used ‘but’ far too many times?… But… when you get to the end of the section reward yourself with whatever you need in order to feel good about the editing process: biscuit(s), favourite TV programmes, Swedish massage from Lars…
  • Plan out the structure of the story, however roughly. With a few key ideas for story milestones you’ll give yourself a skeleton for the whole novel – you can add the flesh to these rough bones at a later point, giving birth to your very own literary zombie.
  • Make your characters feel like real people. Don’t just describe the colour of their dress/jacket. Give your reader a bold-brush-stroke idea of what this person is like and make them feel some engagement, empathy or emotion towards them. Human stories need rounded human characters – and when we say rounded we don’t mean Mr Blobby.
  • Start on the action – back story can come later. Engage with your reader and give us snippets of the back story and the ‘whys’ later on. In short, get our attention early or we’ll be tempted to turn on the telly and watch Googlebox/shout at Question Time.
  • Have a reason for everything that happens. Don’t introduce ‘colour’ to something if it doesn’t serve a purpose. It’s great that Auntie Flo’s beautiful russet red Manolo’s walked through the door, but if they don’t stamp on something, get thrown off at a disco, or describe that she’s kooky, it serves no purpose (take note, Dan Brown).
  • Write! Yes we know, prosaic, but you have to put in the time. And, yes, some of it will be bilge, but some of it will be brilliant too – write, write and write some more and soon the diamonds will start sparkling among the more work-a-day coal.
  • Get used to being ‘stuck’. It doesn’t matter – keep writing! Write anything. Write poetry, diaries, short stories, or a letter to your mum, but write something. Use writing prompts if need be, but if you’ve committed your time to write, then write, anything.

Don’t:

  • Miss huge bits of plot because you think your reader will know what’s going on. Nice as it would be, your reader isn’t psychic, so you need to give enough plot hints to make it clear what’s happening. Conversely don’t tell us everything – show not tell. No-one wants a novel to read like an Ikea instruction manual.
  • Be boring with your writing. Cardinal sins can include being too descriptive, going overboard with the adjectives (It was a dark and stormy night… ) or going into minute detail that adds nothing to the story, the character development or the excitement of the narrative – so choose wisely what to describe. Less is generally more.
  • Show all your wares up front (Ed: unless you’re drafting something for the ’50 Shades of Grey’ market). Like that unforgettable night at Foxy’s Exotic Dancing Emporium, the tease, the strip, is most of the fun… so take time to let us get at your goodies.
  • Attempt to hit your 3,000 words a day count whilst simultaneously having Twitter/Instagram/the news/CBeebies on a nearby screen. Get rid of all distractions. There is a time for inspiration (Ed: Late at night, after a few vinos, watching Michael Fassbender/Angelina Jolie), and there’s the occasions where you SAY you’re seeking inspiration but ACTUALLY you’re distracting yourself with YouTube videos of pandas on slides. Lock yourself away and (as we KEEP on saying) get writing, writing WRITING!!!

How Not To Writte… A Political Placard

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past year, you’ll have noticed that the world’s going through a spot of political upheaval at the moment (Ed: that’s putting it mildly – I understand rocks are now the go-to housing option: I fancy a little one by the sea, if I can just sort the indoor plumbing).

A UK general election is on the cards, Trump is in the Whitehouse, Brexit is looming on the horizon and the alt-right is on the rise – and that’s resulted in a lot of fine, upstanding and usually moderate people making a stand against the rising tide of populism in the world…

But if you’re gonna make a stand against the political status quo (and not just sing, Down Down!), you’re going to have to dust off your donkey jacket and go on a political march. And if you’re going to demonstrate, then you bloody well need a placard to wave around and get your political message seen by the masses.

So, if you’re sitting down with your blank piece of card, jumbo-size felt-tip marker in hand, how do you craft a placard that’s going to not only get you noticed in the crowd, but will also be so cutting and original in the power of its slogan that the alt-right opposition will disintegrate in a mushy pile of broken promises?

Do:

  • Write witty, funny or scathing slogans that will give people a laugh, and will also lodge in people’s noggins. For UK marches, using the classic ‘Down with this sort of thing’ slogan from Father Ted is always a winner – it’ll be photographed and posted to Instagram and Twitter before you can press ‘like’.
  • Keep it short, pithy and to the point – one hard-hitting sentence of five or six words will be easier to read and will catch a picture editor’s attention far more effectively than your latest haiku on the ridiculousness of Trump’s Weetabix combover styling.
  • Laminate, or otherwise cover, your placard with waterproof material! If you’re demonstrating in Britain, it WILL rain, your placard WILL get wet and your words will run –  and no one wants a soggy pole (Ed: easy tiger).
  • Check your spelling! ‘We want it here and now!’, is very different to ‘We want it where and know!’. Chuck your slogan into Word or Google Docs and do a spellcheck – there’s no excuse for bad spelling in this digital age, so let the little zeroes and ones do the hard work for you.
  • Use a hashtag at the bottom rather than a website, but again keep it brief. This is where size really does matter… and not in the way you’d expect. The shorter your hashtag, the easier it is for people to remember or to hastily type into their social media app of choice, while traversing the soggy city streets.
  • Consider accompanying your placard slogan with flags – bright, colourful, waving-about type flags with your message daubed across the middle. Who doesn’t love a flag, eh!? They draw attention, they look cool blowing in the wind and you can pretend you’re a Soviet revolutionary on a CCCP poster.
  • Consider a pun or play on a film or song title. ‘Let’s talk about…’ is a crowd pleaser, along with the classic ‘I protest at being a sign!’, but flex your pun muscles (Ed: are they connected to the funny bone?) and see what excruciating play on words you can come up with for your placard of choice.

Don’t:

  • Swear or use cuss words. I know, boring, but remember there may be children on your rally with you. So if you do swear, then for f**ks sake use an asterisk!
  • Write a very long, boring message – no one will be able to read it. As we said earlier, keep your writing short, sharp and to the point. If you can’t read it easily in the two seconds it takes for a helmeted riot police officer (or ex United Airlines security officer) to bundle you to the ground, then it’s too long, too wordy and won’t get you on the front page of The Guardian.
  • Use illegible or overly messy writing on your placard. We’re not expecting hand-crafted calligraphy on your sign, but people do have to be able to read it – an unreadable slogan on a placard is a pointless as inviting Nigel Farage to Notting Hill Carnival.
  • Just write ‘Hello Mum! I’m on the telly!!’ on your placard. Yes, you may find it amusing, but there will be at least 10% of the other marchers on your rally who’ll have had the self-same idea – don’t be that knob!

How Not To Writte… An Easter Egg Hunt invite

Easter.  A time of daft rabbit ears, waistline-increasing levels of chocolate and the perennial favourite that is ‘The Easter Egg Hunt’… oh and something about a bloke with a beard popping back up from beyond the grave to tell us how lovely it would be if we were all nicer to each other (definitely no bad thing, but we’re so over the smock and sandals look).

So, if you’re more interested in the confectionery than the theology of the Easter season, you’d better get writing some invites to your Easter Egg Hunt. We all know you’ve got to hide a selection of ovoid goodies in fiendishly difficult hidey holes but how do you make your guests turn up in the first place?

Do:

  • Put the date, time and place on the invite. Easter can fall at funny times during the year, so make it easy on folks and give ’em the blasted date.
  • Include a map, directions and any special instructions, such as parking arrangements or how to avoid George, your over chatty neighbourhood watch coordinator.
  • Include a postcode and directions for satnav-challenging villages. If you’re taking people ’round the back way’, do ensure there’s refreshments and shouts of ‘stop the clock, she’s found it’ when they arrive (Anneka Rice jumpsuits are optional).
  • Use a pun or two in your invite text to add some colour. For example, ‘hop on over’, ‘hip hop hooray’, ‘it’s an eggstravaganza’ or ‘let’s get eggsploring’… (Ed: no more bloody egg-asperating puns)
  • State if you need to bring your own basket (egg hauls can be cumbersome to transport) and if appropriate footwear is needed. Great Aunt Doris may need to re think her 4″ Manolos.
  • Be aware that, for some, Easter is a highly religious experience and many may be fasting. Also, bear in mind that for others it’s a ready excuse to smear themselves with the melted remains of a bumper-size chocolate bunny – either way, be respectable and cater for all.

Don’t:

  • Leave the word ‘Easter’ out of your invite – unless you want apocalyptic style abuse from your neighbours and Theresa May camping outside with a ‘down with this kind of thing’ placard. Forgetting to mention Easter in their ad copy got the lovely people at The National Trust and Cadbury (please send us free chocolate eggs!) into a spot of bother recently, so we’d advise titling your ovoid-hunting extravaganza an ‘Easter egg hunt’ – unless your idea of fun is being chased down the high street by a rabid mob of irate Christians and Daily Mail readers (cue Benny Hill-style chase).
  • Promise creme eggs or mini eggs on your invite: some egg fancier always buys them up in bulk in February and you’ll be left bereft, embarrassed and scrabbling round the shops, with nothing but Marmite and Pot Noodle eggs to appease your assembled throng.
  • Use this as the time to try out your Dan Brown-level of clue mastery. No-one wants to spend three hours working out that your clue ‘where sun and sand at happier times did meet’ refers to your ornamental glass paperweight from the Isle of Wight.
  • Make your egg hunt adult-themed and smutty – well, not unless it’s an adult party and all the eggs are the vibrating kind (Ed: could add a buzz to the party).
  • However tempting it may be, use a walking app to make your ‘trail’ look like a penis. Stick with an Easter Egg – it’s easier to draw and less likely to cause any neighbour envy (tip – you can make it as huge as you want 😉 ).

How Not To Writte… Private Messages

Be it Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, private messaging can be a great way of sharing content and keeping in touch with fellow users, whilst keeping your public profile free of ‘random chat’ and messages best left to the private sphere.

This of course includes all those random drunk Friday night chats all about your private ‘spheres’…and we’ve all had a few of THOSE conversations, right (Ed: speak for yourself)

Do:

  • Be aware that even though something is ‘private’ any messages can be ‘screen grabbed’.
  • Check, check and check again who you’re messaging. Be sure you know who you’re actually talking to. Is it a generic corporate account, a real live person or a sex bot? All require very different approaches.
  • Remember just because you sent a PM/DM, it won’t always stay private – everything can be copied and pasted complete with your profile picture.
  • Remember other people may ‘accidentally’ access users accounts, so if your messaging is particularly fruity/honest/libellous, check the way the recipient is responding. Is the language they’re using the same? Is the use of emojis, tone and sayings the same? In short, are you talking to the right person?
  • Keep things brief. Messaging is not the medium for a 1,400 word essay on your subject of choice. Think along the lines of Twitter, 140 characters, and make them work for you. Most people are reading messages on smaller screens, so constant scrolling means the important part of your message may be lost.
  • Remember when to leave/stop. This goes for PMing a company, your celeb crush on Instagram or your newest friend on Facebook – keep them wanting more. Plus, you know, RSI is on the rise, so give your digits a rest.
  • Try to understand how the different PM/DMs work across social media.
    • Twitter – great for ‘quick’ chats or when you need to share details with a company to resolve a complaint.
    • Facebook – for friends, use the messenger app. It’s good for longer conversations, much like Skype, but be wary of the obligatory ‘online’ status – there’s no way of turning it off, so everyone knows you’re online.
    • Instagram – well, no one really uses it, as it’s really just a quick way to send an Instagram post link to someone else. In our opinion, Instagram isn’t really set up to be an ‘interactive’ tool, it’s much more designed to show off your ‘tools’.
    • Skype – a real chat client, similar to WhatsApp. You can create groups and chat to one person, or several people, at a time. It’s easy to make yourself ‘invisible’ (always handy) but predominantly used for quick text messages, sending pics or video chatting for free across the world.
    • Find a social media app that works for you and your recipient; they all have pros and cons, so use one that supports your needs.

Don’t:

  • Whatever you do, don’t PM, DM or otherwise attempt direct contact with celebrities. It doesn’t matter that they waved to you that time in Sainsbury’s, or that they ‘liked’ or replied to a post of yours. You won’t come across as a friendly fan or fellow ‘creative type’, you will come across as a psychopathic stalker.
  • Straight men approaching females – don’t have your opening message say ‘Hey hot chick, wanna look at my dick’. We can assure you that 99.9% of women have no desire to see it, hear about it or do anything with it.
  • In fact, straight men approaching women – be very very careful what you message ladies.  Don’t, for example, approach someone you’ve only just started following and have barely responded to with the classic ‘hey girl, wanna hang?’. At best you’re likely to be sent a gif of a hangman’s noose.
  • Don’t assume you’ll get an immediate response. People are online at different times, or may be doing different things, or may need to think before formulating a response. Be patient. Be calm. In essence, be Yoda.
  • With this is mind, don’t hassle people if you ‘see’ they’re online but aren’t responding to you. Give them a break, they may be logged on for a specific reason, which may not include you. If you are real proper buddies then you may have their number and if it’s an emergency you can ring them, but otherwise don’t demand their attention all the time.
  • For heaven’s sake, don’t rant, rage and swear at a recipient, regardless of how frustrated you may be. Try to remain calm and state your issues and needs appropriately. In fact, wherever possible try not to respond if you’re seeing red – it never ends well.

 

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…