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“Mainly dry for most”: compulsive hedging language in weather forecasting

One thing is certain about the British weather: its uncertainty.

That uncertainty will only increase over time as the polar ice melts, sea levels rise, the jetstream gets further disrupted, and one-in-a-thousand-year events start to occur annually.

Pity then the intrepid British forecasters whose every word is hung onto nightly by farmers, fishermen, event organisers, sportspeople, families and dog walkers – and insurers.

Coming up with the right scenario from hundreds of computer-modelled scenarios is hard enough in itself. Finding the right language to describe the selected outcome – to deliver with airy reassurance, grim precision or obvious glee – is even harder.

So it’s hardly surprising that forecasters are inclined to be not very definitive in their predictions. The risk to reputation is one thing. More than thirty years on people still chuckle at poor Michael Fish and his quote, inevitably taken out of context, from the afternoon of 15th October 1987.

The economic risk to the farmers and fishermen is another thing. The weather matters meaningfully to many. Livelihoods and even lives are at stake: best to not get it wrong.

Still, couldn’t the forecasters be a bit less – well – vague?

Kings Cross Concourse

Tender at heart: the X Why Z of tender bids and sales copy

Tender bids and sales copy are not the most glamorous side of B2B copywriting, yet still form the vital beating heart of many writers’ daily lives.

Business writing is all about impact. And nowhere is impact more necessary than in a tender. Livelihoods are at stake. The impact of success is great: the impact of failure greater.

The principles and motifs of clear business writing feature heavily in any good tender bid. And they apply just as much to the wider art of writing effective sales copy.

The two formats – bids and sales – are closely related. Both represent the essential DNA of good business writing, the archetype, the X Why Z.


Dealing with losing a client: misfortune, carelessness, or it just happens?

Oscar Wilde famously quipped that to lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.

Can Wilde’s witty maxim can be applied to freelance businesses, and the inevitable fact that our hard-won clients don’t stick around forever?

We spend so much time, capital and emotional energy finding and maintaining those precious relationships. How bad really is it when the hard-won clients – the golden icons of our professional life – move on?

Franciele Cunha Unsplash Couple Mountaintop

Social Costs? Four Reasons To Spend Less Time Online

The irony of the title of this blog is not lost on me, given the piece is intended for broadcast on social media among other places. Even the structure of it, you could say, is ‘blogg-y’ – X ways to do stuff. Pop will eat itself.

A few weeks ago we spent five blissful days in coastal Suffolk. The bliss was prompted, partly, by a decision I took to leave my tablet at home and only check my phone once a day for emergencies. Sally’s (non smart) phone was also available to adult children on both sides. And as it happened the wifi didn’t work, so she couldn’t access her chromebook either. We were device-free. Time slowed and life richened.

But the lessons haven’t been learned. We’re back home and more online than ever.

And despite the joys and amusement and insight I get from many, most, of my lovely online friendships, life overall seems no happier for it.

Is it time to take the lessons of five days of RLO (Real Life Only) and recalibrate more comprehensively? It’s risky saying that kind of thing on social media, where you’ll be held to account. Actually that’s part of the point, a personal manifesto of sorts: shoot me if you see me here.

But first a brief look at the four ways my social costs are getting too high.