Bite-sized Budget

The first Autumn Budget for many years is over. And while laced with jokes and jibes, it brought few other surprises.

Chancellor Philip Hammond seemed relaxed and at home in his annual primetime slot. He announced very little that was ground-breaking. Instead, opting for a steady mix of measures from across the board.

Here are a few highlights…

The economy as a whole didn’t fare too well, with growth forecast for 2017 downgraded from 2% to 1.5%, and not rising again to 1.6% until 2021.

For the younger generation, a so-called ‘millennial railcard’ is to be introduced offering discounted fares for those aged 26-30. Alongside the abolition of stamp duty with immediate effect for first-time buyers purchasing properties worth up to £300,000.

For those in work, the tax-free personal allowance will rise to £11,850 in April 2018 as will the higher-rate tax threshold which will increase to £46,350.

Businesses of all sizes will welcome the fact that rises in business rates will now be linked to the preferred CPI (consumer price index) not RPI (retail price index). And small businesses will breathe a sigh of relief that the current VAT threshold of £85,000 will remain for two years, following rumours it could be dropped to as low as £20,000.

With a nod to technology and the future, the government has pledged £500m for 5G mobile networks, fibre broadband and artificial intelligence, and £540m to support the growth of electric cars. The chancellor also announced an additional £2.3bn for investment in research and development.

And as we enter the season of goodwill, while the price of cigarettes will go up, the cost of fuel, wine and beer has been frozen again. Cheers Phil and Merry Christmas!

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Seven top tips to manage your time

Today’s world is fast-paced and technology-led.

It’s all too easy to get caught up in the madness and continually run at full pelt.

And before you know it, you have too many things to do and too little time in which to do them. Stop. Step back. Regain control and better manage your workload and time.

Here’s how:

  1. Say no – nobody is super-human, and if you simply don’t have the capacity to take on any more, just say so.
  2. Prioritise – client projects with real deadlines will always take priority over nice-to-dos with fluid timelines. Priortise your to-do list and stick to it.
  3. Compartmentalise – when you have lots of projects on the go, it’s helpful to place each one in its own box and work through them one at a time, rather than jumping from one to another.
  4. Focus – if you’re writing a lengthy report that needs to be completed by the end of the day, shut down all technology distractions and focus on the task at hand. Replying to less time-critical calls, texts and emails can wait.
  5. Delegate – if you can pass something on to a colleague then do so; that’s what they’re there for.
  6. Take care – look after yourself otherwise you’re no use to anyone! Eat and drink well, take some exercise, get your full allocation of sleep, take breaks during your working day and time out at weekends. Productivity is hugely improved when you feel good and refreshed.
  7. Enjoy – we all spend much of our time working so make sure you enjoy it!

The ever-evolving English language

We’ve all heard the great Darwinian phrase “survival of the fittest”, meaning only the strongest will survive and thrive.

But it’s not just about being strong. It’s also about being flexible and adapting to change. It’s about solving and evolving.

And that’s just what the English language does so well.

Rigid, starchy, rules around splitting infinitives and beginning sentences with ‘but’ have moved on. Not to the detriment of English however. We no longer speak in the ‘Queen’s English’ so why write that way. Particularly as the mediums through which we communicate have become so diverse and direct.

And while there is a place for Twitter’s 140 characters limit and an array of emojis in text messages, they should support and complement our beautiful language not replace it.

A business email sent to a client should not sign off with an array of smiley faces, any more than a text to a friend shouldn’t begin ‘dear sir’. It’s all about context and balance.

And new words that slip into our English language through the process of evolution should be embraced and enjoyed. After all, if you can’t beat them, join them!

Think…

• Brexit – the departure of the UK from the EU
• Binge-watch – watching multiple episodes of a favourite TV programme
• FOMO – fear of missing out if not online
• JOMO – joy of missing out by not being online
• Selfie – taking a photo of yourself via a smartphone
• Bitcoin – digital currency

The list goes on.

Which is why, the English language, we salute you – keep on evolving!

Top tips on writing for the web

Everyone writes but not necessarily well.

And these days, many of us write for online audiences. But this is a tough readership to reach out to and most importantly engage with.

Put simply, there’s so much content available on the ether that is the world wide web that competition is fierce.

This means in just a few simple steps you have to be found (via search engines like Google), your summary has to be succinct and informative so people click through, and then your online content has to be clear and concise so people actually stay and read on.

So, how do you write well for the web and make sure you’re actually read?

Here are five top tips.

  1. Engaging headline – make sure your headline is clear and not overly clever; it really should do what it says on the tin (see mine for this blog!).
  2. Uncluttered opening – make your initial few paragraphs short and ensure they clearly outline what is to come. Create ‘white space’ so the reader doesn’t land on your webpage and see a mass of dense overwhelming text. They will only leave…
  3. Informative content – if the reader does choose to stay (for which well done!), make sure you go on to inform and educate them in an easily digestible writing style. It’s about adding value while remaining readable.
  4. Edit and proof – do make sure all your online writing has been edited and proofread. Typos and errors look unprofessional and can be so easily avoided.
  5. Call to action – end with a call to action style comment (e.g. drop us a line to learn more) to encourage reader engagement and contact. Interaction is the name of the game after all.

Hopefully, you found this blog easy to find and read, and as a result you’re still here now. And that’s the main aim of any good piece of writing for the web!

Too busy to blog? We can write them for you!

Blogging is a fantastic marketing and business development tool.

But blogs take time to write; time you probably don’t have.

Why not let us write your blogs for you?

The process is quick and easy:

  • A brief chat to share your ideas and expertise.
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Surrey-based Claire Dee Communications is run by Claire Dee, a trained journalist and communications professional. Claire ghostwrites blogs for businesses large and small on everything from accountancy and engineering to learning and development and the law.

Please contact us to learn more – we’re happy to help!

Train to gain

This week, #backtowork has been trending on Twitter, with a number of companies running campaigns aimed at putting a smile on the faces of those returning to work from the August summer break.

Like January, September is a month for planning and preparation, starting new projects, reviving old ones, and reflecting on what does and doesn’t work.

Countless surveys show employees are disgruntled, unhappy in their work, and even looking to move on. But there are also healthy statistics to show if you look after your staff you will reap the rewards. As the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) notes: “The use of flexible working has a big impact on employees’ attitudes to work–life balance, with 65% of flexible workers satisfied or very satisfied with their work–life balance compared with 47% of employees who don’t work flexibly.”

The same goes for training. Educate, inform, nurture and develop them, and both they and your business will benefit. Ignore their learning and development needs at your peril.

As the late great Henry Ford of the Ford Motor Company observed: “The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave, is not training them and having them stay.”

So, if you’re looking to run in-house tailor-made training courses for your invigorated #backtowork team, perhaps we can help. Here at Claire Dee Communications we offer bespoke training courses from better blogging to effective business writing, writing well to sell, and anything in-between. Just drop us an email to find out more.