Stop using double spacing after a full-stop. Period.

Finally, some good news!

Word is going to start showing double spaces after a full-stop/period as a mistake, preventing the daily howls of frustration from copy-editors worldwide who are continually having to find/replace the damned things.

(And yes, I know lots of people were taught to type with a double space after a full-stop. I was too – because I learned on a typewriter, which is where this came from: to improve the kerning and create more readable text. Computers / word processors are rather more sophisticated than typewriters – they sort the spacing out for you. This means using a double space on a computer actually *increases* layout issues – especially when justifying text – so achieves the precise opposite of what people who do this think it does.)

I’m fairly flexible as an editor most of the time, but along with *always* advocating the Oxford Comma, killing post-period double spaces is one of the few editing hills I’m prepared to die on.

When writing is a matter of life and death

Behind the Economist paywall, sadly, but this is the key point – always worth remembering beyond the current crisis, and something a number of political leaders need to learn:

“Recommendations that sound more advisory than mandatory seem to presume rational adults will do the right thing with accurate information. The central insight of behavioural economics is that they do not…”

Clarity of messaging is more vital now than ever – it’s become a literal matter of life and death. “Practice social distancing” is vague, confusing, advisory. “Stay home” is clear, unambiguous, mandatory. Guess which has worked better?

This is also a lesson we should take with us after this crisis has passed: If you want to be understood, make your point as clearly and plainly as possible. Otherwise you have no one to blame but yourself when people don’t pay attention to what you’re telling them – or, worse, start believing simpler-sounding misinformation.

More books can never be a bad thing

Despite loving the near limitless possibilities of digital publishing, my first love is books. I’ve written two, reviewed them, and even worked at a book publisher for a while. Part bibliophile, part tsundoku, I buy books almost obsessively – and usually have dozens on the go at any one time. My flat could easily be mistaken for a secondhand bookshop.

So it’s probably unsurprising that I’m a big fan of the idea of collecting previously ephemeral digital content into book form to extend its (literal) shelf life. Great to see the New York Times agrees:

“Reporters leave a ton in their notebooks… The book form really gives us a chance to expand the journalism and include a lot more of the detail and texture that is never going to make it into the daily report.”

More brands – especially B2B ones – should consider following the NYT’s lead and mine their content archives to curate thematic ebooks (and even physical ones) of their best pieces.

Repackaging ideas in book form offers opportunities to expand and elaborate on points in more depth in the perfect lean-back format. Because there’s nothing better than a book for encouraging deep engagement with and deliberation over someone else’s thinking. If you’re selling ideas, the book is the perfect format.

The upside of lockdown

Cut to the chase about halfway down, and the potential benefits of remote working on company culture and productivity here are pretty accurate, based on my experience of working in a globally distributed team at Microsoft and as a freelancer back in the day.

These benefits don’t just happen by magic, though – it takes concerted effort to transition to and encourage new ways of working, and some people will find this shift harder than others. They’ll need support, and we’ll all have a responsibility to help our colleagues make the switch if this is going to work.

They say it takes 60 days to form new habits… Will the lockdowns so many of us are experiencing last long enough for these new ways of working to bed in to our working culture? And when we do finally return to work properly, will we be able to bring their benefits back with us?

Chris Rock, pandemic philosopher

Surprising wisdom from Chris Rock, which seems particularly pertinent as we reluctantly go into social distancing / self-isolation mode:

“Naive people will tell you, ‘There’s always tomorrow and you’ll always get another chance.’ The smart people will tell you, ‘You probably get three chances at anything in life, and you’ll probably be busy for the first two chances. When you get that third one you better be f—ing ready.'”

There’s going to be a bunch of missed chances over the next few weeks. But we’ll also all have plenty of time to prepare for future ones: Time to read that book, take that online course, learn that skill, do those push-ups, and generally get ready for that next chance once life returns to normal.

(More clichéd LinkedIn style than my usual posts, this – but years of life as a freelancer taught me the importance of maintaining a positive mindset and future-focus when working from home. Get a constructive hobby, and make the most of the extra time saved by not commuting to pick up new knowledge and skills. It’s a major benefit, used well.)

Why user personas need to be more complex and inclusive

Inclusive user personasI’m not a fan of user personas. They’re meant to remind us of alternative perspectives, but tend to become either so specific as to make us blinkered, or so single-minded as to be unrealistic.

This piece does a good job of summarising how this fallacy of assuming we can identify user archetypes came about, how it misses so much vital nuance and complexity, and why we need to shake it off if we’re ever going to meet the needs of real users via a more effective, inclusive design approach to developing a better customer experience.

Newer isn’t always better – or necessary

This is a decent short piece in Inc. about Oprah Winfrey’s podcast strategy – basically mining her archive of TV shows for audio highlights – with some simple yet sensible advice for this age of ephemeral experiences:

“Good content is good content. No matter how old it is… Get creative and find ways to adapt that content to be relevant for… new audiences, and put it in front of them.”

That “get creative” part is key, though. Older content  is likely to only have nuggets of still-relevant gold that will need careful mining and potentially refining for different formats, audiences, and purposes.

Remember: Not everything has to be explicitly about today’s perceived front-of-mind issues to be relevant and interesting. There’s a reason Dale Carnegie continues to be a bestselling author in the business books category 75 years after his death. Good insights are good insights.

Approached with the right mindset, old white papers, transcripts of conference speeches, case studies, surveys – even LinkedIn posts – could become a treasure trove of inspiration for creating something similar but different to engage new people on new platforms and in new formats.

Content marketing is, after all, about effective presentation of the content as well as the brand. And content ultimately succeeds based on *its* content –  ideas and their presentation.

And there is *always* more than one way to present an idea.

The endless battle against “garbage language”

Complaining about nonsense business-speak may be futile, but this piece – a review of a memoir about life in startup land – does a good job of summing up why spewing out business bullshit is not just intellectually offensive, but actively harmful:

“I like Anna Wiener’s term for this kind of talk: garbage language. It’s more descriptive than corporate speak or buzzwords or jargon. Corporatespeak is dated; buzzword is autological, since it is arguably an example of what it describes; and jargon conflates stupid usages with specialist languages that are actually purposeful, like those of law or science or medicine. Wiener’s garbage language works because garbage is what we produce mindlessly in the course of our days and because it smells horrible and looks ugly…

“But unlike garbage, which we contain in wastebaskets and landfills, the hideous nature of these words — their facility to warp and impede communication — is also their purpose. Garbage language permeates the ways we think of our jobs and shapes our identities as workers. It is obvious that the point is concealment; it is less obvious what so many of us are trying to hide.”

In short, if your ideas are good, don’t bury them in garbage. If they’re not, the presence of garbage is a good indicator.

Taking digital to print can make sense

Great to see a copy of the Culture Trip magazine in the flesh on Eurostar. A slick, matt finish cover and perfect-bound spine screams quality, while the prominence of adverts for other Culture Trip formats (and lack of much other advertising) reveals this to be a piece of brand awareness marketing more than just a shift to a new, retro format for an established digital publisher.

Getting a travel magazine on Eurostar is quite the distribution coup as well – finely targeted to a (likely) receptive audience.

I’d not be surprised to see more digital ventures going physical for ad hoc print editions like this in the coming years. The shift towards longform and digital editions, the revival of vinyl, plus the growth in sales of physical books and independent publications suggests a rising demand for tactile, physical content formats alongside the convenience of digital.

With good design and production values, a print magazine or book can be something to both treasure and show off – a powerful, prestigious tool for driving brand loyalty.

Don’t get me wrong – digital is great. But every format is worth considering in the marketing mix – if it’s got potential to drive results rather than being mere vanity.

New post on LinkedIn: Big data and marketing

Inspired by a piece comparing the creative side of marketing with the more business-focused obsession with data and ROI.

The short version?

“Rather than worry about big ideas vs targeting, what the marketing industry really needs to learn how to do is revive the art of the soft sell and the long tail. That’s the more human way of building relationships that last – but to work it needs a significantly more nuanced understanding of how people will be interacting with you than I’ve seen from pretty much any modern brand marketing campaign.”

Read the full thing on LinkedIn…