Tamsin Constable

Taking a gamble

I’m off at the crack of dawn to have breakfast in Leeds, courtesy of a networking organisation called BNI. In preparation, I had a look at the local chapter’s website – and decided to use their own content to explain what I do. (Bit cheeky, but hey!)

So here’s a short piece from the news page. No offence to the author – what follows is typical of what I come across all the time. There are a couple of grammatical errors, some style issues, and problems with the length of the sentences. Overall, the text could work much harder to interest any potential new members. In particular, there are several opportunities to get the benefits across. Ultimately, what you want is for a reader to ‘click through’ when they get to the ‘Call to Action’ at the end. I’ve put my own comments to an imaginary client in double brackets. Here goes:

Original:
“For nearly 10 years our chapter has hosted it’s meeting in the impressive surroundings of the Royal Armouries museum, but in early march it was decided we should move on. So at the beginning of April the meeting was moved to it’s new location at ALEA Casino.

It may have been only a short distance to move to but it made a big difference to the chapter, not only did we gain a larger location but where rewarded with extra benefits such as a more impressive breakfast and access to our own AV system. Best of all, we now have FREE parking in Multi-Storey Car Park right next door.

Of course this move meant we also needed a new name, after several ideas we all agreed on Leeds Royale. So if you would like have a taste of what Leeds Royale can offer you click here to book a morning…”

My suggestions:
In April 2009, we moved to the ALEA Casino in Leeds. The new venue is only a short distance away from our old venue (the Royal Armouries), but it’s already had a big impact on our chapter.

For a start, there’s more space. ((This is good because? Comment about number of members and opportunities to mingle?))

Second, the breakfasts are delicious. ((Benefit? Comment about early starts/ being just as hungry for food as you are to grow your business?)).

We can also use our own audio-visual system ((and this is good because? Comment about inspiring and authoritative presentation element of each meeting)).

And best of all, we can now use the multi-storey car park next door – FREE! ((good because? comment about getting here is easier than ever?)).

So if you would like to meet friendly, welcoming people from a range of professions, why not come along, enjoy a good breakfast and get a taste of what Leeds Royale (our brand new name!) can offer you?

To book, just click here.

Chrissie’s cross

There was a great header in the Wall Street Journal this week.

‘Crusader for Syntactic Disambiguation Exprobrates Banks’ Labored Locutions.’

The article tells the story of how the Royal Bank of Scotland recently got a roasting from Chrissie Maher, matriarch of the UK’s Plain English Campaign. Ms Maher had received a leaflet from the bank brimming with “tortuous and ambiguous sentences”. You can read what she did next here.

What particularly interests me is that so often mumbo jumbo isn’t just about frilly language that we can laugh at: it does much more damage, by interfering with people’s democratic rights. If you can’t understand what you’re being offered, how can you possibly make a sound decision? If the language used to communicate with you is intimidating, how can you hope to establish a fair, level, mutually respectful relationship?

Ms Maher, the article says, didn’t learn how to read until she was 15. “I know what’s it’s like to feel isolated because of words.”