NEW from Credosity: Free writing analysis (your ‘report card’!)

Download your free writing analysis as a PDF

How to get your free writing analysis

Like some free writing analysis?

If you’re writing important emails and documents at work you can now get instant feedback on your writing. Built by experienced enterprise writers, this powerful tool reveals your blind spots and sharpens your message.

Try it now:

  1. Upload any text or document to https://team.credosity.com/
  2. Click on ‘Download PDF report’ for your personalised results. Target a Cred Score of 90% or more.

Here’s how your free writing analysis looks:

PDF report showing free writing analysis

Worried about confidentiality?

Don’t be. Credosity is enterprise-grade secure and built on Microsoft Azure in Australia. We can’t see, and don’t keep, what you’ve written. Once your analysis is done, your text or document vaporises from our server.

How should you use it?

It’s handy if you want to see what you can improve OR if you’re coaching others to improve.

Our trainees use it before courses to get a ‘heads up’ on their major issues before coming to our training. (Handy for revealing the blind spots most people have when it comes to their writing.)

Attention pro writers!

This is a great free tool to prove to your clients you’ve added value to their text:

  1. Upload their ‘before’ text to team.credosity.com and generate a ‘before’ report.
  2. Work your magic on their text (use Credosity to improve/check it, too — much easier in the installed desktop version).
  3. Upload your ‘after’ text to Credosity and generate an ‘after’ report.
  4. Show your client both. Point out, for example, the change in the reading-grade level. (Hopefully you’ve improved it!)

 

Writing training

Planning your 2018 L&D programs?

KPMG quote: 'The courses Paul delivered ... were absolutely outstanding. I have honestly never seen such positive feedback. The team talked very positively about the course for weeks afterwards, and their course books are still open on their desks for reference.'

Better comms skills can make a huge huge difference to productivity.

How would better communication skills boost your business? Take a look at two of our most popular one-day courses:

'Get it Write' course and 'Write for Influence' course

See course outlines here.

Both courses are available:

  • In-house, face-to-face
  • Live online, just for your company (good for remote or global teams).

‘Get it Write’ is also available as self-paced video training.

Like to discuss your options? Get in touch.

 

 

Writing to senior execs? Avoid this! [infographic: reading grade level]

How tough reading grade levels can limit your career

A high (hard) reading grade level puts off time-poor senior executives

I was training a group from a big-4 bank when a guy (bravely) shared a vital lesson he learned about reading grade level:

I worked hard on a report for a senior manager. I dug deep, adding research, statistics and sound logic. After many hours at work and late at night, I sent it to him, certain it was excellent.

So it was an unpleasant surprise when he replied with:

‘Could you have another go? I couldn’t crack the code.’

Ouch!

‘Cracking the code’ means tough to follow. Hard to understand.

Blind spots like these are incredibly common, even among ‘pro’ communicators.

A simple test is your reading grade level—how many years of school someone needs to easily understand your message.

Writing at grade-10 level is too hard for 80% of people.

Think you’re fine? Run a little test: What’s the reading grade level of your LinkedIn profile? Try it now:

  1. Copy and paste your LinkedIn profile into https://team.credosity.com/
  2. Click Readability
  3. Click Readability Stats to see your Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level.

Are you game to comment below with your result? (It’s a measure of bravery!)

‘But I’m writing to smart people. They can read tougher text.’

And there, my friend, is the rub: They CAN read higher reading-grade-level text, but do they WANT to?

When people are time-poor (as senior execs are), they ruthlessly avoid doing unnecessary work. Which means they’ll favour messages that are easier to read.

If yours is tough to read, they’ll skip or skim it. They’ll miss your main points, you’ll get a ‘no,’ and be left wondering why.

This infographic sums it up—stay out of the Dead Zone at bottom left!

Infographic: Use reading grade level to boost reading motivation

Download the PDF of this infographic.

Useful? Love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Paul

Paul & the Magneto/Credosity Crew

 

The Curse of Cognitive Load: Why complexity kills comms

 

‘When I saw them shuffling back from the director’s office, I knew he’d said no.’

If you’re like most people, you’re missing something crucial in how you think about communication: The impact of cognitive load.

This true story sums it up:

My client’s team pitched a project worth over $1m to the company head. They’d spent months working on it. It would benefit their department and the whole organisation—it was bound to be a sure thing.

They met their director, and pitched with gusto. He seemed convinced. But at the end, he rejected the project. They were shocked.

So when my client saw them shuffling back, his mouth dropped. ‘How could he turn down this project?!’ They shrugged.

‘Show me your slides,’ he said.

They pulled them up, all 40 of them.

He chose four, and hurried back to the director’s office. ‘Excuse me, a quick word? You declined this project, but look …’ And showed him the slides.

The director sat back, arched his eyebrows and said,

‘Oh, I didn’t realise that. Okay, it’s a yes.’

Just like that, my client saved the project. With four slides.

What happened? The complexity of the 40-slide message left doubt in the director’s mind. His safe default was ‘no’.

But the clarity of the simpler, four-slide message—slides chosen around his needs, interests and objections—gave him confidence to say yes.

Simple is good. Complex is bad.

Complexity kills comms

Daniel Kahneman won the Nobel Prize for his work in behavioural economics.

He found our brains are ruled by two systems:

System 1: Fast, intuitive, automatic, error-prone—e.g. recognising an angry face, working out 2 x 2, or understanding simple sentences.

System 2: Slow, effortful, conscious, reliable—e.g. working out 15 x 37, resisting temptation over a long time, or finding Wally.

We prefer being in System 1 because it’s EASY. And we’ve evolved to save energy, even mental energy.

Kahneman found when you ask people to read a complex message, you push them into System-2 thinking. And because that means a dirty, four-letter word—WORK—they dislike it.

In fact, when using System 2 we become:

  • Vigilant
  • Suspicious
  • Uncomfortable.

But when you present a message our System 1 can process, we tend to:

  • Like it
  • Believe it
  • Trust it.

Are you seeing the implications here? THAT’S why we’ve been banging on for years about the importance of keeping your message simple.

‘How difficult it is to be simple.’ Vincent van Gogh

Cut cognitive load

Keeping your message simple - cut cognitive load

What’s cognitive load? Anything that adds extra processing for the brain. Things like:

  • Long words (e.g. ‘multisyllabic’ instead of ‘long’)
  • Long sentences (longer than about 20 words)
  • Fat paragraphs (longer than 4-5 lines thick)
  • Passive voice (try the ‘zombie’ test)
  • Jargon
  • Errors (e.g. punctuation, grammar)
  • Waffle (e.g. ‘at this point in time’ instead of ‘now’)
  • Nominalised verbs
  • Unnatural sequence (say it in the order it happened)
  • Long bullet lists, like this!

By themselves, we can handle each of them.

But, like lamination, it’s the layering of them that gives them their strength. The message becomes gobbledegook. Our brains are pushed into System-2 thinking, spit the dummy, and stop reading.

What else adds to cognitive load? Let us know in the comments below. 

Credosity cuts cognitive load

Our enterprise writing coach, Credosity, masterfully strips cognitive load from your messages. Savvy communicators are using it, including people at QSuper, Westpac, Qld Treasury Corporation and Santos. Like to join them?

Try it free, for 30 days.

You’ll find it simple, not complex, to use! (System 1 all the way.)

Paul

Paul & the Magneto/Credosity crew

Inconvenient Truths (Linguistic Statistics)

Invisalign ad fail - bad writing isn't always about the writing

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.

– George Bernard Shaw

Are you kidding yourself?

Absolutely. We all are. It seems Excessive Self-Regard Tendency is a feature of humanity: The less we know about something, the less we realise we know.

So when it comes to bad writing, here are a few home truths we all need to stare down:

1. Communication skills are rare, but critical to your success.

2. Bad writing is killing your productivity.

  • Josh Bernoff, an ex-Forrester researcher, revealed in his State of Business Writing – 2016 that 84% of business-writing managers, directors and supervisors say poor writing wastes a lot of their time. 
  • He also found that business writers average 20.4 hours, or 51% of their week, writing.
  • And they’re deluded, rating others’ writing as 5.4/10 for effectiveness, but their own at 6.9/10.

3. Bad writing is strangling your company.

  • William H DuBay in Working with Plain Language (2008) found 40% of the cost of managing business transactions is caused by poor communication.
  • And in Writing for Dollars, Writing to Please (1997), Joseph Kimble outlines 25 studies proving clear communication saves companies millions of dollars and countless hours. One example is FedEx’s operations-manual rewrite, which saved $400,000 in the first year alone.

So next time a badly written email, report or memo gets your back up, take a deep breath. The writer was clueless; they didn’t mean to disrespect you or your time. They (sadly) thought they did a great job. (Remember Excessive Self-Regard Tendency?)

But do them a favour and share this post with them.

Then get them onto Credosity. It’s a great blind-spot finder!

Meet CYBA: The Credosity Bulk Analyser

Credosity Bulk Analyser logo - CYBA

Bulk Analyser X-rays hundreds of documents at once

What if you could generate a spreadsheet summarising the readability, professionalism and diversity/inclusion issues in hundreds of documents at once?

Now you can! Well, specifically, we can, but we can do it for you. (We plan to make it a public tool eventually.)

It’s invaluable for helping us tailor our writing courses to each group’s needs. In one glance, we can see the worst issues the group’s writing samples have, and tailor the training to suit.

This screenshot shows part of the report:

CYBA Bulk Analyser screenshot

Bulk Analyser screenshot of spreadsheet report

Here’s a sample report (.xlsx) you can download and play with: Credosity Bulk Analysis – anonymous.

It’s a powerful tool for:

  • Businesses to track the quality of critical documents like board papers, customer communication, proposals, bids and tenders
  • Journalists to analyse and compare writing in government, different industries, or other media outlets
  • University lecturers and school teachers to instantly measure the writing quality of a whole cohort, e.g. a class, year or whole department.

Trump vs. Clinton

It’s a Write-Off! Trump vs. Clinton

Just for fun: How did Trump’s speeches compare to Clinton’s in terms of diversity and inclusion? Or readability? Or professionalism?

Wonder no more! These two CYBA reports (.xlsx) tell the story:

Credosity Bulk Analysis – Donald Trump speeches 2016

Credosity Bulk Analysis – Hillary Clinton speeches 2016

Key takeouts

Cred scores

Trump: 61.4%

Clinton: 62%

(Surprisingly low, given these were probably written by pro speechwriters.)

 

Total diversity/inclusion issues

Trump: 19

Clinton: 19

(Shock! They’re as bad as each other.)

 

Plain-English issues (average per speech)

Trump: 105

Clinton: 64

(Tsk, tsk, Donald. Speak plain English.)

 

Average reading-grade level 

Trump: 7.2

Clinton: 7.3

(Most adults read at about grade-7 level, so these are perfect for speeches.)

 

Longest sentence 

Trump: 60 words

Clinton: 65 words

(The ideal average sentence length for readability is 16 words/sentence. Whatever was in those long sentences was almost certainly missed by their audiences. )

 

Who won?

I was surprised at the similarity of Trump and Clinton’s speeches. I put it down to their speeches being almost certainly written by professional speechwriters.

And if that’s the case, Cred scores in the low 60s is an indictment of those pros! They should do better than that, especially in speeches, which must be as easy as possible on the ear.

To be honest, though, we see this all the time. Most people’s writing is much worse than they think. Psychologists call it Excessive Self-Regard Tendency.

Politicians thinking they’re better than they are? Never!

 

Suggest an analysis!

What would you like us to analyse next?

How one bank’s writing compares to another? Or how the writing in different industries compares? Let us know in the comments below.

This should be fun (and a bit controversial)!

Paul

 

2017 New Year report card

Thanks for your support in 2016!

Magneto Xmas tree

Thank you for being a ‘comms convert’ in 2016. We’re so grateful for your commitment to becoming a clearer, more effective communicator. Your participation in our writing training and/or use of Credosity has been integral to our success last year.

The cherry on top? You’ve helped us advance global literacy by supporting these two incredible charities each time you trained with us—Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation and Pencils of Promise.

Here’s to a huge 2017 for you!

 

2016 in review

Thanks for your support - Magneto Communications
Magneto Communications

2016 was big!

We trained 979 people from these companies and more this year:

  • Accenture
  • CUA
  • IRT
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • KKR
  • Medibank
  • MLC
  • National Disability Insurance Scheme
  • Queensland Treasury Corporation
  • Santos
  • Stanwell Corporation
  • Suncorp
  • Sydney Trains
  • Telstra
  • Westpac.

And 98% of attendees said they’d recommend our training to their colleagues. Yay! (That extra 2% … why? Oh, why?!)

 

Thank you for your support - Credosity
Credosity

We’ve been working hard perfecting our new enterprise writing coach, Credosity. And she’s proving popular.

More and more of you are creating good writing habits by ensuring you run your important documents and emails through Credosity.

Regular users of Credosity include:

  • Accenture
  • APP
  • Arup
  • Glencore
  • KKR
  • QSuper
  • Queensland Treasury Corporation
  • Santos
  • Stanwell Corporation
  • Terumo
  • Westpac

and many more!

Is the quieter holiday season a good time to check out Credosity? Be our guest.

 

Thanks for your support - ALNF

You helped us give $6,500 to teach indigenous kids

If you did our training this year, you made a big difference to many indigenous kids. With every course you booked, we donated to the ALNF (Australian Literature & Numeracy Foundation), and to Pencils of Promise to build schools.

From the bottom of our hearts, and theirs, thank you!

 

Credosity online learning

Summer School, anyone?

Get the jump on your competition and do a little learning over your break!

We just launched our first-ever self-paced video learning. Now you can do our famous ‘Get it Write’ business-writing masterclass whenever it suits you.

AND if you invite a friend to join you, they can do it for free! (Working with someone else helps you beat the procrastination beast.)

 

Here comes another year of your life

I’m sure you’re revved up about 2017. We are! Communicate powerfully; make it count.

Paul, Petrina, Nick, Virginia, Heather & Jon

Communications Wisdom: Kate Toon, Copywriter

Communications Wisdom with Kate Toon

 

In conversation with:

Kate Toon, Copywriter and SEO lover
More about Kate.

Kate Toon is an award-winning SEO copywriter and SEO consultant with almost two decades of experience in all things advertising, digital and writing. Originally from the UK but now based just outside Sydney.

She’s worked with big brands such as eHarmony, Curash and Kmart. And she’s helped countless small businesses produce great content and improve their copywriting and SEO.

Kate is also the founder of The Clever Copywriting School and The Recipe for SEO Success eCourse, as well as co-host on the Hot Copy podcast.

 


1. Who or what taught you the most about communication? Tell us more.

The experience of running my own business has taught me the most about communication. Even though I’ve worked in fancy-pants ad agencies, I’ve learned more in my time as a solo business person than I ever did from my so-called mentors and genius creative directors.

Most of it has been trial and error. The tone of a call isn’t right, so you change it for next time. The content of a status update causes a bad reaction, so you tweak it. A client interaction goes sour, so you create a template to improve the next call.

I spent the first three or four years of my business continually putting my foot in it, and learning from those communication mistakes. I’m still not perfect, but I’m much improved. Continue reading

Communications Wisdom: Amber Daines, Bespoke Communications

Communications wisdom with Amber Daines


In conversation with:

Amber Daines, CEO, Bespoke Communications

Amber Daines has spent almost 20 years in communications, including print and TV journalism, PR, and marketing, working in Australia, Asia and Europe.

She now runs Bespoke Communications, a boutique PR agency focusing on media training, public-speaking skills, and PR strategy, working with leaders. Her current clients span big and small business, government departments, start-ups and any cause needing cut-through communications.

www.howtobeheard.net

 


1. What are your favourite strategies for motivating people to action?

Make it personal. Your call to action has to resonate with the person you are speaking to or writing for. It is the WIIFM (what’s in it for me factor) that drives us all to do something new or challenge existing thoughts.

2. What’s the toughest message you’ve ever had to write or deliver? How did you handle it? Would you do things differently now?

In TV journalism, all new reporters were tested by having to do a ‘death knock.’ That’s where, well before the online world of photo libraries and Facebook images, one had to ask a grieving family for a printed photo of their deceased son, daughter, mum, or dad to include in that day’s on-air news bulletin. I was just 20 years old and knew little about managing my own emotions on the job, let alone asking for something so precious at a time of raw despair, just to cover a story.

I went inside and, to break the ice, asked them a few personal, off-topic questions about their dead child, over a cup of lukewarm tea. It made me grow up fast. I got the photo and read the story with new insight, which I believe made me a better reporter long term. Continue reading

Communications Wisdom: Jeffrey Anthony

Communications Wisdom with Jeff Anthony


In conversation with:

Jeffrey Anthony, Executive Consultant, Know Your Talents
More about Jeffrey.

 


Jeffrey Anthony is a former Chief Financial Officer with 20 years of C-level experience building and developing teams. He’s been responsible for IT, Human Resources, Accounting, Logistics, Customer Service and more. He’s also been a member of several cross-function senior leadership teams.

1. Who, or what, taught you the most about communication? Tell us more.

Most of what I’ve learned, I learned on the job through my own mistakes and those of people I worked with. As I began to understand the importance of effective communication, I focused on it more. I did a fair amount of reading on the subject. I’m especially interested in communication via email and social media. Continue reading

Communications Wisdom: Dean Mannix, SalesITV

Sales Communication - Dean Mannix SalesITV


In conversation with:

Dean Mannix, CEO, SalesITV
More about Dean.
Follow Dean on Twitter @deanmannix


Dean Mannix is one of Australia’s leading sales coaches. As the co-founder and CEO of SalesITV, Dean’s on a mission to empower sales professionals.

He has more than 25 years experience in sales-performance consulting in over 25 countries. His client list includes Westpac, Macquarie Bank, News Corp, Meridian Energy, Medibank and Boston Consulting Group.

Dean has authored the world’s largest single-source sales and service training library. It includes 125+ skill-building video sessions, models, strategies, scripts and more, and is used by thousands of salespeople every day.

1. Who, or what, taught you the most about communication? Tell us more.

Poor communicators. Every time I cringe, I’ve learnt something new.

2. Nature or nurture? Can people learn to be great communicators, or must you be born that way?

Nurture. It’s just another skill if you’re committed to finding your personal version of great communication.

3. What makes someone an extraordinary communicator? What characteristics, personality traits, experiences or otherwise ‘add up’ to make them so?

I think the most important skill is empathy and respect for your audience. I’ve seen many leaders with great presentation skills deliver very poor communications. They failed to take the audience’s perspective and treated intelligent adults like naughty or stupid children.

4. What’s your secret sauce? When you sit down to write an important message to your team or clients, what process or method do you use?

Achieving your desired outcome for any communication is not about the content. It’s about the conversation you need to have to achieve it.

Here’s my process. I write:

1. The outcome I want to achieve.
2. The action I need others to take.
3. The thoughts and emotions I need to create.
4. The headline I’ll use to capture attention.
5. Detail, as an option.

I’ll then:
6. Finish by repeating my headline.
7. Go back to the start of the communication and remember to connect and build rapport first!

5. Does that process change when you’re under pressure with a short deadline? How?

Only if I’m failing to be deliberate about my communication. Pressure and short deadlines should be a trigger for being even more committed to great communication.

6. What principles do you swear by when presenting to a live group?

Put pressure on the audience as early as possible. Make them think and share early. Get the focus away from you as the presenter and on what the audience cares about.

7. Some people say emotions are irrelevant at work: ‘Focus on the facts!’ What’s your take on that?

Those people are lazy. Great communication and great relationships take effort but the commercial (and personal) payoff is massive.

8. How do you approach influencing someone more senior than you?

Act and think like a peer rather than a subordinate. Take their perspective and speak to their issues before speaking to your desired outcomes. Come armed with next steps and actions that require little effort on their part. Always ask them what they think the next steps are before offering your suggestions.

9. What are your favourite strategies for motivating people to action?

I love praise as a motivator. But I’m guilty at times of failing to balance this with helping people understand the gap between where they are and where I need them and expect them to be. I do my best to be an example and inspire others to be more committed to being better, valuable and accountable.

10. What’s the toughest message you’ve ever had to write or deliver? How did you handle it? Would you do things differently now?

I’ll stick with business on this one.

My toughest message was having to fire a 33-year-old mother when I was a 25-year-old manager. This was back in the mid-1990s when there weren’t HR blogs to read about how to do this effectively.

It was a complete surprise to her. I was very factual and I did it in her office. If I had my time again, she would have been far more aware that she was approaching this situation (poor management on my part). I also would have had the conversation out of her work environment to enable her to be emotional without her team outside her office.

11. What’s your favourite quote or saying about communication (serious or funny)?

“Shut up and listen.” (Anon)

“I would have written you a short letter but I didn’t have time so I wrote you a long one instead.” (Blaise Pascal)

12. What advice would you give people who aren’t confident communicators or want to improve?

Developing any skill to a level of excellence requires practice, awareness and hard work outside your comfort zone.

Excellence requires physical practice that’s often best done in private.

Awareness requires honest feedback and video is a cruel but very useful tool. Practise presenting your content as if you were someone else or feeling an extreme emotion. For example, pretend you’re Robin Williams or pretend you’re incredibly angry. Role playing how others would present, and presenting with extreme emotion, often unlock skills and confidence we didn’t know we had.

13. Who do you personally know that you admire as an extraordinary communicator? What makes them so good?

Tony Robbins has truly mastered every aspect of communication except brevity. I was also incredibly impressed when I saw Peter Costello (former treasurer) speak at an event. It blew me away how poor he was on television and how amazing he was in person.


 

CYsml

 

Credosity for Microsoft Word and Outlook is enterprise-grade software that helps you write better, and review faster, at work. Try it free for 30 days: www.credosity.com

Know an extraordinary communicator? This series taps the hard-won insights of exceptional communicators. Who do you admire? Please connect us: hello@credosity.com