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Writing Case Studies

Yesterday Matthew Stibbe at Bad Language wrote brilliantly about what is wrong in corporate case studies. If you are in corporate communications, read his ideas here.

Stibbe covers the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of case studies, also known as “white papers” where I live.

Among the symptoms: case studies are lifeless and have no story.

Among Stibbe’s thoughts on a diagnosis:

  • One size fits all–no thought of different audiences and media
  • Over-loaded content–too much stuff packed in
  • Overzealous brand policing–things like “You can’t say that” and “You must do this.”

Among his treatment steps:

  • Remember the audience
  • Use one case study in multiple presentations: newsletter, booklet, etc.
  • Tell more story

Because he says it so well, you must read his piece. (I have added to his lean prose above.) And while you are visiting Bad Language, take time to browse. You will learn something about business writing–not only in what he says but in how stylishly he says it.


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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

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