Tesco, the pub and the growing value of brilliant business writing skills

Where can you find examples of brilliant writing?

Books, newspapers or online and the obvious sources, but often it can be found as we go about our everyday lives.

Tesco provided a great example of this when pubs in England with beer gardens reopened their doors.

It used its advertising to tell customers to “Pop to your local if you can.”

And added: “Pubs have had it tough this year. That’s why, for once, instead of telling you about our fantastic deals, we’re using this space to ask you to support them instead (as long as you feel safe to do so).  Because right now, every little helps.”

The brilliance of this lies in its simplicity.

It only contains a few words, but they are pretty much perfectly formed.

The language is every day and conversational – you can picture your friends asking you to ‘pop to the local’.

It fits perfectly with the ‘we’re all in this together’ sentiment that has been so prevalent for the past year. And it also talks to those who may not yet feel safe to take a step closer to everyday life.

It is excellent copywriting. But here’s the thing - good writing skills aren’t just needed by those who produce your marketing materials, update your website or create the press releases.

Being able to write well is an essential workplace skill.

Just think how much of our working lives we spend compiling emails.

The average office worker receives 120 emails a day, and a survey by Adobe showed that people in the workplace typically spend 3.1 hours a day compiling and reading emails.

That’s a lot of words and a significant chunk of time.

But there is more to business writing than email.

Many of us also need to produce presentations, reports and letters and explain policies. Amazon begins all its meetings with a six-page document. And attendees have around 20-25 minutes to absorb the information it contains.

The pandemic, and the move to remote working, has made being able to write well more important than ever.

If you can’t meet in person and you’re suffering from Zoom fatigue, writing is the best way to share thoughts and insight and communicate with your colleagues and teams.

So, what can we do to improve and hone our skills? Here’s some advice from our writing skills training courses:


Keep it simple

Whether you are writing for colleagues, customers or partners, no one is going to be impressed by the depth of your vocabulary, or pat you on the back because you know a few long words.

But if they are struggling to follow the point you are trying to make, they are unlikely to keep reading.

And those who stick with it may misunderstand what you had to say.


Keep it conversational

One of the strengths of the Tesco advert we discussed at the start of this writing skills blog, was its conversational tone.

You could picture someone saying those words.

And that’s crucial. People are far more likely to read something that has a chatty style and flows.

To help achieve this, grammar rules sometimes go out of the window. For example, sentences can start with ‘and’, ‘but’, and ‘or’, despite what you were taught at school.

You can also finish your sentences with a preposition, such as ‘on’, ‘off’, ‘with’, ‘about’ and ‘others’.

Ultimately, how conversational you can make your writing depends on who you are writing for.

But remember you are writing for your audience and not the grammar police.


Cut the fat

Cut unnecessary words from your writing.

A word I hate is ‘very’. And I’m not alone.

The American novelist Florence King once said: “‘Very’ is the most useless word in the English language and can always come out. More than useless, it is treacherous because it invariably weakens what it is intended to strengthen.”

‘Really’ is equally pointless. If Tesco had said “Pubs have had it really tough this year” would it have added anything to the meaning?

‘That’ is another one which can easily be deleted without changing the meaning of your sentence.

Other words you can cut include ‘definitely’, ‘probably’, ‘basically’ and ‘certainly’, all of which fail to add any meaning to a sentence.

And ‘some’ and all its relatives like ‘sometimes’ and ‘somewhere’ only add vagueness to a sentence.


Short sentences

Long sentences can be really hard for readers to follow, particularly if they include lots of clauses, and different ideas and when that happens, they very quickly lose interest and may stop reading altogether.

How many times did you need to read that above sentence?

Probably more than once. It is a lengthy, clunky sentence with too much going on and some of the mistakes I’ve told you to avoid.

So, thanks for sticking with me.

What if I wrote instead: “Long sentences can be hard for readers to follow, particularly if they include lots of clauses and ideas. When this happens, they lose interest.”

Now it is easy to follow.

And this is the key. Sentences containing several clauses and covering multiple points are not reader-friendly.

And those who are not familiar with your topic will have to work hard to understand what you are trying to say.


More than words

Good business writing isn’t just about the words you use.

You could write brilliantly, but if it doesn’t look appealing, many people will opt against reading it.

If I’m presented with swathes of text, it does not put me in the right mood to want to read it.

I’ll probably put it off and may never read it at all.

My point here is regardless of whether you are writing an email or a report, you need to avoid the traps that will prevent people from reading?

How do you do it?

It starts with white space. Pages and screens crammed with writing are overwhelming.

Adding white space makes them look less cluttered and more attractive.

It also allows readers to briefly process what they have just read and pause before moving on to the next section – improving understanding. It is gentle on the brain. 

Another tip is to ensure paragraphs don’t go on beyond one sentence. If you look at newspapers, almost every paragraph consists of just one sentence because editors know long paragraphs are off-putting for readers.

I also use subheadings to break text up into more readable sections. And they can entice the readers into carrying on by highlighting what is coming next.

Also, consider using lists. Readers love them.

As well as providing a visual break, they are also easy to scan and allow readers to quickly find the most pertinent parts.


Inverted pyramid

I realise there is a risk I may lose you here as ‘inverted pyramid’ can sound a bit dull and technical.

But keep reading.

What I am talking about here is a simple writing structure. It is used by journalists and it is something I would recommend others adopt.

Essentially, the most newsworthy part goes at the beginning – for business writing, this should be the main message you want to get across. And perhaps even the call to action.

The next stage of the pyramid is for the vital details, supporting information, statistics, quotes, evidence and examples.

And at the base of the pyramid, we have the general and background information, together with a reminder of the call to action.

Structuring writing in this way ensures it is easy for readers to follow.



Once you are happy with what you have written, you need to spend time checking for those pesky mistakes and typos that can undermine your hard work and change its meaning.

Check it. Then check it again. And then get someone else to check it.

Proofing is one of the hardest parts of writing because it is hard to spot errors in your work.

So, a few tips and tricks.

Firstly, leave a gap between writing and proofing – you’ll spot many more mistakes. Pop the kettle on, chat to a colleague about last night’s match, or make the phone call you’ve been putting off.

Change the font and the size of your work. If you’ve got a printer handy, get yourself a hard copy of your work. Simply, making the words look different helps.

Another good approach is to read it aloud. If you find you are stumbling over your words and are struggling for breath, you need to simplify and rework your sentences. 

There are also some useful tools you can use. Things like Grammarly and the Hemmingway Editor are not foolproof – and you will need to use your judgement with the changes they suggest – but they do spot errors and help tighten your work.


So, what next? Start writing and try to incorporate some of these tips into your work. If you need a hand, we run writing skills courses, and we can tailor them to your specific aims and needs.

If you need to improve your writing as part of your content marketing strategy, we also offer an online training option, available whenever and wherever you need it.


Media First are media and communications training specialists with more than 35 years of experience. We have a team of trainers, each with decades of experience working as journalists, presenters, communications coaches and media trainers. 

Click here to find out more about our writing skills training.

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