Copywriting Tips

Business writing in a low-trust, post-truth world

1st July 2016|Copywriting Tips|

Our politicians have declared the fact extinct. You can say what you want, disparage the experts and claim to be an anti-establishment billionaire. It doesn’t matter. They know we’re living in a post-truth world.


Politicians lie because in the short term, it’s effective. In the same way that fun beats data, the well-told political lie trumps the fact-checked rebuttal. Politicians also have a single objective: winning the vote. Once in power they know they’ll be judged on what they do, not what they said to get there.

The erosion of trust is dangerous for business

Political lies work but they’re also corrosive. Survey after survey shows politicians are among the least trusted people in society. If you can’t trust your leaders, who can you trust? Even charities are finding trust is at an all-time low.

This is dangerous territory for businesses. IPSOS Mori’s survey at the start of this year found that only 35% of British adults expected business leaders to tell the truth. The Edelman Trust Barometer shows that while trust in business is at a post-crisis high, that’s only true for the better off. Among people earning more than £100,000 a year, trust in business stands at 67%. Among people earning less than £15,000, that falls to just 35% – a trust gap of 32 percentage points.


How to write an annual report

7th March 2014|Copywriting Tips, Corporate Reporting|

Many people come to this site looking for advice on how to write an annual report. This post is for you. We’ve assumed that you’re writing it for a UK public company but most of the principles here apply to any kind of organisation.

1. Work out your timetable

It’s a basic point but you need to give yourself enough time to get the report written and published. Don’t underestimate this.

Writing an annual report can easily take eight weeks or more, bearing in mind that you need to gather the information, produce a draft, get it reviewed (often several times), then signed off by management and (probably) the board. Then you’ll need to allow time for artworking, proofreading, printing and mailing.


You should have started weeks ago…


Eight steps for writing a successful white paper | Copywriting tips

1st November 2013|Content Marketing Tips, Copywriting Tips|

You need to think before you write your white paper

A successful white paper needs careful planning if it’s to achieve your business goals. Here we outline eight key steps to pain-free white paper copywriting. (more…)

Four tips for improving your sustainability reporting | Sustainability copywriting

31st July 2013|Copywriting Tips, Corporate Reporting|

Sustainability Copywriting

The best Alex cartoons skewer the City’s hypocrisy like nothing else. This cynical and outdated dig at sustainability isn’t one of them – not by a long shot. Even so, it does contain four excellent lessons for any company wanting to improve its sustainability reporting. (more…)

Three reasons that pie charts suck | Financial copywriting tips

10th May 2013|Content Marketing Tips, Copywriting Tips, Corporate Reporting|

Pie charts are everywhere. If you’ve ever had to present numbers, you’ve used them. They’re easy to create, look (superficially) smart and fill lots of empty space in your presentation or paper. I’ve used a ton of them, right up to the point that I found out they suck.

This revelation came courtesy of Randall Bolten’s Painting with Numbers. Bolten, an experienced Silicon Valley CFO, lists what he calls the deadly sins of presenting numbers. (more…)

Choose the right financial disclosures | Financial copywriting tips

29th April 2013|Copywriting Tips, Corporate Reporting|

It’s an inescapable fact that financial copywriting involves numbers, so I was intrigued to come across Painting with Numbers by Randall Bolten. As the subtitle says, it’s a practical guide to ‘presenting financials and other numbers so people will understand you’.

Although the book focuses on internal communication, there’s plenty for financial copywriters and investor relations professionals to chew on. (more…)

How buyers buy – the lessons for companies and copywriters | Copywriting tips

15th October 2012|Content Marketing Tips, Copywriting Tips|

One of the great things about being a copywriter is learning from your clients. The following was shared with me by Cindy Barnes at Futurecurve. It explains the process buyers go through when they’re deciding what to buy and – crucially from a copywriting perspective – what influences them at each stage.

This information can help copywriters guide clients through the materials they need to convince their customers. It’s also helpful for copywriters, when considering how to persuade potential clients to use our services. (more…)

Tautology – so good you said it twice | Copywriting tips

5th October 2012|Copywriting Tips, Grammar Tips|

please prepay in advance

Tautology – saying the same thing twice or more – is one of the standout features of business writing. There are three main reasons that it’s so prevalent: it’s often used for emphasis, it’s easier than rewriting or finding a better word, and it’s a sure sign that the writer hasn’t thought hard about what they’re saying.


Inspirational copywriting: if you want to inspire, you need a great story

31st May 2012|Copywriting Tips|

Inspirational copywriting

In the last year or so, I’ve had a couple of clients tell me that they wanted annual report copywriting that was upbeat and inspiring.

That’s fantastic, in principle. There’s every reason to aim high and it’s a good way to make your company stand out.

But here’s the problem. If you want to inspire, you need a great story. (more…)

Good copywriting needs empathy

4th August 2011|Copywriting Tips|

Empathy in copywriting - or not

This sign recently appeared on a gate into Marble Hill Park in Twickenham. Why does this fail as a piece of copywriting?


Good copywriting is more than just spelling

14th July 2011|Copywriting Tips|

Disney spelling mistake

Even Disney makes spelling mistakes

Many of the copywriters we follow on Twitter have been pointing out this story from the BBC, about the importance of spelling to companies’ online credibility.

Spelling is important but it’s only the most basic part of getting your story right.


Top tips for improving your annual report | Annual report copywriting

28th May 2011|Copywriting Tips, Corporate Reporting|

Corporate Reporting

Many companies see the annual report as just that – a report on last year. From this standpoint, the report becomes a compliance exercise, adding little value to either the company or its investors.

The best reporters view the annual report as their once-a-year chance to explain their company to the market. They understand the power of bringing together pertinent information in a compelling narrative, so that investors have a clear view of what the company does, how it has performed and where it is going. (more…)

Show, don’t tell – it’s not just for fiction | Business copywriting

14th March 2011|Copywriting Tips|

show don't tell

Show, don’t tell is the most common advice for fiction writers. It’s also an excellent – and often overlooked – tool for business copywriting.

Consider the company that claims to be a leader in its market. At best, an unsupported statement like this gets a dismissive shrug from the reader. At worst, it suggests the company is anything but. Does it mean they’re in the top three? Top ten? Which market? The UK? The world? Vagueness  reduces credibility. (more…)

Why your solutions are actually problems | Business copywriting

25th February 2011|Copywriting Tips|

Solutions in Lakeland

Solutions or stain removers? You decide.

Every business copywriter has clients who love abstractions. Competencies, verticals, footprint, added value – these words and phrases are so common that businesses use them without thinking.

So when do your solutions become problems? (more…)

Why good writing matters | Copywriting tips

14th December 2010|Copywriting Tips|

goodIt’s easy to believe that good writing has gone the way of the vinyl record. Whether it’s content mills churning out filler for the undiscerning or video’s plans for world domination, there’s plenty of gloom surrounding the written word.

In the business world, though, good copywriting still counts. It’s not just Leeds Building Society that thinks so. In Freshword’s survey of business leaders, almost all the respondents believed that ‘poor writing poses serious risks to their reputation, and affects [their] financial and legal risk’. (more…)