Today I attended the Bank of England Future Forum event at the magnificent St. George’s Hall in Liverpool, a suitably opulent background for such an important occasion.
In recent years – as I noted in my blog on the Bank’s Writing Week panel ‘What Is Good Writing’ – the Bank has been making strenuous efforts to broaden its approach to engagement and communication with Markets, Economists and News (MEN) intermediaries, with the general public, and with schools and colleges nationwide. This was the latest manifestation of those efforts. All three sectors were well represented at St. George’s Hall.
There is still a long way to go, as every single one of the Bank Governors sitting on the Forum stage acknowledged. But the very existence of such a dialogue – which is what it was – would have been inconceivable a few years ago.
It is representative of the Bank’s serious intentions, driven partly by the demands and opportunities of the digital age, to re-engage with a mistrustful public. And to help lift standards of economic literacy of (and engagement with) non-experts to levels they have probably never approached.
The Bank of England’s approach to communicating with the outside world is receiving a lot of scrutiny, both internally and externally. Only last month former Deputy Governor Howard Davies wrote in the Guardian that central bankers must learn to speak in plain language.
So it was a privilege to be invited to join an internal Bank panel, ‘What Is Good Writing’, arranged last month as part of the Bank’s Writing Week. This was a series of internal events designed to elicit ideas and discussion on writing best practice; and on the Bank’s plans to broaden and diversify its communications with both professional intermediaries and the wider public. The panel was chaired by Andy Haldane, reflecting his prominent role in the Bank’s ongoing communications initiative.
Three panellists – Sarah O’Connor from the FT, Anushka Asthana from the Guardian, and I – were asked to share our perceptions on the Bank’s communications, our experiences as writers and editors, and tips on drafting, language and accessibility; followed by a short Q&A session.
The rest of this blog summarises some of the themes covered at the panel, without attributing topics or views to individual panellists.
The Bank of England’s literary connections run deep. Shakespeare, Dickens, George Eliot, TS Eliot and Grahame – and most recently, of course, Austen – are among the names who have either featured on Bank notes, or been inspired in their writing by the Bank’s awesome facade and interiors.
The TS Eliot connection I wasn’t aware of until recently. But it says on the Bank Museum website that he wrote much of The Wasteland while working across the road at the former Lloyds Bank office on Cornhill. I have worked in that building myself. So I can only assume that the view across to the Bank inspired him more than his Lloyds Bank surroundings, which are at best mundane.
Those remarks highlighted that the Bank had been consciously taking a leaf out of the book of another writer famous for his humour, clarity, simplicity and common touch. And no, I don’t mean Andy Haldane, although he is (famous for those things).
Business writing skills have never been more in demand.
Almost everyone in their daily work needs to write clear, accurate business English.
Whether this is in the form of emails, letters, reports, minutes, digital copy, marketing materials, technical manuals or other formats.
Even tweets are increasingly a marketing tool for both business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C) communications.
Yet not everyone is confident that their business writing skills are up to the standard they would like. Many people working in communications departments, HR or marketing teams, regardless of their native language, strive to write refined and polished business copy.
People working in IT or quantitative fields are often less comfortable writing business English than they are dealing with code or numbers. Many see the need to obtain specific training in business writing skills, to help them reach an even better standard of written English.
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