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Is LinkedIn killing your business?

Rosemary Gillespie - Tuesday, April 30, 2013

You’ve probably seen the data: there are over 200 million professionals on LinkedIn. If your firm’s employees have LinkedIn profiles – and who doesn’t these days? – then your business may be an example of what Sydney-based social media experts Lead Creation call the ‘fault line’ between old and new marketing.

Marketing communications traditionally focuses on what a business says and does. But these days, we’re all publishers. The shift towards content marketing means that social media such as LinkedIn gives everyone the opportunity to present a profile and connect professionally. Hence, it stands to reason that the company will become less important as the influence of employees who are active on social media grows. 

Earlier this year Lead Creation looked at how over 200 top B2B Australian companies are using social media. In its report Australia’s Social Media Presence in 2012: A Road Map for 2013 Lead Creation identified that most of the largest B2B companies are not performing well.

For the top 30 companies in the study, one only company’s rating was not dragged down by the personal LinkedIn profiles of its employees. 

In fact, individual employees’ profiles were found to lag below the professionalism of the companies’ own profiles on LinkedIn. Incomplete profiles, unprofessionally presented with poor grammar and lots of typos can clearly harm a firm’s reputation. 

How to make LinkedIn work for your business

The key is maximising LinkedIn so that your employees’ profiles enhance your firm’s brand and reputation. When your staff can easily complete their social media profiles to the same high standard, using your firm’s keywords and demonstrating their expertise and credibility, then your firm will stand out. 

As Lead Creation points out, a B2B business that regards each employee’s LinkedIn profile as a mini website will benefit from the power of consistent, high standard profiles that speak with the same message. Good profiles also make it easier for people to find your business and your professionals on LinkedIn and can help to improve Google SEO ranking.

And as it’s free (unless you chose to upgrade to a premium service), LinkedIn is a business development opportunity open to a B2B business of any size. 

For more information on the Lead Creation study, go to

For help with your firm’s LinkedIn profiles, contact Rosemary Gillespie at Proof Communications on 02 9314 6506 or 0411 123 216.

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Telling Tales – connecting with your readers

Rosemary Gillespie - Tuesday, March 05, 2013

The best presentations are those where the speaker tells a story, right? Likewise, when we find a book riveting, we’ll pass it around. Stories may inspire us, sadden or thrill us. Whatever the emotional response, a story evokes a connection with the storyteller. Which is why telling tales in your B2B communications is so important if you want your readers to connect with you.

The more details and facts in your story, the more likely we are to believe it. So everything you say about your service or business or yourself, in print, online or verbally, needs to include details and facts so that it rings true. And that means using unambiguous, concrete words.

In 2010, a study by Joachin Hansen of New York University and Michaela Wanke of the University of Basel showed that concise, clear statements win out over wordier ones.

In their study, they asked participants to read one of two statements and say if they thought it was true or not. The statements were:

1. Hamburg is the European record holder concerning the number of bridges.

2. In Hamburg, one can count the highest number of bridges in Europe.

More people believed the second. While each statement says the same thing, the second gets to the point quickly and presents a clear image – of counting bridges.

That’s because concrete words are more precise. For example, if I told you I ate a pizza for dinner, you might ask what type. But if I had told you I ate a Hawaiian pizza for dinner, you’d immediately have an image of the pizza and not have to ask what topping I chose.

Verbs can also be concrete. There’s little ambiguity about ‘sleep’, ‘run’, ‘swim’ or ‘jump’. But verbs such as ‘help’, ‘love’, ‘enjoy’, ‘assist’, ‘deliver’ are less precise and often come a myriad of  interpretations.
So, if you want your readers to connect and believe you, tell the truth using solid, unambiguous words.

For more information, see

For help with your B2B writing, contact Rosemary Gillespie on 02 9314 7506 or 0411 123 216.

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How a little thought goes a long way

Rosemary Gillespie - Wednesday, June 13, 2012

If you find writing a tender or any business document hard work, pity your reader. There is no one on earth that wants to spend longer than necessary reading business documents.

When writing, the goal is to make it as easy, and quick, as possible for your reader to understand what you are saying.

But how do you do this without getting bogged down?

Well, here are a few easy rules to help you to structure what you want to say:

1. Start slow. Think about what you want or need to say. What is your overall message? And what key points do you need to make to get your message across? Do you need evidence, quotes, testimonials, facts or figures? The more time you spend thinking (not writing), the better your document will be. Its messages will be clearer and more logical.

2. Jot down your thoughts either in pen, pencil or on screen. You may like to make a list, but mind maps are more useful – they free up our thinking so it becomes easier to identify all the points we need to make. Don’t worry about the quality of your writing, its grammatical correctness or sequence. That comes later.

3. Put your key points into order so they follow on logically from each other. When a document flows, it is easier, and quicker, to read.

4. Now you can start writing sentences. This is when you can shift your key points from notes to complete sentences and paragraphs. Use short words and don’t waffle. Use active voice, not passive, and use personal pronouns where possible. Useful phrases link the paragraphs together, such as “for example”, “consequently” and “subsequently”.  

5. Edit and proofread. Many people edit but forget to proofread. When editing, look out for superfluous and clichéd phrases. For example, “in order to” and “push the envelope”. When proofreading, print your document and read it aloud. It makes a big difference.

Finally, ask yourself, have I made myself clear?

For help with writing your business documents, contact Rosemary Gillespie on 02 9314 7506 or 0411 123 216.

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Front-end strategies for leveraged solutions in your business communiqués. (Or: learn to cut the cr_p and say what you mean.)

Rosemary Gillespie - Thursday, September 16, 2010

Anyone who missed the recent election must have been hiding under the proverbial rock, or willfully avoiding it altogether. If the latter is the case, we at Proof Communications sympathise because at no other point in the political calendar is the main purpose of communication – to impart information clearly – so casually abused, with the use of political double-talk, repetitive slogans (moving forward, anyone?) and ‘officialese’ at an apparent all time high. Or low, depending on your point of view.

You’ll know officialese when you hear it; it’s bureaucratic, hard to follow and mostly meaningless. Consider these examples from the excellent Bendable Learnings by Don Watson, author and speechwriter for former Prime Minister Paul Keating: ‘front-end strategies’, ‘leveraged solutions’, ‘the execution of deliverables’ and (our favourite) ‘synergy-related headcount reductions’, which was Nokia Siemens’ way of saying in a media release that they planned to fire a few people. It’s management-speak designed to hide either the horrible truth… or the fact that the speaker is utterly clueless about the subject. Which gives us an excellent insight into why pollies use it so much!

Officialese isn’t just a convenient tool for misinformation used by silver-tongued politicians. It’s also a disease that, if left unchecked, can spread rapidly and infect your business writing. Look at all your business communications – that’s everything from e-mail correspondence to reports and tenders – and ask yourself: is my meaning clear? Have I used industry jargon when talking to a customer who may not understand it? Am I using unnecessarily complex words when a simple, everyday alternative would work just as well?

We’ve talked about ways to make your business writing clearer in Proof Communications newsletters before but, unlike our Prime Minister’s favourite slogan, some things can bear repetition. Here’s a quick refresher on writing clearly and effectively:

1. What am I trying to say?
Identify the purpose of your communication or ‘key message’, as well as all the supporting information you need to convey.

2. Get yourself a gorgeous body.
Structure is crucial to clarity. As a rule of thumb, every paragraph should contain a unique point that contributes to your overall message.

3. Spell-check your work.
Your computer’s spell-check function doesn’t understand jargon, so it’s an excellent way of identifying industry-specific terms, as well as misspellings.

4. Honesty is the key.
Have you used ‘antediluvian’ instead of ‘old-fashioned’ because you think it makes you sound smarter? Not only do you risk alienating your customer, you might just run out of words. As CS Lewis said, “Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say ‘infinitely’ when you mean ‘very’; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.” Save the posh words for the cryptic crossword.

As the American Plain English Foundation says: “Though no one knows the total cost of poor communication, the information we do have suggests it's high. While writing in plain language isn't easy, it pays off in positive results”.

So stop the rot: inoculate yourself against the spread of officialese before it costs you a customer!


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The Sad Truth about Commas

Rosemary Gillespie - Thursday, July 29, 2010

In her book, Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, Lynne Truss explains why we need commas:

A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and proceeds to fire it at the other patrons.

'Why?' asks the confused, surviving waiter amidst the carnage, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.

'Well, I'm a panda,' he says, at the door. 'Look it up.'

The waiter turns to the relevant entry in the manual and, sure enough, finds an explanation. 'Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.'

The sad truth is that we can't do without commas. And, to make it worse, while there are some set rules about how to use commas, writers and editors do not always agree about some of their other uses. This ambiguity means that people tend to abuse and misuse their commas.

Here’s what I mean:

All the children who love pizza will be there on Friday.

This means that only those children who love pizza will be there on Friday. Compare this to:

All the children, who love pizza, will be there on Friday.
All the children will be there on Friday and, by the way, they love to eat pizza.

How to use commas - lists

At school, the first use we learn for commas is to separate items in a list. For example:
When I go shopping I buy shoes, dresses, coats and gifts.

Sometimes, particularly in the US, we include a comma before "and" as in “dresses, coats, and gifts”. This is called an Oxford comma, or serial comma, because it was used by editors, proofreaders and printers at Oxford University Press.

In Australia and the UK it’s unusual to use an Oxford comma, but feel free if you think it adds clarity, particularly if the last two items in your list are not separate words.

For example, if we write, "I love margarita, meatlovers and ham and pineapple pizzas”, it is not clear if the last pizza is a single ‘ham and pineapple’ pizza or two pizzas: a ham pizza and a pineapple pizza. In this case, we could add the Oxford comma to say, “I love margarita, meatlovers, and ham and pineapple pizzas”.

How to use commas with adjectives

Commas in a list of adjectives are not always needed. As a guide, if you can change the order of the adjectives, use a comma. If not, there’s no need for a comma. Here’s what I mean:

The report was long, boring and too detailed.

You could shift the order of the adjectives:
The report was boring, long and too detailed.

My daughter has beautiful blonde hair and clear blue eyes.
As we can’t change the order of these adjectives, we don’t need commas.

How to use commas – to add extra information

Sometimes we add extra information to our sentences to make them more interesting. For instance:

Our business, the world’s largest producer of eggs, is opening a plant in Rio.

We could easily remove the information about ‘world’s largest producer of eggs’ without changing the meaning of the sentence.

How to use commas to join two clauses together

Use a comma to join two clauses together. These are two separate parts to a sentence joined by conjunctions such as and, but, so, or, yet, but could be separated by a full stop. For example:

I love eating pizza, but I don’t like anchovies.

This could also be written as:

I love eating pizza. But I don’t like anchovies.

There is a move away from using these commas, so if you feel the meaning is clear without a comma, go for it.

How to use commas after introductory statements

There is also a trend towards not using commas after introductory statements, which is fine if the meaning is clear. Whichever option you choose, be consistent. One of the biggest errors I see when proofreading is inconsistency – one sentence has an introductory statement with a comma and the next does not.

Here are some examples:

At Proof Communications, we help our clients to win more business.

On 5 September 2011, we will be holding a party with hundreds of guests.

You could write either of these sentences with no comma.

How to use commas around ‘interrupters’

Sometimes, to add emphasis, we use an interrupter in our sentences. These always need commas before and after:

She was, however, feeling sad about missing out on the pizza.

I asked her, reluctantly, if she would get take-away.

How to use commas: the last piece of advice

Commas give us a pause in our writing. They give us room to breathe. If you’re not sure when to use a comma, read your writing aloud. You’ll hear the need for a pause.
If you suffer from comma confusion, let us know now.

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How to Avoid Global Grammatical Embarrassment

Rosemary Gillespie - Friday, May 14, 2010

What’s the worst typo sin you’ve committed?

You’re not alone...making mistakes comes naturally to humans, so it’s not surprising that websites and marketing materials are littered with typos.

Sadly, typos cost money. Research in the UK shows that typos cost businesses there millions each year. People don’t want to do business with companies that can’t get their name right, or make mistakes in their emails, letters or brochures.

One of the worst culprits are call centres, where operators often take down the wrong details. It’s a blessing we haven’t had to ring the US call centre that had a 35% error rate in orders it took over the phone. Classics were:

The name Whithead typed in as -hithead (I'll leave you to fill in the gap).

The gift greeting With Our Love typed as With Out Love.

And these were the ones that were caught before they were sent to customers. Imagine what was missed!

Our own big companies are just as susceptible. When proofreading an annual report for a major bank, I spotted a mistake on the inside cover of the report. And this was on the day that the cover was going to print. The mistake?

Shareholders were to receive divideds, not dividends. 

It's easy to find others' mistakes, but not our own. This is why I recommend you don't proofread your own work. Here’s some ways you can avoid typo sins.

1. Read each sentence aloud. You’ll hear your mistakes.

2. Look at each word in isolation. If you have time, start at the end of the document and read each word in turn, from the last to the first. This way, you’re more likely to spot typos.

3. Watch out for the old favourites. We often repeat the same mistakes:

Missing narrow letters (e.g. ‘i’ - offical, opportunites, instnctively)
Using extra letters  (e.g. acccountancy, narrrow)
Misspelling long or technical words (e.g. physiothearapy, implenemtation).

4. Spell checkers won’t pick up typos which are correct spellings, or words that sound the same but have different meanings. For example:


5. Double check all the headings and page numbers and that indexes match the page numbers. This is where most mistakes are made, especially in long documents such as annual reports, proposals and tenders.

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