Lazy language and boring imagery. Both drive me to distraction and both came up in the training I ran last Thursday.
The language issue came up around a series of people appointment announcements in a business newsletter which all began: "I am delighted to announce......" Frankly, these guys must have been in a state of constant delight - and that can be very painful - since one chap was delighted on three occasions in the same bulletin, and another had about forty reasons to put a rictus grin on his face.
The point is, the announcements were formulaic. They were exactly the same every week and most people switched off even before they got to the end of the first sentence. The editors involved were worried that if they changed anything, it would slow down the process. The people wording the announcements were senior, and the newbie editors didn't want the hassle of ruffling feathers.
But that hassle's the job. In the end it's not about treading on the toes of the great and the good, it's about connecting with your audience - giving them something they want to read; providing information they can't find elsewhere.
Shake the top team out of their complacency. Give them the evidence that no-one's sharing the delight in their lazy words. Show them a better way to get the message across.
The same goes for pictures. As an editor I've been sent umpteen giant cheque presentation pictures, but I never use them. They're boring - a dull cliche that so often masks a great story.
Not so long ago I was guest editing a publication and heard a story about a guy who was terrified of flying yet had gone up in a small prop plane and buddy jumped thousands of feet on a parachute to raise money for a cancer charity because his partner had died of the disease. It was a good story and needed a strong image - something from the jump, the look on his face when he landed or even when he was climbing into the plane. He was surrounded by supporters, surely someone had shot a few frames? Nope. I got sent a picture of a man in a grey suit holding a cheque......BORING!
If we're lazy and boring we won't be read. We're in the business of storytelling and well chosen words driven home with great imagery is the way to convey meaning. Yet too often, we get reactive and cliche-bound.
My course went very well last week.......in fact, you could say that a 'good time was had by all'....But I'd rather you didn't.