Our video likens the way most people write for business to the way they tell a joke. Set the scene, build the story, hit ‘em with the punchline and enjoy the laughter.

Sadly, your readers are likely to lose interest if you use this approach when writing reports.

People know the drill when when listening to a joke, but they don’t when faced with your request for a bigger budget or when reading your departmental performance analysis.  So follow these guidelines:

Write for distracted readers

Most readers are short of time and have many calls on their attention.

They may be reading on a screen (which can be likened to eating on the run) so your writing must be ‘glanceable’ and as simple to deal with as finger food.

It must also be easy to get into.

Short sentences, short paragraphs, subheads, bullet points and lists all help to break up that daunting page of words and invite the reader in.

The most important tip we can give, however, is the simplest – put your punchline at the beginning. In effect…

Turn your writing upside down.

Start your performance report with the thought you were probably planning to end with and express it as a headline that sums up your message and demands attention.

New phone system saves £10,000 a month.

Small investment in safety training cuts employee turnover and insurance costs.

Margins up. Customer churn down. How the next 12 months will look.

Sales up 25% – more resources will maintain this momentum.

Notice anything? That’s right – when pitching for something new, try expressing your headline as if the benefits have already been felt.

That new phone system isn’t approved yet, but the headline sells the benefits as if it’s already installed.

The safety training request – again, it’s expressed in the present tense and sells the benefits as if they have already happened.

The margin and churn forecast doesn’t say the next 12 months ‘could’ be great – it’s much more self-assured than that!

And one more thing – now you have written your headline, try arranging the rest of your report or request to follow the AIDCA sales writing rules (see J44 blog 10 – the key to compelling content).

So to sum up:

  • Short words, short sentences
  • Write for distracted readers
  • Be easy to consume – like finger food
  • Punchline first – turn your writing upside down
  • Sell success as if it’s already happened
  • Use the AIDCA sales writing rules.

Good luck!


Steve Yelland

Steve Yelland

Writer and brand strategist. A writer since 1978, Steve Yelland’s work has built share and sold product for some of the world’s top brands. His writing has appeared in the D&AD Annual three times and has won awards in the UK, Europe and the USA.