Dark Angels

What’s the easiest way to write an annual report?

Post 25: Claire gives a taster of the new Dark Angels book, On Writing, which includes her chapter on corporate reporting

I must start this blog with a thank you – because without those lovely clients and colleagues who responded to my research question back in November, I wouldn’t have had much of a chapter in Dark Angels’ new book On Writing! (Published 13 June – lucky for us.)

My question was simple – ‘what do you find most difficult about writing an annual report?’ However, as those of you will know who are involved in producing annual reports, the answer is anything but simple. And it varies to a large degree based on the company and their objectives for reporting, and who’s working on the project. But of course a chapter on how to write annual reports wouldn’t be much help if it just told you how difficult it was – instead, it looks at the challenges and suggests some conclusions, summed up in the chapter’s title ‘Let the writer write’.

I am naturally not going to include the whole chapter here – if I did that, why would you need to buy a copy?

But you know – I’m going to answer that question again, but in a different way. There are many reasons to read On Writing that have nothing to do with my chapter – although my chapter will (I hope!) be of particular use to those involved in corporate reporting.

I believe that anyone who is involved in writing for business – so that’s everybody then – will find something of use, of interest, of amusement even in this book. Twelve chapters, each by a different Dark Angel and business writer, take you on a journey through the principles and practice of writing in the business world, interspersed with short pieces from other business writers on why they write. The book’s finale is a collection of personal writing from Dark Angels courses, ranging from poetry and satire to memoir and fiction.

I don’t, however, expect you to take my word for it – so I’m going to include here the foreword to On Writing, penned by the brilliant John Allert, CMO of McLaren. Thank you John, for a great opening to the book – itself a lovely piece of business writing.

Foreword to Dark Angels On Writing by John Allert, CMO, McLaren

“I am fond of asking my professional colleagues to ‘bring themselves to work’. Not to remedy absenteeism, but to benefit from who they really are.

When at work, we all play-act, to varying degrees. We wear different masks, depending on who we’re with, or where we are. And business environments seem to be the place in which we assume the most inauthentic version of our true selves. From our ‘work clothes’, to the words we speak and write, our business selves assume personas that most of our partners, parents or friends would find unrecognisable, if not hilarious.

In a world in which we are all, in some way, serving a customer or client who themselves are no doubt play-acting as well, isn’t it time we just started being ourselves?

Authenticity, sadly, is not easy. Business convention has sullied our noble language, left us ‘reaching out’ to people and ‘reaching in’ to opportunities – like a horrific linguistic hokey cokey. In your personal life, how often do you use words such as paradigm, granularity, leverage or Kool-Aid?

In 2004, three enterprising wordsmiths – John Simmons, Stuart Delves and Jamie Jauncey – decided enough was enough. So, instead of running anything up a flagpole or pushing so much as an envelope, they founded Dark Angels – a mission to help people find their true inner voices, and to use those inner voices to change the way they write at work.

And so they came. Disciples from every kind of business, organisation and brand came to attend Dark Angels training courses in beautiful corners of Scotland, Spain and Oxford. Exhausted by years of penning pompous syntax, they were gently and artfully unburdened of their business speak. Day by day, their syllable and word counts shrank, as the potency and warmth of their language blossomed.

People who never considered themselves writers discovered we are in fact all writers. Powerful words were written. Tears were shed. Wine was taken. The Dark Angels philosophy caught on quickly, its concept wonderfully simple but speaking to a universal need.

John, Stuart and Jamie brought the gift of authentic writing to ever-increasing numbers through their courses, articles and business-based training. However, their ambition was much greater, their desire to liberate an even greater number of people even stronger.

And that’s where this book comes in.

Between these covers lie the Dark Angels’ secrets to better business writing. Oh, let’s drop the pretence… this is actually about better writing, full stop. As well as the original three wise men, a number of notable Dark Angel disciples detail their own insights, tricks and tools on the joy and art of writing simply and truly.

This book is so much more than a ‘how to’ guide. It is a window into a world free of the meaningless words and phrases we have accumulated in life and business. Its lesson is simple but challenging. The road to stronger language lies in reduction and authenticity.

The truth really does lie within.”

Please ask your local bookshop for a copy (we love to keep them in business) – but failing that, there’s always Amazon

Click here to leave a comment

One comment on “What’s the easiest way to write an annual report?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *