Why are tone of voice guidelines so woefully lacking?

If you look at a typical brand or organisation’s brand guidelines, you’re sure to see a few common tick boxes. Logo rules? Check. Gradients? Yep. Fonts? Absolutely. But tone of voice? More often than not it’s a page, maybe two – if it features at all – in a 40+ page PDF, comprising of a few floaty statements and top level tips. “Engaging”, “jargon-free”, “friendly”. It’s like asking for design that “looks good”.

There’s nothing specifically wrong with these tips and statements as such. Top level “vibes” are useful to get a sense of things as a copywriter. But they’re too vague. Guidelines are meant to be a rulebook. They need to be practical. And without practical application pointers alongside the bigger picture stuff, then how can writers be expected to create something worth reading?

In conversations around tone of voice, MailChimp rightly comes up often as a brand who have put time and attention into articulating its Content Style Guide. But there are plenty of other organisations you might not expect who are smashing it too, such as the The University of Leeds or even The Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (ICSA). What puts these three examples ahead of the pack in my opinion is that they’ve gone beyond the floaty statements and nailed down the mechanics of how you create the tone of voice. MailChimp goes into granular detail on writing for its different formats and platforms. Leeds University carefully couples every “what” with a “how”. ICSA plots out the road to good writing from A to B in clear and informative steps.

These three examples show that tone of voice can be well-articulated to great effect. It can be done. So why isn’t it being done more? Why are these examples so rare? Why are we still seeing these long, clunky guideline documents from brands big and small that don’t give tone of voice anywhere near enough time as design? Rob Mitchell, co-founder of We All Need Words, writes for Design Week that “the hard part of any tone of voice project is finding a lateral way to put all the brand stuff into words.” That it’s high time “visual identities budged up a bit to share some of that rebrand limelight with their wordy cousins.” And I couldn’t agree more. The attention that goes into the visual needs to go into the linguistic too.

If we don’t commonly see rules as important to copy, it’s surely at least part of the reason that there’s so much weak writing around. There’s golden work going out every day, but there’s also, as Velocity Partners’ Doug Kessler has eloquently established, a deluge of utter crap.

Would copywriting as an industry be better if we held it to account more? I sure as hell think so. And one place to start is by organisations taking the time to lay down some rules and articulate their voice and tone. It’s not an easy or thrillingly exciting task but the results could be epic.

I’m no rigid stickler for the rules. Rules should be played around with, toyed with, sometimes even broken. But I also think that the rules should be respected and at the very least known, even if they are then consciously ignored.


Could being anxious millennials make us better creatives?


I’m a millennial.


And along with the rest of the world – when I’m not monopolising avocado yields or just whingeing somewhere – I hate the term. More than that, though, I hate what comes along with it.

The always having to be ‘on’, always worrying about what’s next, always judging yourself against others because you’ve been conditioned that way. Yada yada. A recent BBC article on ‘millennial burnout’ explains that ‘it’s all about being hyper-healthy, hyper-clued-up, hyper-fashionable – and it’s exhausting.’

It sure as hell is exhausting and more than that it’s boring.

But an intriguing thought struck me recently:

Could all this ‘millennial anxiety’ be positively fuelling our creative careers?

Let’s see.

The always ‘on’ mentality?

It means thinking about and documenting words and ideas whenever inspiration strikes. Working on the go and never being limited by the surrounding set-up. Texting on the night bus? How about tactics on the night bus?

The dependence on technology?

It means writing for any platform or format. Twitter? Yep. Web? Yep. App? Yep. When the machines enslave us all, maybe I’ll curry favour through delightful binary.

The narcissism?

We’re all obsessed with ourselves, so naturally that extends to our jobs. Being a millennial means I know my work is the only significant work going in the land. Everything I do is of crucial import and no one else could possibly get me.

The self-doubt or ‘imposter syndrome’?

It helps us to stay modest and powers us to work harder in the creative industries. I’m constantly expecting my boss to stand up and bellow ‘get out, fiend’ in his best Ian McKellen voice.

The worry?

It adds pressure that forces us to hit deadlines and fuels us to produce the best work we possibly can. It also leads to crippling mental and physical health issues but let’s just sweep that under the rug.

The comparison with others?

It keeps us competitive, researching what others are doing and always topping up the inspiration. It also means we’re constantly coveting other people’s wondrously emerald grass.

So what do we reckon then? Could being an anxious millennial make us better creatives?

Maybe I’m asking the wrong question. Maybe the real question is: how do you be a millennial and a creative…while being content?

[Adapted from an original guest post for Bank of Creativity]

Why the ‘Conversational Copywriter’ is Marketing’s Next Must-have

The Conversational Copywriter

Is ‘conversational copywriter’ just another marketing term to add to bullshit bingo? Quite possibly, yes. But, however you want to define it, the copywriting landscape is evolving.

‘Copywriter’ in its purest form used to be, and in many circles still is, the catch-all name for the token words person. And in recent years we’ve also seen a shift into niches such as technical copywriter, SEO copywriter, creative copywriter, marketing copywriter etc, etc.

It’s a word that a lot of us hate as it’s reductive, misleading and even just plain ugly. But it’s the one we’ve got. So why not throw an adjective in front of it to give it a little more character?

With that in mind, here’s why I think the conversational copywriter is going to be the next big thing for the marketer’s arsenal.

1. With great UX design, comes a greater need for writing talent

The world of design used to be dominated by graphic and web designers. But in recent years, (thanks to the growth of technology and the increasing empowerment of the consumer) they’ve had to make room for user experience design – or UX – to get a look in, too.

More and more companies are putting thought and attention into their UX strategies, and a UX rep or entire specialist teams are becoming typical features in any organisation worth its salt.

But is something lacking?

At its core, UX is all about presenting information in a way that is useful and accessible to the end user. It’s about what the person experiences on a website, how they interact with the content and creating seamless navigation.

And this is as much about words, tone and messaging as it is about design and navigation. So, where’s the focus on UX copywriting?

Specialist UX writers exist, and UX writing as a whole is certainly a growing medium. But I think it’s about to get a hell of a lot bigger.

2. The rise of automation will mean more voiced technology

You can’t load a news site without seeing a headline on AI, the Internet of Things or automation. What a day to be alive. But it is true that technology is slowly seeping into every element of our lives – and we’re loving it.

People are using nine mobile apps a day on average, while 63% are comfortable interacting with a chatbot. And everyone seems to have found a friend in Alexa or Siri.

But pleasant as it is to imagine that there’s a friendly copywriter sat typing furiously inside every machine we use, the reality is, technology’s automated ‘voice’ is growing.

Combined with the rise of UX, this has created the need for conversational user interfaces (UI), aka platforms that mimic a conversation with a real human.

But to build these platforms, and to build them well, we’ll need more people that can write for them. However ridiculous this sentence reads; a human touch is needed for giving voice to a robot that sounds like a human.

The number of writers that specialise in conversational UI will surely grow to meet this need.

3. People are demanding authenticity, which will extend to tone and copy

According to PwC, 35% of consumers ranked ‘trust in brand’ among their top three reasons for choosing which retailers to shop at. And look up any advice on marketing to millennials and the word ‘authenticity’ will undoubtedly feature.

Audiences will settle for nothing short of authentic. If trust is at all in question, they’ll simply take their business elsewhere.

The concept naturally extends to tone of voice – one of the key ways of building (and losing) trust along the user journey. ‘Conversational’ is becoming a more common stylistic tone across the board (although it has to be said, with varying levels of success).

There’s a difference between writing in a ‘human’ voice conversationally and writing for a robot in a ‘conversational’ way (with a chatbot for example). It’s a nuance that is often unfortunately missed. To quote my editor, Libby: “Don’t wish me a good day! You’re a machine!” And she’s not alone… 48% feel that it’s creepy if a chatbot pretends to be human, while 60% feel patronised if a chatbot starts asking how their day is going.

To project voices that are authentic and that people respond well to, we’ll need more specialist copywriters powering the technology to achieve the right nuances.

4. More brands will look to copy as a lucrative differentiator

I’m no business mogul, but I know that it’s harder than ever for businesses and brands to stand out. Over-saturation of markets, a huge amount of competition – cutting through the noise, remaining relevant and achieving longevity is a challenge.

But tone of voice and copywriting can be a key differentiator.

Look at MailChimp Paddy Power, the Dave channel, Old Spice, Firebox, Bellroy, Dollar Shave Club and more. Their tones of voice are recognisable and powerful in a myriad of ways.

So much copywriting out there online, in print, at events – wherever – is just terrible. Why not be the organisation that champions it, and bring your voice to the fore?

What’s next?

The copywriting renaissance is long overdue, but it is coming. It’s happened for video, it’s happened for design and it’s happened for UX.

It’s now time for copywriting, and in particular, the ‘conversational’ copywriter – to finally get its time in the sun.

Creative Play and Rejecting the Don Draper School of Idea Generation


What does it mean to be “creative”? To be an “ideas person”? Or to be “artistic”? They’re just words aren’t they. Devoid of any real meaning.

As a Contenty-copywriter type, I often (to my delight) get pulled into creative meetings or idea generation sessions, as it is assumed I’ll be a valuable contributor. And whilst I’d love to think that’s all on me, in reality I think it’s because my job role allows me to be “creative”. It is expected.

Creativity belongs to us all

Creativity is not a talent, it is an active craft. It’s all about being able to shift perspective and solve problems. And it isn’t and shouldn’t be pigeonholed to one industry or role. Dave gets it:
“Creativity isn’t a particular discipline. It’s the quality of originality and unexpectedness that you bring to whatever you do.” – Dave Trott in Creative Mischief

The importance of playfulness

It’s hard to actually define creativity, but in my opinion it centres around playfulness. A quick check on Google offers “frivolity”, “silliness” and even “monkey business” as possible synonyms. But I mean playful in terms of toying with or manipulating something, pulling it apart and patching it back together.


Being playful in the workplace isn’t frivolous or silly, but a way of solving problems cleverly or building something that is original, whatever the project.
via Primal Screen
I did a module a few years back at university on Holocaust Literature which was as brutal as it sounds but fascinating. I did well in the final exam with the positive feedback that I had explored the books in question “playfully”.


I learnt that playfulness doesn’t have to be silly, but that it’s a method of finding new angles and ideas, whatever the subject matter.

The battle for the Great Idea

Playfulness may be a good method of “achieving” creativity, but it doesn’t guarantee results. When Mad Men‘s Creative Director, Don Draper, isn’t drinking or engaging in light misogyny, he broods away in his office until the idea miraculously comes to him.
“There is no algorithm that can tell us where it will come from and when it will hit”. – Tim Brown in Change by Design
Draper solves the day by having the ever-coveted lightbulb moment. But this is such bullshit. A fully-formed idea by one person is very rare. Also the notion that there is one great idea is ridiculous.


In reality, idea generation is a lengthy process, involving a mix of different people and many, many, many iterations.
“To have a good idea, you must first have lots of ideas”. Linus Pauling, two-time Nobel Prize winner for Chemistry
Instead of ruthlessly pursuing the Great Idea, like a mighty but pointless hunt for Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster, we should play our way to the Right Idea.


Who’s with me?

Storylines I’d Like to See on TV’s ‘Black Mirror’

Black Mirror is just awesome television. With sharp scripts, a killer cast (Don Draper, anyone?) and impressive genre-switching, it’s a definite Brit favourite. But I would argue that it’s the conceptual idea for each episode, above all else, that gives the show its edge. Offering an illuminating (and often terrifying) insight into humanity’s not-so-distant future, we watch Black Mirror to explore the intriguingly twisted worlds of Charlie Brooker’s creation.

Being of a similarly twisted ilk, I’ve come up with four concepts that I’d like to see on the next season:

1. Learn One’s Lesson

Main premise:

Every child gets the same education with a hologram teacher leading all classes.


This episode follows a typical British family, with two children who are subject to the modern hologram teaching method. The younger child has known nothing other than this style of learning, whilst the older sibling can remember being taught by humans. The government and school boards are encouraged by the fair and systematic rolling out of education standards across the board, but certain groups of adults and children alike are unhappy with the lack of creativity and human touch involved.

Lack of creativity and human touch

Things escalate when the award-winning education system enters the home, and the hologram tutor begins acting as a quasi-mother figure, even reading the children bedtime stories. The younger child becomes attached to the parental figure, but the older child joins a rebel group at school, which involves underground classes and rebellion against the modern education system.

Inspired by:

2. Staycation

Main premise:

No one ever goes on holiday. Vacations are implanted virtually into a person’s brain, and while feeling like a month or a week, trips only last a few minutes.


The story follows a small group of “Holiday Makers,” whose job is to create the immersive, virtual experiences that people pay for. They have the rather exciting job of travelling to cool places and then using their experiences to design trips for holiday-goers. Employers offer employees bonuses in the form of virtual trips, with office workers leaving the room for five minutes, then returning with souvenirs for all and a sunburn.

Vacations are implanted virtually into a person’s brain

This world is presented as idyllic, until one of the Holiday Makers discovers that none of these places they travel to are actually real. The world as we know it is a deserted wasteland, with experience existing solely in the imagination or from memories of places past.

Inspired by:

3. The Assessment Centre

Main premise:

Every dream and every nightmare you’ve ever had are recorded. Throughout life, you are unknowingly part of a scoring system, the results of which help a jury dictate where you deserve to go after death.


The story begins with the SparkNotes version of a man’s life — the ups and downs, important relationships, key moments, etc. Then in his middle age, he abruptly dies in a sudden car accident and wakes up in a place akin to purgatory. This purgatory has the clinical feel of a dentist’s waiting room, and a big door leading to the “Boardroom.” The man (let’s call him John), walks through the door where there are 12 juror-types sitting around a big table. They explain to him the scoring system that has followed him his entire life, and that with his score they cannot determine whether he deserves Paradise or Perdition (the names on two clearly visible doors in the Boardroom).

Every dream and every nightmare you’ve ever had are recorded

So to decide where he belongs, John must prove to the 12 jurors where he deserves to go. John doesn’t know what’s happening, so the Jury Foreman gives him a taste of his potential future at stake by allowing him five minutes in Paradise then Perdition. Seeing the place of his dreams and then the place of his nightmares (quite literally), John is keen to make it to Paradise. The jurors then put John through his paces in a series of life situations to see the actions he takes and how he reacts. Seeing his score drop and rise from each test, John is unbelievably stressed. It’s the trial of a person’s life, with average members of society allowed to decide the fate of a dead man. Society plays God in the highest stakes version of an assessment centre that could ever exist.

Inspired by:

4. Upgrade

Main premise:

Everything we own and experience we have are downloaded. The higher the income, the more you can download, but if you can’t afford the payments then parts of your life are repossessed.


A young couple are shown around a small but brilliantly decked-out house by an over-enthusiastic estate agent. It’s actually the bare bones of a house, but in this version of the future, estate agents use augmented reality technology to show what a house could look like, and can even show visitors the vision of them living in a house. Sold by this exotic vision of their future, the couple buy the house. Reality isn’t as romantic, as it takes a lot of hard work to do up, but steadily the couple builds their life together. Working long and hard hours at work, they earn enough tokens to download items for their house, starting from basic necessities like food on the table, to cabinets and square feet of lawn.

Everything we own and experience we have are downloaded

A few years later and the couple have children and even download a dog — steadily “upgrading” the place. But to maintain the lifestyle, the couple must work constantly. When one of them gets ill, they have to gradually “downgrade” their house, they fight constantly and times are tough. Success is dictated by material possessions, lifestyle and the “smart” home. As their income decreases, their social standing drops and everything steadily caves in. Things hit an all-time low when the dog is repossessed and they are reduced to the absolute basics of living. But rock bottom brings the realisation that they can be more self-sufficient. Instead of downloading firewood for warmth, they learn to chop it. Instead of downloading dinner, they grow vegetables and learn to cook themselves. Ultimately, losing everything upgrades their family life.

Inspired by:

I can’t seem to get Black Mirror off my mind. So please, for the love of God, comment your episode ideas below so that I can have someone to talk to about it.

The Slow-burn Modern Horror: 4 Directorial Debuts Rekindling A Stagnant Genre


Before I kick things off, if you haven’t yet seen ‘Hereditary’, ‘Get Out’, ‘The Witch’ or ‘Housebound’, I’ll be dropping all sorts of mad spoilers so you might want to leave this page. Alternatively you could bookmark it, reassess your priorities, run to a cinema and then you’ll be good to go. Let’s continue!

“Ugh, horror”

If you’re a fan of scary films like me, you’ve probably heard words to this effect when you suggest watching a horror on movie night. Swiftly followed by “slashers and gore are so gross”, “what kind of sadist wants to be scared” or the more and more common; “they’re all the same these days, you can guess the ending”.

These are all reasonable, if slightly reductive, points. And sometimes horrors do glorify gratuitous violence, give you nightmares and become overly-predictable. This last point is especially true. Just check the average horror film rating on IMDb, it’s rarely higher than the typical drama, comedy or thriller. Not like those good old golden days that had ‘The Exorcist’, ‘The Shining’ and ‘Rosemary’s Baby’, right?

So modern horror films haven’t generally had a great rap. Until now. The change? A wave of new directors taking a slower, more intelligent approach to the genre than the ‘Human Centipede’s of this world.

‘Hereditary’: A masterclass in pacing and prolonging fear


Ok, so not everyone loved the ending to 2018’s ‘modern Exorcist’, but good god did it awesomely play with your mind through various push and pull pacing techniques. One minute it’s crazy as hell action action action before it’s then paaainfully slow.

One scene in particular sticks in my mind:

Peter (played by the incredibly expressive Alex Wolff) races home in the car while his sister Charlie (the suitably mysterious Milly Shapiro) hyperventilates in the backseat due to eating peanuts (despite an allergy). Peter races on, swerves to avoid an animal and then there is a horrible thud as we hear, not see, Charlie’s head hit a telephone post. We don’t see Charlie, we don’t see the animal. We simply see Peter, frozen in his seat. Too terrified to do anything or look into the rear-view mirror. Slowly, Peter then drives home, parks and walks up to his room in an apparent daze. The camera silently still stays on Peter as we hear the dreadful scream of Annie (Toni Colette) discovering her beheaded daughter the next morning.

Director Ari Aster’s debut deliberately toys with the audience, but not in an arrogant or for-its-own-sake way. He masterfully withholds shots and sound to illustrate the true, senseless horror of trauma. And we, the viewers, are just one example of the various doll house inhabitants meticulously manipulated throughout, to look where we’re told, hear what we’re told and be fully at the mercy of ‘Hereditary’.

‘Get Out’: A tightly controlled thriller with a genuinely surprising twist

Get Out

‘Get Out’ was one of the best films of 2017, rightly winning an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and bagging a decent crop of nominations to boot. The twist was also darker and weirder than I thought it was going to be – a rare thing to say about a modern horror.

Part racial satire, part mysterious thriller, Jordan Peele’s directorial debut beautifully glides through genres and smartly builds up the hints and symbolism around the principal themes of vision and distortion.

It’s all about the notion of sight and really ‘seeing’, viewpoints and perspectives and even on a more literal level, eyes themselves. Take the still above of protagonist Chris (played by the exceptional Daniel Kaluuya), the most recognisable promotional image from the film. His eyes are what stand out. Wet, shiny, giant and red. What is he seeing? What is he realising? What has happened? Why is he seemingly frozen in pure, unadulterated fear?

As we progress through the film, we realise that every shot, every line and every facial expression has something to say. Some deeper meaning. There are darker truths at work if only we’re able to see them.

‘The Witch’: An exercise in realism and stark cinematography

The witch

There aren’t many films (to my knowledge) that feature a goat named Black Phillip as the devil incarnate, but here we are. Kidding aside though, Robert Eggers’s 2015 feature debut ‘The Witch’ is a spectacularly bleak vacuum of claustrophobia, paranoia and intensity.

The cast is fantastic, the plot is great and the script is suitably minimalist, but it is the cinematography and the broader tone created that give ‘The Witch’ its power. The best way I can think to describe it is it’s like this cloying, dank filter permeates each shot. Like a sickness. The bleakness of the colours, the trees that loom imposingly over the family, the almost painfully stark mise-en-scène. All of this helps the film possess an intriguing cinematic quality, with noticeable hints of John Hillcoat’s post-apocalyptic ‘The Road’, Alejandro Amenábar’s ‘The Others’ and Tomas Alfredson’s ‘Let the Right One In’.

Every shot has an ominous sense of ‘otherness’ to it, whether in a mysterious supernatural fashion or in a more unblemished, puritanical and devout way. It’s hard to watch but it’s equally hard to look away.

‘Housebound’: A horror-comedy that actually delivers on both counts


We know that horrors are much-maligned, plus they say that comedy is supposedly much harder to pull off than drama – so for Gerard Johnstone’s 2014 film ‘Housebound’ to smash it on both counts is really quite something.

The low-budget, Kiwi movie follows Kylie (a wonderfully mopey Morgana O’Reilly) as she is forced to return to her childhood home to live under house arrest with her overbearing mother (the scene-stealing Rima Te Wiata).

All the classic horror tropes you’d expect are there and are hit well, with the art of suggestion à la ‘Babadook’ playing as big a part as the characters in the maze- of a house. But it’s the humour that steals the show. From an opportune ‘righto!’ to an absurdist rant from Wiata; the script is immaculate and the comic timing is absolutely on point.

Exhibit A:

Amos: What are you gonna do against a hostile spirit? You just gonna crack jokes?

Kylie: No, I am going to smash it in the face.

Amos: You cannot punch ectoplasm.

First time may just well be the charm

These four recent slow burn horrors are bringing new life to a genre that many had written off. We’re seeing films that are slower, more three-dimensional and much more likely to linger in the brain long after the film has ended.

Maybe it’s just coincidence or maybe we’re in the midst of a lucky streak, but what’s amazing is that all these films are directorial debuts.

In most jobs, it takes a bit of time to warm into your role. An Olympian isn’t born overnight, just as a great actor rarely starts out with the role of their career (George Clooney in ‘Grizzly II: The Concert’ comes to mind).

But maybe the rules just don’t apply for film directors.

8 Reasons to Stop Everything and Watch ‘It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’

IASIP cast
all image credits: FX

Are we alone in the universe? What’s lurking under Trump’s wig? Is Shia LaBoeuf insane or just trolling us? These are legitimate life questions. One question, however, that I just don’t understand, is why more people don’t watch It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia? Carol Vorderman herself could not answer this conundrum.

This blog is for any of those annoying on-the-fencers, anyone who thinks the show is “not their bag,” and for anyone who needs to send a would-be fan some much-needed literature. I’ll try not to include any big spoilers but it’s going to be a struggle so bear with me. Or just do us all a favour and go and watch it…

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is the best TV show and people need to know. Here are my reasons why.

1. Every single character is despicable


In “the Gang,” we find Dennis Reynolds (Glenn Howerton), Deandra “Dee” Reynolds (Kaitlin Olson), Charlie Kelly (Charlie Day), Ronald “Mac” McDonald (Rob McElhenney) and Frank Reynolds (Danny DeVito).

Or in other words,

  • a sexually-charged, self-obsessed psychopath
  • a delusional, fame-hungry bartender
  • an illiterate and quirky “wildcard”
  • a closet-bound fitness freak
  • and a grotesquely fun-loving pervert

They’re all just awful.

2. The supporting cast is disgusting


If it wasn’t enough already that the main cast is awesome, the supporting cast is equally spectacular. There’s the milk-drinking, robe-clad, incest-loving McPoyle Brothers (a great Halloween costume if ever I’ve heard one), the “street rat” Rickety Cricket (who used to be a priest) and Charlie’s creepy uncle Jack, a man obsessed with his small hands.

3. You can’t imagine Danny Devito like this

frank 2

“I don’t know how many years on this Earth I got left. I’m gonna get reeeeeal weird with it.”

Whether chasing “delicious nose clams” or crawling out of a sofa oiled-up and naked, Devito’s Frank Reynolds is beautifully repulsive. Most people will have seen him as the crazy dad in Matilda or the pasty villain in Batman Returns, but he’s even more over-the-top here. Every self-respecting person needs Frank Reynolds as their spirit animal.

4. There’s music to rival broadway


“The Birds of War,” “I Like Paddy’s Pub,” “Dayman,” “The Nightman Cometh.” For the uninitiated, these are just random words. Fans of the show know these musical numbers as pieces of strange, strange genius. Get on YouTube and check it all out for yourself.

5. The writing is hilarious


For this point I’m just going to list some of the best lines completely out of context that showcase the show’s crass intelligence:

“Any amount of cheese before a date is too much cheese.”

“Here’s a confession: I’m in love with a man. What? I’m in love with a man. A man called God. Does that make me gay? Am I gay for God? You betcha!”

“Do not plug an open wound with trash.”

“Hi. Um, I’m a recovering crackhead. This is my retarded sister that I take care of. I’d like some welfare please.”

“I’m not fat. I’m cultivating mass.”

Words to live by.

6. There’s absolutely no character development


In fact, there’s the exact damn opposite. The best example? Rickety Cricket. He goes from a successful and healthy priest to absolute rock bottom on the streets of Philadelphia with half his face burned off. Every character on the show gets more selfish, more disgusting and more pathetic over time and it’s just great.

7. It tackles ‘The Issues’


Just read some of the episode titles. “The Gang Gets Racist,” “Underage Drinking: A National Concern,” “The Gang Solves the Gas Crisis,” “Charlie’s Mom Has Cancer,” “Who Pooped the Bed?” Compelling stuff.

8. It gets weird


“Kitten mittons.” Rum ham. Incest. Golden gods. Fat Mac. The gruesome twosome. Motown. Green man. The D.E.N.N.I.S. system. Paint huffing. Dumpster sex. Dance offs. Rats. Trolls. Wine in a can. Karate. Hitler paintings. Ghouls. Pepe Silvia.

Pretty weird.

If I haven’t demonstrated the value of the show by now, then you don’t deserve it. The show is a veritable mecca for anyone who’s sordid, depraved, cynical, eccentric, disgusting, or just wishes they were. I’ll let you decide which camp you fall into.

The 3 Most Intriguing Speakers at TEDx Brighton: Society’s Search for Utopia

Image result for brighton tedx

TEDx Brighton was inspiring. I try to avoid this word as it’s overused and dramatic but it’s the only word that applies here.

There were laughs (host Mark Dolan was on excellent form), intensity, ideas, sadness and a whole lot of surprises. An epic event with some epic speakers, and messages that will stick with me for some time to come. Here are some highlights from three of my favourites:

1. Jake Tyler – talking the talk and walking the walk

Jake, who describes himself somewhat harshly as a “suicidal waster” who found purpose, spoke about his ongoing battle with depression and the great healers of Nature and movement.

Just a year and a half ago, he seriously considered ending it all, phoning his mum one last time to hear her voice before he went.

Everyone in the Brighton Dome seemed to be holding their collective breath as Jake explained the thoughts and feelings that were going through his mind. His simple but eloquent description of these dark thought processes and their potential effects was both upsetting and humbling.

“Depression club’s biggest trick is convincing members that they’re the only one.”

But with the help of his Mum, his GP and finding his purpose, Jake pulled it back from the brink. He was very clear to say that depression isn’t ever done, it’s not something you can complete. It’s a constant battle. But in articulating this battle and communicating it with others, it saps its power. A modest man, Jake found his purpose in the modest act of walking.

His goal is simple – to walk his way to recovery. “My plan is to walk around Great Britain, covering every National Park in order to show people that there is beauty nearby.” Documenting his experiences with depression as he goes – I don’t know if I can think of a more noble vocation.

It’s unbelievable to think that a year and a half ago he was in the darkest stage of his life and now he’s fighting it head on, completed the London Marathon with the show ‘Mind Over Marathon’ and is getting more and more people behind his cause. Myself included.

“The feeling I have right now, I don’t want to die, I want to live forever.”

These were the words Jake said to himself on completing the marathon and the words he used to end his talk. A powerful, simple message on how engaging with the outdoors and physical health can help your mental health and then some. I’m looking forward to following his adventure.

2. Tim Holtam – pioneering ping pong apostle

(Try saying that after a few beers). Tim’s missions is to “bring on the Ping Pong Revolution”. On the face of it, this might sound like a slightly obscure life mission. Until you see exactly what this means.

Tim’s talk was decidedly different to the rest because he didn’t just wax lyrical about the great work that was being done, he showed it.


Sharing the stage with him for the majority of his talk were some of the people who play at Brighton Table Tennis Club. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more diverse bunch. But the one thing they have in common? Ping pong. Watching them laugh and play together said it all. Across age, race, gender, background, class. It’s just not important in ping pong.

It’s a social revolution that’s beautifully simple and incredible to see in action. (Plus props have to go to Harry Fairchild for being a total legend).

3. Christian de Boisredon – pretty bright spark

I was skeptical about this talk. From the start the idea that we needed more positive news seemed almost crass from the founder of Spark News. When terrible things are happening the world over every day is that really what we need?

“Sharing positive stories can change the world for good.”

But as I listened on, Christian made a clear distinction. His message was not to share more and more “fluff” that’s unimportant. But by sharing success stories around the world centred on solutions, we can inspire more answers to difficult problems.

To illustrate his point, he showed a video of blind women, who are being brought in to perform breast exams on people who might have a tumour. The idea to use disabled people in need of work to use their heightened sense of touch to help find medical problems before it’s too late is absolute genius. This news story isn’t fluff, but it’s positive, and it shows an innovative solution to multiple societal challenges. By showing more of these kinds of stories, we’ll inspire more ideas like this. Christian, you converted me.

The common thing that all these three talks shared was that they were simple. The messages and ideas they put forward might not be easy to implement by any means, but they are simple and elegant in their logic. Utopia doesn’t need to be a distant dream.

TEDx Brighton, you did not disappoint. I have much to think upon…

Insults, Book Titles and Headlines that (Hilariously) Beggar Belief

Words are powerful.
They can carry big and serious ideas, communicated by icons such as Martin Luther King Jr, Malala Yousafzai or Winston Churchill.
But they can also carry a healthy dose of well-considered silliness. Think Amy Schumer, Spike Milligan or Eric Morecambe.
I’ve been reading a lot about the English language and humour recently:
  • ‘English Is Not Easy – A Graphic Guide to the Language’ by Luci Gutierrez
  • ‘English Humour for Beginners’ by George Mikes
  • ‘Mangled English’ by Gervase Phinn
  • ‘i before e (except after c) – old-school ways to remember stuff’ by Judy Parkinson

And it’s got me thinking about my favourite examples of wordplay…

Epic ways of saying someone is an idiot

Keep some of these handy for your next passive aggressive or if needs be just aggressive discussion.
“One sausage short of a mixed grill”
“The hamster’s dead but the wheel is still turning”
“One sandwich short of a picnic”
“The lift doesn’t go to the top floor”
“One word short of a sentence”
Let me know how these go down at the next family barbecue or round the water cooler at work.

Book titles that actually exist

I can’t decide which of these is my favourite, but it’s between “nude mice” and “Exhibition Poultry”.

“The Romance of Leprosy”
“Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice”
“Erections on Allotments”
“The Art of Faking Exhibition Poultry”
“Cooking with Poo”
“Handbook for the Limbless”

Definitely some titles to add to your read-on-the-tube-to-make-Londoners-uncomfortable list.

Real-life published headlines


I’d pay a lot of money to know which of these were deliberate and which were only accidentally amusing.

“Headmistress Unveils Bust”
“Spider Found in Toilet. Woman Relieved”
“Leopard Spotted In Park”
“Man At Death’s Door-Doctors Pull Him Through”

If none of these examples of outstanding wordplay made you laugh then you’re probably one word short of a sentence.

10 Masterful Ways to Get a Graduate Job with Twitter

Hashtag blog image

So you probably have Twitter. Maybe you even tweet occasionally, have a reasonable bio and know your way around a hashtag. But I’m willing to bet that there’s more you could be doing to secure the graduate job you want.

Social media is often taken for granted, reserved as a space for procrastination and the odd cat picture (guilty). We all know that Facebook is the personal platform and LinkedIn the professional one. Yet many forget Twitter as the beautiful amalgam in between that’s been maturing, growing and developing for a massive 10 years now – just in time to help you get your dream graduate job.

But it’s not enough just to have Twitter, you need to learn how to use it if you’re serious about using social media to get on the career ladder, whatever industry you’re interested in. In this blog, I’ll outline the 10 ways you can go from a Twitter rookie to a Tweet master supreme, and put yourself in the best possible position to find and secure your perfect graduate job.

1. Follow with purpose

I’m not going to patronise you with this point. Following is an important part of Twitter. But it’s not as simple as follow and hope. First things first, you need to follow graduate job sites. But beyond this, follow the companies you would like to hire you, and (if they have them) their specific recruitment pages. Follow their employees, follow people that share your interests and passions, follow people who have the job you want. Don’t blindly follow, follow cleverly. And whilst we’re on the subjecting of following, it’s not just important to follow, but also to be followed. Whilst it shouldn’t be your primary concern, you want to work towards having at least a few hundred followers (ideally more) to give your account more credibility and authority. If a potential employer checks your Twitter out and sees 8 followers, having the account might be doing more harm than good.

2. Get organised with lists

When you’ve followed the step above, you’re likely to have an intimidating number of accounts that you follow. The best way to handle this? Lists. Create lists as a way to segment your followed accounts. You could have a list on your dream companies to work for, or accounts that post the most relevant jobs for you, as examples. Remember though that the people/companies you add to public lists will get a notification that you have done so, so don’t add anyone to a list called ‘Companies I’ll Consider If Everything Goes Wrong’ or anything similarly inappropriate.

3. Plan and schedule

Whilst you should certainly put more time into your Twitter strategy, that doesn’t mean you have to sit on the social platform all day. You still need time to actually apply for the jobs themselves! So use a tool like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to schedule some tweets throughout your week. You can also use tools like this to monitor trends and send you updates if you configure your settings to do so. Do your homework and you’ll find some cool and largely free Twitter tools that will help you nail planning, monitoring and scheduling. Though it’s still valuable to spend some time on Twitter in ‘real-time’ so that you can stay up-to-date with current events and hashtags.

4. Raise your hashtag game

Love them or hate them, hashtags are an integral part of the Twittersphere, and act as keyword phrases for the platform. You can raise your game by adding the best possible hashtags to your tweets. They need to first and foremost be indicative of the tweet content, but there’s also room for creativity and even humour (if appropriate). Let’s say you were tweeting about an informative article you had just read about drones, and naturally you want to add the hashtag #drones. You could then head to hashtagify.me, type in ‘#drone’ and see which other related hashtags you could also add that are popular on Twitter at that moment. Don’t go too crazy with hashtags in your tweets though, if you’re using more than five in one tweet you’re probably going overboard. If in doubt, I’d settle for between one and three. You can also use hashtags to search for graduate jobs. Search terms could be as vague as ‘#graduate #job’ or as specific as ‘#graduate #marketing #job’. Test what works for you and write a list of hashtags that you can search each day.

5. Get tactical with your bio

Twitter bios are, as you would expect, the place to tell people about you. But more often than not they are dull or underused as a space to market yourself. Cringe-inducing ‘inspirational’ quotes or mindless character traits are regularly highlighted over more compelling attributes. Use this area to show employers your ambitions (e.g. ‘Interested in all things #Tech’ or ‘Looking for a graduate role in Finance’), but also to show some personality (e.g. ‘Roller skate champion’ or ‘Chinese food junkie’). There’s no set way to get a bio right, but if you can refer to your career ambitions whilst showing you’re a legitimate human then you’re on the right track.

6. Connect your social channels

Let’s say you have Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest. First of all, kudos on your social media smorgasbord, but secondly, are you connecting them all effectively? We haven’t the time here to go into each individual social platform because all of the five above are different. This means they should be used differently and treated differently. But more often than not, people take a post and spread the exact same thing across all platforms verbatim. This is lazy and looks like spam, and who wants those attributes associated with their ‘personal brand’? Even if you’re sharing the same basic content, be sure to package it uniquely for each platform. For example, you might take a more jovial, colloquial tone on Twitter where on LinkedIn you would want to be more staid. By all means, link between your various channels, but see them as siblings with common attributes, not clones of each other.

7. Join relevant twitter chats

When you’re not tweeting about exciting topics or keeping up with your favourite twitter accounts, you can join in with twitter chats, to learn and to discuss industry issues. For example, I work as a writer, so I regularly get involved with #ContentWritingChat, where fellow writers and I talk about content, marketing and copywriting, amongst a host of other intriguing things. Whatever you’re interested in, hobby or career, find relevant twitter chats and join the conversation. It shows you’re genuinely engaged and you never know, you might even learn something.

8. Have a life

This may be harder for some than others, but having personality in your twitter strategy is a must. Employers want humans, not mindless drones, so why should you act any differently online? Obviously keep your tweets and activity clean and stay safe, but a splash of life might just set you apart from other prospective applicants for a job. Maybe don’t tweet that you’ve been drunk every night this week and not showered once, but tweet about what’s happening in your world and be funny or at least lively. Personally, I enjoy playing hashtag games on Twitter alongside the more serious career-related tweets I post online, as I enjoy words and puns – but each to their own. Also, do not be afraid to be upfront about what you want. It’s ok to be a graduate job hunter and to make that information known. Ask and you may just well receive.

9. Make your tweets look great

Don’t go completely crazy with it, but the odd picture or even gif (gasp) in your tweets can be a compelling way to make your posts more interesting. According to kissmetrics.com, content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without relevant images. And visual content is more than 40x more likely to get shared on social media than other types of content, according to Buffer. The key to effective tweeting really lies in variety, so experiment with the different formats, styles and tones and see what works for you.

10. Get data and analytics savvy

Panic not, you don’t need to be a technical wizard to learn a bit more about what’s going on with your Twitter efforts behind the scenes. If you go to the Analytics section of your Twitter account, you can get a look at your progress. There’s detail on who your audience is, what their interests are and how your audience base has grown per day. Plus you can see which of your tweets have done well and which have not quite received the love you thought they deserved. For the uninitiated, the number of impressions refers to an estimate of the total possible times someone could have viewed your tweet. Engagements refer to activity with your tweet, like for example, an engagement such as a like, a retweet or a profile click. There’s a lot more you can do with your Twitter analytics if you’re willing to go down the figurative rabbit hole, but in the context of graduate job hunting, it’s just a valuable tool to track your progress and analyse what works and what doesn’t when it comes to your strategy.

Twitter bird blog image


You’ve made it this far, so either I’m a compelling writer, you’re procrastinating massively or you’re simply passionate about using Twitter to find your perfect graduate job (potentially a mix of all three?) But if you decide to take anything from this blog, don’t take your Twitter account for granted. It might be known for stupid hashtags, cat pictures and celebrity spats, but it has the potential to land you your dream graduate job. Good luck and get tweeting!

Follow me on Twitter for more insight and procrastination fodder.
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