A sure-fire way to improve your writing

Post #8: Why a Dark Angels course could be the best investment you’ll ever make in your annual report

Are you sitting comfortably? I’m so pleased – because I’m not. As you read this, I’ll be squashed into a BA economy seat somewhere above the Atlantic, wishing I’d been less parsimonious and had forked out for a premium economy seat instead.

However, I will rise above bodily discomfort thanks to the excitement of my journey’s end: the inaugural Dark Angels course in the US, led by DA founder, John Simmons, and fellow DA Associate Partner and US local, Richard Pelletier.

We’ll be spending three days at the remote and beautiful Ricketson’s Point House, on the shores of Apponagansett Bay, with a group of US businesspeople, helping them enrich their understanding of the power of language and storytelling, and, I am sure, sending them back to their jobs as more confident and inspired writers.

To quote the DA website:

In places that inspire
We help you
Find your voice

Back at work
A braver
New world awaits

I can speak with confidence of the transformative power of Dark Angels, because, 10 years ago, I went on my first DA course. It was held in Northumberland, where the austere charm of the landscape surrounding Ted Hughes’s cottage and the intoxicating combination of open minds and gentle encouragement brought out an astonishing display of collective creativity that had an immediate – and positive effect – on the annual report projects I was working on when I got home.

As you’ll know if you write annual reports yourself, a project often starts with grand optimism about how much better it’s going to be this year. We’ll really make sure that our narrative reflects our great brand. We will resist the cautious, insinuating voice that says “well, it’s the annual report, it’s not a marketing document, we’re not trying to inspire anyone here”.

But where do we get our energy to fight the good fight? To challenge at every stage those seemingly small amends and comments that are death by a thousand cuts to really good writing? I get mine from two places.

First – from Dark Angels. The group has not only shown me how to make business writing more human and engaging, but has also given me strength in numbers. As a Dark Angel, I’m part of a growing group of thousands of businesspeople around the world who believe great writing is essential for business success, and who are prepared to push it in their own workplaces.

Second (now don’t fall off that comfortable chair) – I get it from the FRC. Buried in their 2016 review of corporate reporting is a call to ‘pay particular attention to …ensuring information is company-specific and avoiding boilerplate reporting’. Taken to its logical conclusion, this instruction is dynamite, and gives the humble report writer the ammunition we need to stand our ground against the seemingly inevitable creep of corporate-speak. Unenlightened senior executives might not take the word of even such great authorities as the FT which praised Dark Angels for teaching “storytelling techniques as well as how to translate unintelligible management speak into plain English”. But they might listen to the FRC.

And that’s why I say that a Dark Angels course could be the best investment you’ll make in your annual report. Because a great report requires great writing, and Dark Angels will not only help you produce great writing, it’ll also help you ensure that your great writing ends up in the final proof.

Find out more about Dark Angels at: www.dark-angels.org.uk

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