Tag Archives | simplicity

How badly written is Facebook’s update about their new T&Cs?

Facebook T and Cs updateDid you see this Data Policy Notice when you last logged into Facebook? I read it, and cringed because it’s so badly written. I’ve had a go at rewording some of the worst bits. Please let me know what you think in the comments below. Thank you.

Headline before

Updating Our Terms and Policies: Helping You Understand How Facebook Works and How to Control Your Information

Too long. Too dull. Even though it uses the words You and Your more than Our, the tone of voice is too ‘top down’. Doesn’t accurately reflect the content of the update. Uses Camel Case (Initial Capitals) That Some People Find Harder to Read.

Headline after

New T&Cs from 1 Jan: Learn how to control your privacy settings, choose which (if any) ads you see, and get the best experience of Facebook. Continue Reading →


First impressions are lasting impressions…


It was worth it when I got there.

These days, many things are becoming automated. Presumably, these innovations are intended to:

  • save the cost of employing staff
  • save time
  • give more ‘power’ to the people

But who do they really help? Often, it’s not the customer.

Case study 1

I’ve recently returned from an amazing trip to Greece. I flew out from the new Heathrow Terminal 2, where you now have to print your own bag tag.

However, there was no signage telling people what to do. I saw several people join the snaking line to reach the check-in desks as usual, only to be sent back to the bag tag machines.

Tempers were fraying.

There was a queue of people at each bag tag machine. But it wasn’t going well. There was one member of staff helping one customer while the others fretted and stamped their feet.

When I finally reached a machine to print my own bag tag, the machine screen offered me three options:

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In response to popular demand…

People often ask how I keep track of my copywriting work, so here’s the at-a-glance progress chart I use.

As each project runs, you simply move Post-It Notes along the grid from left to right. Note that the columns with red headings are ‘action by you'; the columns with black headings are ‘action by your client’.

Progress chart

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Simplicity: Reimagining the tube map

Harry Beck famously redesigned the London underground map in 1933.

Original tube map design by Harry Beck

Original tube map design by Harry Beck

He was an engineering draughtsman at the London Underground Signals Office, and he realised that – when you’re underground – the map doesn’t have to represent actual geography.

So he redrew it using equal distances between stations joined by vertical, horizontal and 45-degree diagonal lines*. This became the model for underground maps around the world and is still used to this day.

Back-of-an-envelope design

It even inspired me in a 1974 science lesson when studying the relationship between chemical reactions. The teacher told us the diagram in the book was unclear, and set us homework to simplify it.

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Secrets of effective communication (part 2)

WhisperScenario A.

You say: “How are you?”
Your friend is smiling and bouncy, and says: “I’m fine.”
Do you believe them?

Scenario B.

You say: “How are you?”
Your friend is quiet with shoulders hunched, and says: “I’m fine.”
Do you believe them?

Choosing the right communication channels

You might have heard of the Mehrabian Myth – it’s been widely quoted that only 7% of communication comes from the words we use, with 38% from tone of voice and 55% from body language. The research actually applied only to incongruent communication – that is when words, voice and behaviours do not match (as in scenario B). The theory has been extrapolated to refer to all communication, but it’s not true.

That’s so important that I’ll repeat it.


In most cases, words are much more important than 7% (although, as a copywriter, I probably would say that, wouldn’t I).

You can achieve successful communication with just words – especially if you’ve already built a relationship face-to-face or over the phone first.

Imagine attending a training course in person compared with listening in to a conference call or just reading the manual. You’ll learn more face-to-face than over the phone, and more over the phone than by just reading the words.

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Secrets of effective communication (part 1)


The information cascade doesn’t work.

Leaders in organisations fondly imagine that the information cascade works as a method of internal communication.

It doesn’t.

When they have a message to impart, senior executives think they can tell their direct reports who will pass it on to their own teams and so on down the hierarchy.

But one weak link and the chain breaks.

When I worked in corporate life, I had one boss who hardly ever bothered to pass on information because he didn’t think we needed to know. I had another boss who held weekly briefing meetings where people rarely listened because of the way the data was shared. When I held weekly meetings with my own team, they used to sing the ‘Jackanory’ theme tune at the start, because they knew I’d be telling them lots of stories.


Many companies think they can stick a sign on a noticeboard to communicate a message, and that everyone will read it.

They won’t.

Most people pass by without even noticing the notice on the noticeboard.

In my local gym, there’s a big display outside the fitness studio showing all the class times, but people still ask Reception what’s on and when.

Continue Reading →