the write words

I know we mostly hire people for their technical ability, management skills, professional knowledge and networking capabilities, but good business writing skills are worth their weight in gold for any management role.

In the week before a Board meeting with a crammed agenda, there’s nothing more infuriating than receiving a critical report or discussion paper from a senior staff member with grammatical or spelling errors, badly-presented arguments or no real conclusion or recommendation. Sadly, it happens far more than it should.

This month I gave a colleague special dispension to get a project report in just hours before the deadline, because an important meeting was happening the day before that could have completely changed the project status.

With just a couple of hours to spare I opened the document with a little trepidation. It was almost perfect: well thought through, perfect spelling and grammar, plenty of white space and sub-headings for easy reading, compelling arguments and clear, concise update points.

Whilst that person was not hired for their business writing skills, they sure made her invaluable on a stressful Friday afternoon.

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what i wish i’d known…. by Nora Ephron

“I Feel Bad About My Neck (and other thoughts on being a woman)” is a book by the late great Nora Ephron.

It was a fantastic, hilarious read the first time around, maybe fifteen years ago. These days it feels more like required reading for everybody of my vintage. Here is an excerpt – my favourite chapter. Tell me which line rings most true for you.

What I Wish I’d Known

  1. People have only one way to be.
  2. Buy, don’t rent.
  3. Never marry a man you wouldn’t want to be divorced from.
  4. Don’t cover a couch with anything that isn’t more or less beige.
  5. Don’t buy anything that is 100 percent wool even if it seems to be very soft and not particularly itchy when you try it on in the store.
  6. You can’t be friends with people who call after 11 p.m.
  7. Block everyone on your instant mail.
  8. The world’s greatest babysitter burns out after two and a half years.
  9. You never know.
  10. The last four years of psychoanalysis are a waste of money.
  11. The plane is not going to crash.
  12. Anything you think is wrong with your body at the age of thirty-five you will be nostalgic for at the age of forty-five.
  13. At the age of fifty-five you will get a saggy roll just above your waist even if you are painfully thin.
  14. This saggy roll just above your waist will be especially visible from the back and will force you to reevaluate half the clothes in your closet, especially the white shirts.
  15. Write everything down.
  16. Keep a journal.
  17. Take more pictures.
  18. The empty nest is underrated.
  19. You can order more than one dessert.
  20. You can’t own too many black turtleneck sweaters.
  21. If the shoe doesn’t fit in the shoe store, it’s never going to fit.
  22. When your children are teenagers, it’s important to have a dog so that someone in the house is happy to see you.
  23. Back up your files.
  24. Overinsure everything.
  25. Whenever someone says the words “Our friendship is more important than this,” watch out, because it almost never is.
  26. There’s no point in making piecrust from scratch.
  27. The reason you’re waking up in the middle of the night is the second glass of wine.
  28. The minute you decide to get divorced, go see a lawyer and file the papers.
  29. Overtip.
  30. Never let them know.
  31. If only one third of your clothes are mistakes, you’re ahead of the game.
  32. If friends ask you to be their child’s guardian in case they die in a plane crash, you can say no.
  33. There are no secrets.