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Bridge and Water

A Sound Experiment: Writing By Voice And Ear Alone

This blog is a sound experiment.

It will be written entirely by voice recognition – with keyboard-based editing at the end – and it will be written in less than an hour.

I don’t know how many words it will be but I am aiming for 1000. Another aim is to achieve a plain English standard based on Flesch readability metrics – without trying too hard.

I have two main objectives: (1) to test the efficiency of writing by voice recognition alone; (2) to see if the ‘sound test’ really does work. I am always telling my City, University of London students to listen out loud to their own work, to hear themselves reading it back. Is the ear really a better judge than the eye? Maybe I will know more by the end of this blog.

I’ll share some of my thoughts on that at the end and I hope you will give me yours too.

The Pix Simplicity Measure: A New Readability Metric from Prism-Clarity

‘Readability metrics are not worth the paper they’re not written on.’

This was a quote from Professor Geoffrey Pullum at the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) annual conference in September 2017, and it’s the only thing Geoff Pullum has ever said that I disagree with.

In November 2016 I wrote a blog explaining the main readability metrics, Flesch Reading Ease, Flesch-Kincaid and the like, and making a case that there is value in these metrics for writers and editors. They’re not sufficient, they’re not even necessary, but they are useful – in context, and if their limitations are understood and accepted.

I put forward this opinion in a 5-minute lightning talk at the same SfEP conference where Geoff had earlier expressed his less complimentary view.

The rest of this blog outlines some of the thoughts behind my SfEP talk, and goes on to propose a new simplified metric (‘the Pix’) to use alongside Flesch-Kincaid. Pix is derived from three measures which are routinely used by Yoast SEO but are not in the Flesch family of metrics.

Finding the Story Part 3: The Power of Tweet And Other Tips

The first two blogs in this series looked at why the idea of story is so appealing and why it is such a useful tool in business writing – because it conveys the hook, the core – which is our key meaning and purpose in business writing.

In all business writing the common element is impact. You are looking to make an impact, and the core message or story will help determine whether you have one and what it will be.

This final blog in the series takes a practical view, focusing first on the power that Twitter has to make you condense your story into very few characters; and then offering some further touchstones on summarising effectively, to help you really get to the story.

Finding the Story Part 2: The Hook, The Core

In the first blog in this series I talked about the narrative definition of story – the story as a tale – with a beginning, a middle and an end, a plot.

I talked about the idea of seven universal plots, reinforcing the idea that stories are able to connect us because they are so familiar: there are, after all, so few of them.

This time I want to get more specific about the idea of the story in business writing and what it means. This goes more to the journalistic definition of story. A hard-nosed, punchy, shorthand, news item which conveys something that has happened or should happen.

Story in this sense means the hook, the core. The heart of what you want to say, distilled to a singular (and interesting) essence, with no extraneous detail, colour or frills.

It hooks the reader in and makes them want to read more. It’s the core essence of what you want to say.