The Art of the Newsletter

Originally published on LinkedIn in February 2021.

Something that’s really hard to do right is the newsletter.

No, seriously. Have you ever tried it? Or talked to the people at your company responsible for producing them?

Too often, it’s treated as something that can be put together and flicked out in one afternoon like it’s no big deal – as easy as making a cup of tea, right?

You could not be more wrong.

There’s so much mental legwork involved. Stop and consider, for example:

  1. What sort of tone should it have? Well, that depends on the size of the company, the kinds of people it hires and their personalities, the company style guide, legal policies around language, branding regulations – just to name a few factors.
  2. How long should it be? One page? Two?
  3. What information is absolutely necessary? Do you think readers will care about what Netflix series the staff have been watching?
  4. Should it feature internal links, external links, or both?
  5. Can you include photos? How about staff photos? Have you received permission?
  6. How often should you send one out? What’s the fine line between company updates and spam?

There are so many factors that merit considering when putting a company newsletter together.

What if you have different mailing lists with different content expectations? Now, suddenly you have to consider and factor in segmented marketing logic and implementing a more robust and careful filing system, to ensure the right content goes through the right content management delivery systems.

Speaking personally, I’m more likely to read a newsletter that doesn’t take itself too seriously, doesn’t overwhelm me with content, includes a few jokes or puns, some interesting insights, and even a helpful tool tip or two.

What sort of newsletter works best for you?

Audio Software Snowball in Hell

Originally published on LinkedIn in July 2018.

You are in a library, but the books are out of order. Nothing is sorted by classification, author surname, or even year. At the heat death at the end of the universe, one final library will undoubtedly remain standing, and its overseer will be an inscrutably impish lout with no pretence of interest in the organisational anxieties of the remaining organisms lingering aimlessly at the end of all things.

Such is the stuff of nightmares for an audiophile such as yours truly.

You see, my library catalogue needs to make sense.

Which is how, one weekend, my computer chair found itself occupied by my pathetic meatbag, tech-shooting the most recent Most Annoying Software Bug Ever. The TLDR version of the problem? It involved a monkey. A media monkey.

Not in the know?

Media Monkey is an audio player. Like iTunes (I know you were thinking it, let’s not pretend you weren’t.) The bug? Every so often, when syncing (copying) new files to my media player, the monkey flings metaphorical poo at me by renumbering track numbers. Ana Ng, for example, Track 01 of They Might Be Giants’ album Lincoln suddenly might become Track 101.

Tres annoying. Way hella annoying when one’s digital library spans 1,149 albums. Like mine.

So what’s the solution? Obviously: hit the internet. Do some keyword searches. See if anyone’s found a solution. Of course, no one had quite found a solution. That meant it was time to go looking for a solution.

Nearly two days later – a solution identified, tested, and verified.

You see: Media Monkey has a tense relationship with albums that feature disc numbers. By tense, think of siblings fighting. In the back of the car. With assorted beverages, used bubble gum, and terrifyingly putrid socks that had long been thought lost.

So disc numbers bad. No disc numbers good. Well lickety fudgesickle sticks, that’s a lot of albums to fix when one has 1,149 albums to go though and check one by one.

Solution? Find a program that can quickly and en masse edit ID3 tags. Heavenly software package, thy name be Mp3Tag.

Import album. Order tracks in proper playing order. Highlight. Force renumber all tracks. Highlight album, remove CD number. Save. Wash, rinse, and then repeat this about fifteen thousand million times.

Finally: launch Media Monkey. And rescan all albums. And then wait. And wait. Wait a long time. A really long time. Why? Because scanning 1,149 albums equates with 28,919 files. But hey, guess what: that wait time is a good opportunity to delete all files from the destination audio player, as Media Monkey only adds new files – it doesn’t restructure previously synced files.

“But Ilya,” you’re wondering, “what in the unholy hungry kitten does that have to do with LinkedIn and Content Management?” Glad you asked! Asking means you’re using dat grey noodle of a muscle that we call a brain.

The point here is that this sort of full-on barking madness is what us content management folks get up to, since we like to problem solve, tinker, learn, and find solutions. And on occasion, we’ll even write entertaining blog posts on how and why we, every now and then, suddenly find a staggering chunk of time that we light on fire and roll down a hill into a pool of gasoline.

A song for this content life (oh but how I love thee)

Originally published on LinkedIn in July 2018.

I’m not big on titles. I’m a guy who likes doing everything and trying everything. And titles really get in the way of a person who likes trying things out, playing with things, and figuring out how things work.

But people need to know what the hell to call you, because it’s just how humans are. And because “Editor” is just too damn specific a title, I instead use “Content Producer and Manager”. It perfectly encapsulates all the weird stuff I do, and people don’t seem to require any explanation as to what it means.

Most excellent, dude.

So what do Content Producers/Managers do? Among other things:

Outlining and/or preparing content and production pipelines; budgeting; preparing timelines, deadlines, and workflows; setting up editorial guidelines; writing articles; delegating tasks; managing content management systems and customer relationship management systems, sub/copy/structural editing; engaging in audio/video production; doing social media work including SEO via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.

You should be willing to throw yourself at a problem and enjoy figuring it out. And enjoy trying different approaches until something finally works.

It’s no surprise that people in this kind of role tend to enjoy playing with hardware and software. Me? I really enjoy playing with computers. To figure out how a program works. To solve a hardware problem. Fix a bug. Or in some cases: stress-test a machine. I have fond memories from my teenage years of hex-editing the Recycling Bin off the Windows 95 desktop, stress-testing an Alpha running NT 4 and making it hang by running Notepad, Winamp, and EverQuest at the exact same time.

This is the sort of possibly unusual behaviour that is often exhibited by gamers, particularly once we start playing with user-made modifications for games and find ourselves having to use programs such as Load Order Optimisation Tool (LOOT) or The Elder Scrolls 5 Edit (TES5Edit), or numerous other programs to make a mod work properly.

This inquisitive tendency of course bleeds into other areas of life. Like tonight, when I was trying to load an eBook onto my iPad Mini. And it just wasn’t working.

So I threw the file onto my Google Drive. Surely Google Drive should work once I’ve autogenerated a unique link. Nope. No dice. Safari and Chrome alike were having none of it.

Transferring the file via Bluetooth and USB? No way hose.

AirMore allowed me to copy the file across. But Apple doesn’t like letting users freely roam around the hard-drive of their products. So once again: a dead end.

Dropbox seemed a logical option, but the OS on my iPad? Too old. Can’t install the app.

Until it occurred to me: I…don’t need the app. Logging in should be sufficient to access my Dropbox files.

And lo and behold, finally, having uploaded the book to my Dropbox account allowed me to successfully download it and copy it to my iBooks folder. All via a web-based interface. Bazinga!

Now I can finally read the book I got. 400 or so glorious pages about the study of archaeology. Because archaeology is cool.

This sort of obsessive need to problem solve may not be conventional behaviour. But then, neither is our job. We like to know that if there’s a hiccup along the way, that we can find a solution to ensure that everything continues working. Which means we need to be willing to learn, know how to research information, and be able to think creatively.

It’s not for everyone. But I think it’s incredibly fun, being a content manager/producer. I get to help people out with their goals, tinker, think on my feet, play with computers, and jump between numerous and not necessarily related tasks.

It’s pretty freakin’ rad. 

Rebuilding the Legos of the World

Originally published on LinkedIn in March 2018.

The blowing of horns. The squeal of break pads and rubber. Alarms set off – accidentally, of course. Sunlight crawls between the blinds, infiltrating the darkness. Spot and Pepper crashing into my face, demanding cuddles. A very groggy Ilya arises, awoken by a thousand sounds produced by an industrious and busy world.

We live on a main artery road in Sydney’s Inner West district, and as government, planning regulations, and politics have changed, so too has the Inner West. More cars. More traffic. Stranger parking rules. More. Noise. Our flatmate perseveres through it all. And we ask ourselves, dangerously pre-coffee: what is with the 9-5 life?

Historically, this is a blip, a dust mote in the eye of humanity. But it has become the prevailing model – the one by which we structure our lives and ways of living. It makes me wonder if enough of us stop and ask: is this the right way to live? Should we consider alternative ways of working?

Not everyone has a family. Or is a morning person. Or owns a car. Or lives near a mode of public transport. Even if one did find themselves near, let’s say for example – a train station – the topic of sustainability would eventually rear it’s impish face.

Sydney has infamously had transport infrastructure problems. Not enough staff. Trains running late, or at capacity. Too many people scrambling to get onto the same mode of transport, at the same time, in their dresses and suits, with makeup, cologne, perfume, and minds loaded with anxieties and stresses. A collection of pressurised worries, all gathered together to be at work by 8 or 9, have lunch by 12 or 1, and be on a train home by 4 or 5.

At least we have unions. And weekends. And labour laws. And a smorgasbord of other perks. Is it enough?

Socrates encouraged willing listeners to regularly ask themselves: what is the good life?


A few years ago, Commonwealth Bank nearly moved a considerable portion of its workforce to Parramatta. And in the 11th hour, reneged, and instead, developed an office space in Darling Harbour. The area is undeniably beautiful. But it’s a bit of a walk from Town Hall Station. Along sidewalks that were not designed to contain hundreds, if not thousands of people along its narrow walkway. The light rail (currently Sydney’s only tram network – which consists of one line) network stops at Darling Harbour. But if you don’t live in the Inner West, where it runs, it’s a moot point.


An increasing number of Sydney’s population travels into the city from the Outer West – some as far west as Penrith, if not further. Many also travel from regional cities – Wollongong and Gosford.


Many companies consider it important to be placed in the ‘heart’ of Sydney, the CBD (Central Business District). A rolley-polley set of upturned spoons. Where almost no one but the astronomically wealthy live. Yet there is a prestige factor involved, in being in Surry Hills, the CBD, Ultimo, Pyrmont, Darlinghurst. A thousand or more businesses, cramming in several million people. And all those employees travelling along the same transportation network. At the same time. Five days a week.

Consider: Sydney is a terrifically green city, but it gets greener the further out one goes. Psychologists have long advocated for and highlighted the benefits of having time to sit and enjoy peace and quiet in nature.

And yet. And yet and yet and yet.

I wrote all of the above on a bench at Hoskins Park, surrounded by trees and grass, sipping a coffee purchased at my local cafe, in my usual gear of sandals, cargo shorts, and a comfortable and branding-free t-shirt. In peace and quiet. While having time to think. And contemplate. To string ideas and words together.

What is the good life?

Do you ever stop to think about it? Or are you too busy? Are you always doing something instead of stopping to do nothing?

Consider the words of writer Neil Gaiman:

“I think it’s about where ideas come from, they come from day dreaming, from drifting, that moment when you’re just sitting there…The trouble with these days is that it’s really hard to get bored. I have 2.4 million people on Twitter who will entertain me at any moment…it’s really hard to get bored. I’m much better at putting my phone away, going for boring walks, actually trying to find the space to get bored in. That’s what I’ve started saying to people who say ‘I want to be a writer,” I say ‘great, get bored.’”

Implicit in this statement: take time for yourself. Take time to ask the really important question:

What is the good life?

We should not accept the 9-5 routine. The dehumanising stresses of our modern work structure. Employers, companies, organisations, I ask of you: consider alternatives. Consider other ways of doing things. For everyone’s sake. We’ll be better off in the long run. I promise.

Children of the Problematique

Originally published on LinkedIn in February 2018.

I’ve been thinking about the concept of fear, and how it can be a monster in our lives. How many of us enter life and encounter this monster but are never given a sword to defeat it? It becomes our personal Smaug, and we – the exiled dwarves.

The choices we do or do not take. Ruled by fear. 

What we say or do not say – ruled by fear. 

Mid-last year, I shut down my Instagram account, my Twitter account, and locked down most of my Facebook content. I didn’t know how it made me look. 

And then the spiral began: what would future employers think if they saw it? Was I potentially shooting myself in the foot by not being digitally agnostic? 

I spoke about this to a friend who works in government. And she told me about how horrible she felt during the same-sex marriage (SSM) plebiscite. She could not publically vocalise any support for SSM due to needing to avoid being seen as contradicting, as a public official, the government in power. 

Privately, she could express her sympathies and allegiance and support for SSM with our bi, trans, intersex, lesbian, and gay friends. But not anywhere or in any capacity that could be reported by a newspaper or digital news service. 


She could lose her job. Possibly. 

Smaug, the hoary elder wyrm, loomed close by, his shadow ever present. 

Fear. Fear of taking a stand. Of showing her support for a historic inevitability. Fear of taking a side. 

Outside the public sector, this might perhaps be less of a concern. But we still need to talk about it. 

The world is changed. Radicalisation, nationalistic sentiment, political polarisation, social divides – it is on the rise. Fear mongers thrive and profit, spreading messages of hate, misogyny, sexism, transphobia, homomisia, and racism. 

And I wake up every morning knowing that I have a Cheeto as a president, a dithering would-be centrist as a prime minister, and a guy who loves riding horses and arresting opposition leaders as a president. (The joys of being a tri-national!)

Fear, and its Fenrir-like companion, hate, continue casting their shadows across the world. The world is changed. We cannot reasonably justify taking a stance of impartiality. 

We cannot allow ourselves to become dominated and controlled by fear. What value and meaning can be found in life, after all, if it is a life ruled by fear?

Under the Table, Dreaming It All Up Again

Originally published on LinkedIn in February 2018.

The clock didn’t chime. There was no reminder in a calendar, not even a post-it note. No reminder was needed to declare a year had passed since I’d left my job at ANZ in late January of 2017. It was a decision that I’d been mulling over, in those days, for quite some time.

But it was the right decision.

It was getting hard to see the road ahead. The metaphorical road, of course. Not an actual road. My eyesight is ostensibly 20/20. Except in the morning, where it’s closer to 20/What the hell time is it and why is there no coffee?

I needed to figure out what was important to me. What mattered? What didn’t matter? It had gotten to that point in life where it was time to remix Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, to take that pyramid and give it new labels – ones focused around values, goals, and interests. I needed to step away from a full-time role, to have time to myself – to think, to experience something different. Something new. Something that didn’t involve uncomfortable leather shoes.

Flash-forward a few months into the (then) future (the now, past) – a friend rang me. Said there was a job online, on LinkedIn, and it was perfect for me. A trivia host role. Based out of Chatswood. My (then) girlfriend (now fiancee) and I were thinking of making the move north anyways, to be closer to her family, and escape the increasingly crowded inner west where I’d resided for the past decade.

So I said what the hell. And applied.

It’s a job I’m still doing. Once a week only – but it’s not about the money. It’s about the love of the game. Every week: new faces commingled with familiar ones. Returning players, passers-by visiting Sydney for a conference or work trip, families celebrating their daughter’s/son’s eighteenth birthday. Every week – something different. The novelty factor is immense. And a constant.

Other jobs came in-between, as I found myself participating in what is colloquially called the “gig economy”: some writing opportunities for assorted small companies. Some editorial work for a brand storytelling agency, and more recently – the editing of (respectively) a PhD and travel novel while also providing ad hoc carer assistance for a friend who recently introduced a second child into the world.

It occurred to me, whilst holding aforementioned friend’s tiny newborn sprogling, that this was not the way I anticipated 2017 going. Dealing with milk vomits, post-blueberry stool, and learning the finer art of making a two year old eat food that they have decided with absolute certainty they do not want did not blip on my radar of potential outcomes.

But with the break also came useful lessons. Self-improvement lessons. When no one’s looking over your shoulder and providing feedback, it’s more than a little important to be able to engage in some regular self-analysis so as to work out the kinks in one’s armor. Especially if you want to get married. Particularly then.

Oh yeah – along the way, I got engaged! It was pretty fantastic.

Surprise surprise – making such a commitment spurred a plethora of new questions. How will I raise my kid? What sort of parenting techniques will I use? Are the models that my parents taught me even any good? Or do they need to get drop-kicked from my psyche? Where’s a good place to raise a kid in Australia? So. Many. Questions.

These are serious questions. (A non-serious question, would be, for example: “Gee, Steam is having a sale on games, which one should I buy?”) Serious questions require time. And energy. Which can be a luxury. Particularly in our busy world. With questions like these – you’ve got to take your time.

When was the last time any of us took our time?

2017 gave me time. To think. Ponder. Read. Be challenged. Fail. Succeed. And to rediscover forgotten passions as well as discover some new ones.

Rethinking Work

Originally published on LinkedIn back in January 2018.

A serious concern for this hopeful future father, is finding an organisation that values the importance of letting a father work from home and have time with his child.

One of the conversations that need to happen, I think, more often, is: what kind of parents do we want to be?

I grew up as what’s commonly called a “latch key kid”. I hardly ever saw my parents during the day, and had to fend for myself at home. Which included walking home, as I grew up in a regional town in the US.

Many Australians seem loathe to let their children walk to or from school on their own. Obviously, the fact that the sun is a quarter of a mile from the ground and seeks to turn us into charcoal marks on the ground is one major reason to get driven to school.

But the relationship between a child and their parent shouldn’t be structured around drop-off and pick-up times. Kids need to value spontaneity, and positive surprises. And more than ever, in this age of extreme mortgage stress and repayment stress (see: Saul Eslake’s recent comments on Australian car purchasing habits to see what I mean), it’s crucial that couples manage their lives better.

And that means supporting one another. And having time for one another. Which means organisations – and by proxy the government – need to consider the social implications of what it means to have long commutes, job uncertainty, low wage growth, and poor transport infrastructure.

It’s important that we not forget that the home life is important, and that’s not just Some Place we go to at the end of the day – it’s where we build our families, and reestablish our relationships, and engage in personal growth and development.

And I think that kind of attitude begins with reconsidering how my generation – Millennials – want to raise their children. Too many of us have grown up alone, or lacking meaningful interactions with our parents and siblings.

It’s a path best veered away from. Yes, face time is important in organisations. Yes, it’s important to be physically present in one’s place of employment. But not at the expense of our domestic life. And not at the expense of denying ourselves the more peaceful, quieter life that lies beyond the rims of the major cities of Australia.

There’s more to Australia than Sydney and Melbourne.

Star Wars Aftermath: Empire’s End

Originally published on LinkedIn in March 2017

Chuck Wendig’s books are a treasure trove of clever metaphors, snarky dialogue, and prose that conveys a sense of urgency and immediacy.Reminiscent of Neal Stephenson’s remarkable double-whammy of Snow Crash and Cryptonomicon, Wendig utilises a third person present tense to make something that happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away feel like it’s happening right now somewhere not so far away.

His nuanced characterisation presents readers with protagonists often-times at war with themselves as much as they are with their external environment. And it’s terrific stuff.

No less terrific is Wendig’s natural ease at presenting a same-sex relationship with the same obvious naturalness as between opposite-sex couples. This remains a curiously odd elephant-in-the-room for some readers, who find this to be a jarring disruption for reasons beyond this critic’s understanding.

Interspecies relationships between numerous (imagined) species are acceptable, but same-sex relationships between two human characters is not? There is an odd double-standard at play which may be as much a reflection of our changing times – and the pushback by the curious denizens unfathomably bothered by changes which in no way impact their day to day lives.

The Star Wars universe allows for a variety of stories about numerous characters, as well as a variety of approaches to telling those stories – be it Matt Stover’s Shatterpoint, which transitions between first and third person, to the Robin Hobb-like first person point of view of I, Jedi – to the exclusively third person omniscient approach utilised by Timothy Zahn in his contributions.

All are welcome. None are excluded. This open-armed and kind (Jedi-like, if you will) approach only enrichens the ever-expanding Star Wars universe.

None of us own it, but many of us play in it. To the universe’s benefit.

I doff my cap to Chuck Wendig for making the Star Wars galaxy a richer and more fascinating place to visit. May he someday return to further enrich this vast and diverse universe.

On Matthew Woodring Stover

Originally published on LinkedIn in March 2017.

The cover for Blade of Tyshalle.

If you haven’t read the ‘Acts of Caine’ novels by Matthew Woodring Stover, do so now. Publishers – if you’re out there and can see this: go and find copies of ‘Heroes Die’, ‘Blade of Tyshalle’, ‘Caine Black Knife’, and ‘Caine’s Law’. Go and find them, and for the love of any and all gods that might be out there listening: give the man a book deal, and savvy marketing department, and a staff of publicists who can market the ever-living shit out of this guy. Del Rey have never managed to properly market his books, and for years he has remained a cult author. The success he so rightly deserves has eluded him.

And that’s not right. And as Matilda said: “and if it’s not right, you’ve got to put it right!”

Each book in Matt’s Caine series is different, has a different tone, structure, and texture to it. Matt’s books are astonishing in their diverse narrative approaches, humbling in their clever narrative developments, contain complex, complicated, dynamic, three-dimensional characters. And prose and dialogue that sparkles and never, ever bores.

Don’t believe me? Then go listen to Stefan Rudnicki, the voice actor for ‘Heroes Die’:

Go and read the review Scott Lynch (of ‘Gentleman Bastards’ fame) wrote years before realising his own success as a writer:

How about John Scalzi’s ebullient and gushing praise for Stover’s books? Would that suffice?

Matt Stover is an author that deserves a bigger audience than he’s thus far received. His books predated the contemporary ‘grimdark’ movement and are frequently cited as a source of considerable inspiration by many contemporary authors who grew up reading his novels, and did what any smart author does:

They stole from the best.

And if you want to steal from the best?

You steal from Matthew Woodring Stover.

Clarity in the time of pasta

Originally published on LinkedIn back in August of 2016.

One day, at work, I was called over to look at a paragraph. I wheeled my chair over, not minding that I’d been interrupted in the midst of learning the latest information about when the next Chuck Wendig Star Wars book was coming out (Chuck’s a terrific writer – if you haven’t read his stuff, you’re seriously missing out).

I looked over at my coworker’s screen, and asked “Okay…so what am I meant to be looking at?” mindfully aware that populating his two monitors were Bloomberg terminal windows, chat windows, Outlook, at least two browsers, multiple word files, half-written emails, notepad files, assorted PDFs, and what I swear in the midst of it all was a cackling, fiendish imp of distraction, which builds a nest of imps in the back of each economist’s monitor(s), and then takes up permanent residence there.

“Look at this paragraph, just…look at it. Mate, I don’t even…what the hell”.

So I looked.

And kept looking.

And kept looking.

…Remember Neal Stephenson’s ‘The Confusion’? The second book in the ‘Baroque Cycle’? Remember how he had pages that were one giant paragraph with almost zero indentation?

It was the economics version of that.

I could feel the levator palpebrae superioris muscles of my eyes seizing up and attempting to somehow effect a wave-like motion of curling up into themselves.

It read like something I’d have written if I was in my second year of university and trying to be smart. And clever. And failing at both.

Firstly because – sweet buttery deity duct-taped to a pogo stick! – the lines just kept running on and on like a jogger who didn’t know when enough was enough, and secondly – no discernible structure, and too many random interruptions with semi-related sets of comparative numbers (PMIs for the jibwiddlestick* versus the last shreds of my sanity).

Three attempts at reading it later, some sort of discernible meaning was slowly beginning to reveal itself to me. The way that blood slowly begins to reveal itself to a person after they’ve been bludgeoned enough times by an oversized brick.

There were no sub-headers. The charts barely provided much in the way of extra information because they were formatted, well, within a hair’s breadth of actually falling within the definition of the word ‘formatted’. There were axes.  A data series seemed to exist. But the colours. My god. Why bother stabbing anyone in the eyes ever again? Just show them this chart. It was like a neon Cosby sweater of a chart. Rainbow Bright’s colour wheel of a spaghetti incident of a chart.

And we were expect to publish it.

Not in that state, we didn’t.

It is one thing to sit down and produce posts (such as this one) which function as a kind of blog to dispense my thoughts to an unsuspecting audience that should have known better. It’s something else to produce written material that looks like the world’s greatest Tetris match**.

Which is why I am a big, big fan of architectural writing.

No no. Hear me out. This is actually a thing.

In my mind, there are two types of long-form narrative writers: architects and gardeners. The former are those writers that outline the structure of a given product to ensure that they have some kind of road map.

The latter build as they go, letting the subconscious go wild a bit and produce and/or shape the product in a quasi ad hoc style.

Each has its own merits. Each has its own downsides.

In this instance, for a product designed to be ready by people wearing nicer suits than I will ever own, and who probably have types of sewing material named after them somewhere on Savile Row, it’s important to ensure that we communicate the information clearly, in short, Gatling gun burts of text, to ensure no one gets overwhelmed.

Yes, I may use colourful sentences and apply peculiar, if not comical metaphors, similes, and analogies, but this is a blog post, not Financial Times. I’m really only writing this for myself and whatever poor suckers I managed to convince to read this on the promise of alcohol.

Did I say that out loud?

Pretend I never said that.

But I digress.

We have an obligation to make material accessible, digestible, and meaningful.

And no, that does not mean we have to dumb down the language, use less complicated terms (because sometimes jargon is inevitable, and the sooner we all accept this the better), or even necessarily write less.

But we can structure things more clearly, and avoid overly stylistic prose where it’s not appropriate.

Example: Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon = Appropriate.

A Primer on US Treasury Bonds by a rates strategist = Not Appropriate.

In such instances as the latter example, providing a clear explanation for every single instance of new jargon is a good idea. As is my favourite approach: having material-specific sub-headers, to break up the material.

Sub-headers can be a writer’s best friend. They let you break up numerous interrelated thoughts or ideas without having to try and distill them all down into a few paragraphs. It provides room to play, and to structure a paper out in such a way as to flow properly without being overwhelming.

And doing so makes it all that much easier to produce transition sentences. Especially when it’s a long-form piece days or weeks in the making. As sub-header stand out in comparison to the body text, it becomes easy to examine the text before/after each sub-header and see if it flows logically.

As opposed to analysing the text at the start and end of every paragraph. That would hurt. Oh boy howdy that would sting.

Which brings us back to the question of architects versus gardeners.

Research articles, in my experience, more often than not, strive for the architectural system, due to assorted rules around word counts, page counts, etc. Short stories, novellas, novels – they have the luxury to be gardeners.

Research articles written by writers who think they’re gardeners scare me. I can understand the impetus, but not the end result. Audience expectations matter. And breaking up text with shorter sentences, sub-headers that are clear and meaningfully titled, paragraphs between 4-6 sentences in length, will all ensure improved chances of being read and – possibly more importantly: retained – by readers.

Gardeners…leave that to the long-form writers. The audience expectations around books are a matter for another post.


When writing for a busy, time-pressed audience, clarity of thought, tight, focused, easy to read and process text, meaningful and properly ordered sub-headers: all of this will ensure a better chance of being read – and possibly even remembered! – by readers.

What more could a writer ask for than to be remembered (and hopefully even liked!) by a reader?

* I don’t know that what I just wrote was actually a word; I just made something that up that might sound faintly ridiculous enough to be real.

**LinkedIn’s native spell-check does not recognise ‘Tetris’ as a legitimate word. This is vaguely distressing and upsetting.