Storytelling in business is fashionable and popular, including in financial services.
There is a large body of academic literature on the topic, specialist consultancies, training courses, websites and blogs all drawing our attention to the power of narrative.
Business storytelling has great appeal to experts, service providers and customers alike. Using stories helps make business more interesting. It helps us engage with subject matter that otherwise might be technical and dull.
Stories are a refreshing alternative to the jargonized consulting-speak that is widespread in business writing, especially financial services.
Stories are compelling. People love them. This blog explains why, without going into detail about the psychology, science or typology of storytelling, which is a whole topic on its own.
As the name suggests it will focus mainly on style and usage and not on grammar; based on the idea that most contentious topics in business writing, and writing more generally, are not actually to do with grammar.
There are of course rules of grammar in English but not as many as people think; and to native English speakers and writers they are just that: native, innate, internal. To non-native English speakers and writers they have to be learned, yes, but the playing field is more level than you might imagine.
Native English speakers, especially those of a certain age and educational cohort, are just as likely as non-native speakers to be confused about what is ‘correct’ or not; and about whether the ‘correctness’ of something is a grammatical matter or a matter of usage and style.
Style Corner is intended to clarify some of the uncertainty.
Exceptionally, though, the first topic is actually about a grammatical matter: the comma splice.
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.
Prism-Clarity provides high-quality professional writing, editorial and training services for financial sector and other clients