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1backwriting guidelines next contentsMay 2014
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2backwriting guidelines next contentsMay 2014
Letter from Stephen Kaye 	 3
Why we’ve developed our tone of voice	 4
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3backwriting guidelines next contentsMay 2014
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  1. 1. 1backwriting guidelines next contentsMay 2014 life Bringing our brand to to write for Hay Group How
  2. 2. 2backwriting guidelines next contentsMay 2014 Letter from Stephen Kaye 3 Why we’ve developed our tone of voice 4 Start with why 5 Our writing guidelines 7 Be insightful 8 Be committed 9 Be courageous 10 Be helpful 12 Be empathetic 15 Putting it into practice 16 Glossary: good words to use 21 Contents
  3. 3. 3backwriting guidelines next contentsMay 2014 Hello I’m really pleased to introduce Hay Group’s new tone of voice guidelines – which explain how we bring our brand to life in the way that we write. Giving our clients what they want It’s tempting to fall back on familiar language. Sometimes it feels natural to use long and complicated words to get our ideas across.The difficult truth is that this isn’t what our clients want.They want us to inform, inspire and improve their businesses.That means explaining what we know in a way that makes sense to our clients (and colleagues). And it means showing the results, not just how you got there. We show our work off the best when we explain our knowledge in a way that’s right for the client. This email from a business leader sums it up: ‘A few words on what I look for from a remuneration consultant: Let me start with what I do not want – a lot of data which I then have to make sense of and draw conclusions from. So what do I want: 1. Answers from a professional I can trust. Or to put it another way, I want a professional that can transform data into information and knowledge, which I can then use to do my job. I neither have the time nor the inclination to become an expert or to draw my own conclusions. 2. However, I do require the logic to be sufficiently well laid out that the thinking can be challenged, if appropriate. I want to be fully armed when I come to do my job, which is to get buy in from board colleagues, management and ultimately shareholders. 3. Put simply I want either salary recommendations together with the supporting logic to consider, or alternatives with the pros and cons.’ (Francis Gugen, consultant, investor and ex CEO for Western Europe of energy company, Hess Corporation) Whatever your role, whatever your country, this tone of voice is for you. Take it, use it, and together we can make Hay Group even stronger and better. Stephen Kaye, President and CEO
  4. 4. 4backwriting guidelines next contentsMay 2014 To reach our 2020 goal – to be the ‘go-to’ advisory firm for people and work – everything we do needs to be in line with our brand and our values. These tone of voice guidelines will help our brand shine through in our writing: every email, every proposal, every policy. All our documents should reflect our values, and show how we bring them to life. Why we know it works We developed our tone of voice by looking at some of the big thinkers in business today. We were inspired by the ethnographer Simon Sinek and his call to businesses to stand out from the crowd. And we looked at the work of Richard Boyatzis to see how our guidelines fit with his ideas about resonant leadership. We also took Daniel Kahneman’s work into account. He suggests you should make your writing as clear as possible so that the reader doesn’t have to strain their thinking to follow it. He calls this‘cognitive ease.’ Why we want to use it “My clients want lots of details.” “I need to use long words to sound credible.” “It’s not broken, why do we need to fix it?” It’s true that we get great results for our clients, and we build positive relationships between colleagues all the time. We also have to be willing to adapt. We work in a crowded market. Every other consulting firm talks about how much they know, how much experience they have, why they’re the most trusted... That’s why we need to sound different. We need to stand out from the crowd. Why we’ve developed our tone of voice It’s part of our new brand. And we wouldn’t ask you to do it if we didn’t think it would make a difference. About Daniel Kahneman Daniel Kahneman is an American psychologist and is known for his work on the psychology of judgment and decision making, behavioral economics and hedonic psychology. His book Thinking, Fast and Slow, published in 2011, explains how humans think. In 2002 he won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his‘prospect theory’which argues that we fear loss more than we value gain.
  5. 5. 5backwriting guidelines next contentsMay 2014 A few years ago the ethnographer Simon Sinek looked into what great leaders do to inspire others. He put his findings in a book (and the second-most-watched TED talk of all time). He found that those leaders did one thing that nobody else did: they started with why. According to Sinek, everyone else talked about what they do, and how they do it. Start with why An example he gave was Apple. Their ‘what’ is that they make great computers. Their ‘how’ is that their products are beautifully designed and user friendly. But it’s their ‘why’ that makes them stand out: We believe in thinking differently. About Simon Sinek Simon Sinek is a trained ethnographer. He’s the author of two books: the global bestsellers Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action and Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t. He analyzed the leaders who make the biggest impact in their organizations and the companies that have the biggest impact on the world. He found patterns in the ways they think, act and communicate, and in the environments where people operate at their best. Sinek has presented his views on business and leadership to leaders and organizations including: 3M, Disney, KPMG, Pfizer, NBC/Universal, jetBlue, the military, government agencies and entrepreneurs. You can listen to him here.
  6. 6. 6backwriting guidelines next contentsMay 2014 ‘Start with why’ is our main writing principle. It’s about taking the focus away from what we do and how we do it, and tapping into why we do it. For us, more often than not, the why is about helping businesses achieve more through their people. And we should always approach our writing with that in mind. It’s about starting with the client, and taking an‘outside-in’approach. How you do it depends on the purpose of your writing. What does this mean for us? If you’re explaining or informing Think about why you’re writing. In other words, what’s the most important or interesting thing you want to get across? An example: What: I’d like you to fill in this survey. How: Click the link in this email. Why: We want to get better at what we do. If you’re persuading or inspiring Think about why readers should buy in to what you’re saying. What’s the benefit to them? Some examples: What: We’ve got over 30 years’experience in employee opinion research. How: We’ll help your leaders and managers increase your organization’s performance with our knowledge of employee engagement. Why: We can help your business achieve more by making sure your people are engaged. What: We’ve got over 70 years of experience in compensation, talent and role clarification. How: We use a variety of consulting approaches and services. Why: We’ll help you succeed by making sure you get the right people in the right roles, being paid the right amount. Starting with why is our main writing principle. But there are plenty of other things we can do to give our writing more impact. These guidelines will show you how to write in our tone, all the time, but here’s a summary you can refer to if you’re in a rush: Quick-start guide Here are the main things to do every time you write: 1. Start with why. That’s either the most important or interesting point you’re trying to make, or the benefit to your reader. 2. Say what you think. And back it up with our knowledge and research. 3. Add a call to action. What do you want your reader to do? 4. Tell it like it is. And if there’s a negative thing to say, talk about how you’ll help people overcome it. 5. Use everyday language. Would an intelligent person from outside our industry understand? 6. Make it personal. Say you, we, us (not clients, Hay Group, human resources/capital).
  7. 7. 7backwriting guidelines next contentsMay 2014 Our writing guidelines The way we write is based on our brand personality and our values. Insightful Committed Courageous Helpful Empathetic Our guidelines will take you through how each value applies to language.
  8. 8. 8backwriting guidelines next contentsMay 2014 Why do it? We’re proud of our knowledge and research. We’ve got decades of experience. And we work with some of the best people in the business. But to stand out from the crowd, we need to showcase what we offer: our expert advice and insight, our ability to apply what we know, our access to data and long research history. We’re perceptive and curious, looking for things and often discovering what others don’t. How to do it • Say what you think. • Say why you think it. • Say it straight. Say what you think Our clients have hired us to tell them what they don’t already know. So give opinions (not just observations). And recommendations (not just options). And do it at the start. Our readers shouldn’t have to wade through pages of data to get to what we think. If your writing doesn’t need an opinion, start with the most important or surprising point instead. Say why you think it This is where our knowledge and research come in. Use it to back up your opinions. You can use it to back up your opinion in three ways: Stories: Talk about the clients you’ve helped, the successes they’ve had, and the results you’ve achieved together. Relationships: Mention the people we work with and the partners we have. If our research is backed by influential thinkers and academics, make sure people know about it. Facts and figures: Numbers, percentages, research. Use data to back up your point. And be inventive – find ways to make your numbers tell a story. Say it straight Thou shalt be committed to trying to aim not to kill (wherever possible). No hedging, no caveats. Just say what you need to say, with confidence. So instead of: We’re committed to giving you an expert opinion wherever possible. Try: We give you an expert opinion. Be insightful Why stories? Because business reports don’t have to be boring. “You’re one page away from the no-holds-barred story of one year in the life of a company.” (IBM annual report 2000, ranked no.1 in the‘Annual Report on Annual Reports’the following year.) Because stories reach parts of the brain that facts and figures don’t touch. Stories connect with the part of our brain that controls our emotions, the limbic system. They influence our emotions and decision-making, not just our rational thought. And if you end on a positive note, your listeners’brains get hit with feel-good dopamine that puts them in the “perfect frame of mind to be thinking about a new future, a new identity for yourself or your organization.” (Stephen Denning, author of The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling) “Emotion is a key part of making changes. And emotion is the carrier wave of great leadership. We get convinced of things through emotional arguments, then we use rational ones to make ourselves feel better.” (Richard Boyatzis, Hay Group International Conference, November 2013)
  9. 9. 9backwriting guidelines next contentsMay 2014 Why do it? We care about our clients’ organizations and are dedicated to making them stronger and more sustainable after working with us. Being committed means thinking about our clients and what they need. We work with them as partners and advisors. In writing, we can show we’re committed by clearly telling our clients and colleagues what they need to do. How we do it Use a clear call to action whenever you write. Using a clear call to action You’ve explained what you think.You’ve explained why you think it, backing it up with evidence. Now tell your reader what you want them to do: • Talk to us about making your strategy happen. • Read our new research on executive pay. • Find out more about the new version of us on the v.2020 page. Be committed If your readers don’t need to do anything, just say that.
  10. 10. 10backwriting guidelines next contentsMay 2014 Why do it? It can take courage to tell clients what they need to know, not just what they want to hear. Our tone will help us do this in a positive way. It will also help us to take out unnecessary detail and mix up the rhythm of our writing. How to do it • Tell it like it is (but start with the positive). • Cut it down. • Vary the pace. Tell it like it is (but start with the positive) Imagine this as a headline: Nine in 10 mergers and acquisitions don’t deliver. It’s intriguing, but it leaves you feeling a little depressed. Making it more positive looks like this: One in 10 mergers and acquisitions deliver: we’ll help you be part of the top 10 percent. It takes courage to talk positively, even in difficult times. But it’s more likely to get the results we need. “Sustained, desired change always starts in the positive emotional attractor – a possibility. If you start in the negative, you go into a defensive stress response and your body and mind start to close down.”(Richard Boyatzis) Starting with the positive doesn’t mean telling clients (or colleagues) what they want to hear. It doesn’t mean pretending that things are fine when they’re not. And it’s an approach that can work in the most challenging communications. Be courageous Before Peer-group benchmarking is designed to help inform reward decisions. It provides helpful context when setting pay. But boards tend to see the data as the answer. They expect consultants to come up with the ‘magic number’for their chief executives’packages. After How much are other chief executives paid? And how much does it matter? Our peer-group benchmarking gives boards the context they need to set chief executives’pay. But boards that make good decisions on reward take the time to look at the bigger picture. So we always remind board members that our data is one ingredient, not the full recipe. The‘before’example makes it clear what boards are getting wrong: they rely too heavily on benchmarking data when setting chief executives’pay. In the second version, we make the same point by referring to the boards that make good decisions. This time we’re saying that people who look at the bigger picture are getting it right. Same information, different emphasis. Before The attendance at funerals of close relatives and friends will normally be restricted to a maximum of one day, with pay. Additional time may be allowed if you are responsible for funeral arrangements. After You can take a paid day off to go to the funeral of a close relative or friend. And if you’re arranging a funeral, talk to us about taking the extra time you need. In the first version, we talk about‘restricting time off to one day’. In the second version, we say clearly that staff can‘have a paid day off’. Same information, different emphasis.
  11. 11. 11backwriting guidelines next contentsMay 2014 Cut it down We have the courage to use our judgment when we write, and only give our readers the information they need. That means cutting details about processes and background (unless the reader has asked for them). “RemCo members want simplicity, they don’t need to know all the detail and your newsletter does the summarizing for them. They’re not technical people – that’s up to me.” (Mark Jarvis, Ricardo PLC, delegate at the 2013 European Executive Reward conference) If you need to add lots of extra detail, like technical or legal requirements, think about adding it as an appendix. And see page 14 for more on working with long documents. If you’re not sure what to cut, try writing it as a six-word story, a tweet or an elevator pitch, then add detail around that. It will force you to focus on the crucial information and nothing else. Vary the pace Courageous writing gives our reader a sense of ambition and possibility. So let’s create excitement by switching the rhythm of what we write. Be courageous Courageous writing gives our reader a sense of ambition and possibility. So let’s create excitement by switching the rhythm of what we write. If you write lots of sentences that are the same length, it gets boring. It all starts to sound the same: indistinct and uninteresting. And before long your reader is crying out for something different. So throw in the odd short sentence. Like this.
  12. 12. 12backwriting guidelines next contentsMay 2014 Why do it? Clients and colleagues are busy. So make their lives as easy as possible. How to do it • Use normal words, not formal ones. • Drop consultant-speak. • Explain with metaphors. • Use bullets and headings. Use normal words, not formal ones Make what you’re saying easier to follow by using everyday language. (There’s a longer list at the end of this guide too.) “If you use complex, pretentious language to describe familiar ideas, people will see this as a sign of poor intelligence and low credibility.” (Daniel Kahneman, Nobel prize-winning psychologist, author of Thinking Fast and Slow) Be helpful Formal Normal (Human) resources People Human capital People Assist Help Capabilities Potential, people or skills Commence Start Ensure Make sure In order to To Leverage Make the most of/use Maximize Make the most of Please note Remember Prior to Before Proceed Go ahead Provide Give Purchase Buy Substantive Substantial, meaningful (or explain why something is substantive, e.g. based on research) Sufficient Enough
  13. 13. 13backwriting guidelines next contentsMay 2014 Drop consultant-speak Consultants often use buzzwords, like optimize, maximize or leverage. But it’s not helpful to use unnatural words like this when you don’t need to. Big thinkers don’t need complicated language to communicate well. Think Warren Buffett or Bill Gates. They use simple language powerfully. Be helpful “One unoriginal but useful tip: Write with a specific person in mind. When writing Berkshire Hathaway’s annual report, I pretend that I’m talking to my sisters. I have no trouble picturing them: though highly intelligent, they are not experts in accounting or finance. They will understand plain English, but jargon may puzzle them. My goal is simply to give them the information I would wish them to supply me if our positions were reversed. To succeed, I don’t need to be Shakespeare; I must, though, have a sincere desire to inform.” (Warren Buffett) “We don’t go to work and say‘Here I am – I’m a human resource – allocate my asset’. We go to work because we want to add value; to be able to say:‘I did something useful’.” (Richard Boyatzis) Why drop consultant-speak? A large international company decided to have a year of‘operational excellence’. There were signs around the building to tell everyone it was happening, but three months in, the management team found nothing had changed. Apart from in one team. So they talked to the woman who ran that team, and asked her what she was doing that nobody else was. And she said:“Well, we took down the‘operational excellence’sign. And we have a meeting every week, called‘doing the everyday things better’.” What about jargon? Jargon is the technical language we sometimes use to explain what we do. Because you might assume that readers know and understand a set of words or concepts – for example, if they’re specialists in their field. And that’s fine as long as you’re communicating with people who know those terms (but even then we’d recommend using them sparingly). If you’re not, either avoid jargon entirely or spell it out the first time you use it. Explain with metaphors It’s helpful to explain complicated ideas with metaphors. Metaphors use something people understand to explain something they might not. Like this: Making your merger successful means looking into the future. You don’t just focus on planning the wedding. You lay the foundations for a long and happy union.
  14. 14. 14backwriting guidelines next contentsMay 2014 Use bullets and subheadings Bullets and subheadings are a good way to help your reader navigate through a document. Better bullets • Keep them short. • Start each one with the same type of word (like a verb or a noun). • Stick to four or five at the most. Successful subheadings Subheadings help your readers navigate the page. There are four types: Categories: eg. ‘Introduction’ Questions: eg. ‘What are the next steps?’ Summaries: eg. ‘We need to step in now’ Quirky/surprising: eg. ‘Let’s get going’ “Sometimes it feels natural to use long and complicated words to get our ideas across. The difficult truth is that this isn’t what our clients want.” (Stephen Kaye) Be helpful What about longer documents? Here are some ideas to help you structure longer documents, like proposals. A one-page summary Always include one. And put it right at the start. A contents page Make it easy for your readers to find what they need with a clear contents page. Pull-quotes Break up the text by pulling out any interesting quotes. Like the one from Stephen Kaye, top right. Boxes Lots of details? Try putting them in a box at the side or bottom of the main text. Like this one. Pictures and captions Sometimes a relevant picture (and caption) will help you inspire your reader. Appendices Put technical details in a section at the back.
  15. 15. 15backwriting guidelines next contentsMay 2014 Be empathetic Why do it? We want our clients and colleagues to know we understand how they feel and what they’re trying to achieve. How to do it • Write like you speak. • Make it active, not passive. Write like you speak If you write like you speak, it makes you sound more human. And that instantly makes you seem more empathetic. Writing more like you speak means doing four things: 1. Use contractions Use contractions in writing, just as you would in spoken language. But only use the ones on the left: Clear I’m You’re We’re I’ll We’ll You’ll They’ll Can’t Don’t Confusing It’ll It’d Would’ve Should’ve Could’ve Wouldn’t’ve Mustn’t’ve It’ll That’ll 2. Say you, we, us and I Personal pronouns add a personal touch. So say‘you’, not ‘clients; ’we’and us not‘Hay Group’. Try to say you and yours more than you say we and ours – aim for a ratio of 2:1. 3. Swap nouns for verbs If a noun ends in -ance/-ence, -ing, -tion/-sion and -ment, you can usually turn it into a verb. And that will make your writing shorter and simpler. Like this: The utilization of technology is widespread. We use a lot of technology. The management of people is important. How you manage your people is important. The first sentences are distant and cold. The rewrites sound more open and human. 4. Write active sentences Active sentences make it clear who is doing what. Passive sentences don’t. Active sentences take responsibility for what’s happened. Passive: The sheriff was shot. Active: I shot the sheriff. Passive: Great results were achieved last year. Active: We got great results last year. Passive: Mistakes have been made. Active: We made mistakes.
  16. 16. 16backwriting guidelines next contentsMay 2014 We’ve taken examples of writing from across the business to show you how we want to sound. The original examples aren’t necessarily‘bad’writing. They show you how we write now. The rewrites show you what’s different in our new tone of voice. You’ll see that not every piece of writing uses every brand value. It’s fine to use your judgment. Our tone of voice will help us write consistently, inside and outside the company. So we’ve also included some internal writing to show you how it works in different settings. Under each example you’ll find an explanation of the other changes we’ve made. Putting it into practice to write for Hay Group It’s fine to use your judgment. You’ll see that not every piece of writing uses every brand value.
  17. 17. 17backwriting guidelines next contentsMay 2014 After The latest healthcare act regulations come with good news for small businesses: the gift of time. If you choose not to offer healthcare, you won’t have to pay the penalty straight away. Here’s a summary of who’s affected: If you have 50–100 people You won’t have to pay until at least 2015 (as long as you meet certain requirements). If you have more than 100 people You might be able to delay the penalty if you: • currently offer health plans to less than 70 percent of your full-time people, or • don’t offer it to everyone who’s eligible. If you need help planning healthcare coverage for your people Our team can help. Give us a call today. Before Recent headlines about“another Obamacare delay!”related to transitional relief contained in the final employer shared responsibility regulations published on February 12, 2014, that partially postpone a number of the rules for applying the employer shared responsibility (pay or play) penalties under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The“delays”will have very little impact on most employers with 100 or more full-time equivalent employees (FTEs). They may, however, prove helpful to those employers that do not currently offer health plan coverage to at least 70 percent of their full- time employees, or do not offer coverage to all eligible dependents. The chief beneficiaries of the “delays”are employers with at least 50, but fewer than 100, FTEs; if these employers meet certain requirements, they will be completely exempt from the penalties for 2015, as well as for the portion of calendar year 2016 preceding the beginning of the 2016 plan year if they operate their health plans on a fiscal year basis. What we did Starting with why This bit of writing is about giving information rather than persuading, so we started with the most interesting or important point. Insightful We’ve given a clear opinion about the reforms, and the fact that they’re good news. And we’ve said it straight: there’s no ‘might’ be good news. Committed We told the reader we can help and suggested they get in touch. Courageous We started with the positive, and cut unnecessary detail. Helpful We used subheadings to break up the text. Empathetic We talk about ‘you’ a lot to make it sound more personal. Example 1 – writing for clients The original piece is a news story about an Obamacare update, and has lots of useful information.
  18. 18. 18backwriting guidelines next contentsMay 2014 After How to deal with harassment What should I do if I’m being harassed? Tell your supervisor or HR. If your supervisor’s the problem, call the director of human resources on x2384. What should I do if see someone else being harassed? Tell their supervisor or HR. What happens if I report harassment? We’ll look into it straight away, as confidentially as we can. If we need to talk to anyone involved (like the person your complaint is about or any witnesses), we’ll ask your permission first. If it turns out you’re right, we’ll take action against the person involved. That could lead to us dismissing them. Before Harassment procedure If an employee feels he/she is being harassed, he/ she may choose to advise the offender that his/her behavior is unwelcome and request the behavior cease immediately. Any employee who has experienced or witnessed an incident of harassment, in any form, should bring the incident to the immediate attention of the employee’s supervisor or human resources. If the situation involves the employee’s direct supervisor, the employee may contact the director, human resources for the US at x2384. All allegations of harassment will be investigated promptly and in a confidential manner, as reasonably possible, for an effective investigation. The investigation may include interviewing the allegedly harassed employee, the allegedly harassing employee, any third party witnesses, as well as considering any other potentially relevant information. What we did Starting with why The most important point here is that by reading this you’ll learn how to deal with harassment. So we put that in the title. Committed We added a clearer call to action, telling staff what they need to do if they experience (or see) harassment. Courageous We cut it down. For example, we don’t need to tell them they can confront the person – it’s common sense. Helpful We used subheadings and normal language (like ‘tell’ instead of ‘advise’). Empathetic We made it much more personal with ‘you’ and ‘we’. And we used active, not passive, language. So instead of ‘allegations will be investigated’ we said ‘we’ll look into all allegations’. Example 2 – writing for each other This internal document covers everything about harassment, and how to deal with it.
  19. 19. 19backwriting guidelines next contentsMay 2014 After See our new apps first, on November 5 We don’t go public till November 19. But we’ll tell you everything you need to know two weeks before that at the internal launch. Take a look at our technology strategy to find out more about what’s coming up. Before The app strategy is coming! And it’s a game changer. We have a date for the launch of our new apps. You will get a sneak preview at the internal launch on November 5, in advance of the external launch on November 19. We know many of you are itching for more information, but you will receive everything you need to know from November 5. Click here for more information about our technology strategy What we did Starting with why The title explains the benefit to readers. Committed We’ve told people where to find more information on the strategy. Courageous We cut down the words. And emphasized the positive (that staff will see apps before the public launch). Helpful We’ve used natural language, like ‘going public’ instead of ‘external launch’. Example 3 – writing for each other The original here gives all the information about a new launch. The rewrite takes the best of it and cuts it down.
  20. 20. 20backwriting guidelines next contentsMay 2014 After The most successful companies don’t keep reinventing themselves – they evolve one strategy over time. And they’re still able to respond fast when things change suddenly. Our Best Companies for Leadership survey (2013) shows why. It’s because successful companies are as good at innovation as they are at the main business disciplines: customer service, finance, product development, logistics, marketing and so on. Working well today and creating ideas for tomorrow. Good businesses have to excel at both to stay ahead and cope with the unexpected. And their leaders make it happen. How? • They create a culture where people help new ideas grow, roll them out across the business and know when to close them down and move on. • They have the emotional intelligence and know- how to help people perform at the top of their game. Take a look at the full results to find out more. Before The Best Companies for Leadership identified in Hay Group’s 2013 survey avoid intermittent revolutions that are normally forged by periodic strategic reviews. Instead, these companies are as adept at innovation as they are at operational excellence. These are the twin peaks they must ascend simultaneously – a feat that requires an unusual but crucial mix of leadership skills. Recognizing that strategy development is both ongoing and subject to sudden seismic shifts, leaders must create a culture in which new ideas are incubated safely until they can be integrated into the organization (or terminated). Differentiation of existing products or services is too subtle. Too incremental. When the world is turbulent, when the environment is disruptive, only innovation keeps the enterprise competitive. At the same time, organizations must enable employees to reach the heights of operational excellence in all its facets – customer service, product development, logistics, accounting, marketing and so on. They must operate at the top of their game now and build the future so that the organization maintains its preeminence. It is far from easy and it requires a new type of leader who possesses high levels of emotional intelligence and exceptional cognitive ability. What we did Starting with why We’ve started with the most interesting point from the research: an insight about how successful companies work. Insightful We said what we think about the research and why we think it (because it’s based on our survey results). Committed We told readers where they can find the full results. Courageous We cut down the content. And we used a short sentence as a question to vary the pace. Helpful We used bullet points. And added more everyday language, like ‘know-how’, instead of ‘cognitive ability’. Empathetic We used contractions like ‘don’t’ and ‘it’s’ rather than ‘do not’ and ‘it is’. Example 4 – writing thought leadership Our Best Companies for Leadership survey is one of our flagship pieces of research. Our rewrite in the new tone of voice shows how it might look with the new principles in mind.
  21. 21. 21backwriting guidelines next contentsMay 2014 Glossary: good words to use No words are banned. But we’d like you to use more natural language instead of formal words and consultant-speak. On the next pages the words in black will make your writing sound better.
  22. 22. 22backwriting guidelines next contentsMay 2014 Try not to use: Instead, say: (Human) resources People Human capital People Accompanying or attached Here’s Accordingly So Acquire Get/buy Action Do Additional Extra Aim Try to Aligned Agreed/in line with Amongst Among Apologies Sorry Apologize Say sorry Approximately Around or about As a result of Because of ASAP As soon as you can Ascertain Find out Assist Help Authorize Let Avail Take advantage of Try not to use: Instead, say: B2B Business to business B2C Businesstoconsumer BAU Business as usual Beneficial Useful Capabilities Potential, or people Cease Stop Commence Start or begin Complete Whole or finish Comply Do Comprehend Understand Conduct Do Consequently So Consider Think Construct Build or make Converse Talk Correct Right Current Latest Currently At the moment Try not to use: Instead, say: Discussion Chat Discontinue Stop Efficient Working well Enable Allow/let or help Enclosed With (as in ‘the form with this letter’) Enhance Improve Ensure Make sure Enquire Ask Enquiry Question Error Problem or mistake Estimate Guess Execute Do Expand Grow Formerly Used to Function Work
  23. 23. 23backwriting guidelines next contentsMay 2014 Try not to use: Instead, say: Gauge Measure Generate Make Grant Give Holding Waiting Inform Tell Impact (as a verb) Change Implement Do In advance Before In order that So In the event of If Inquire Ask Inquiry Question Intended Meant Large Big Legally By law Leverage (as a noun) Influence or power Leverage (as a verb) Use/make the most of Liable Responsible Try not to use: Instead, say: Location Place Maximize Make the most of Methodology Way of working/how Multiple Lots/many Negligible Not important/not a lot or hardly any Notify Tell Numerous Lots Observe See Obtain Get Occupation Job Operational Working Optimize Make the most of Outcome What will happen Overage Extra Pass comment Say Per annum A year Try not to use: Instead, say: Perceive See Performance How it’s going Persons People Precedent Example Presently Soon Previous Last Primary First or most important Principal Main Prior to Before Proceed Go or carry on Produce Make Prohibit Stop Profession Job or career Provide Give Provided that If Purchase Buy
  24. 24. 24backwriting guidelines next contentsMay 2014 Try not to use: Instead, say: Qualify for Can get Quantity Amount Redeem Use or spend Refer See/look at Regarding About Remain Stay Request Ask Require Need Revert Go back to previous version/date Select Choose Such as Like Signify Show Substantive Substantial or meaningful Try not to use: Instead, say: Take effect Start Terminate End Therefore So Transfer Move Thus So Upon On Unable Can’t Usage Use Utilize Use Variation Change Visit Go to Whilst While
  25. 25. 25backwriting guidelines next contentsMay 2014

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