Business Writing and Storytelling by The Economist

Aug 24, 2023

Last fall, I had an opportunity to take a course from The Economist called “Business Writing and Storytelling”. It all came about one day on a team call where my manager, Ana, told us of the course. We had previously discussed The Economist’s Big Mac Index and cited it as an effective way to share complex information. In our work, we found that the digital fluencey of our audience varied greatly and we needed to get better at speaking to folks with a range of skill levels. What better way than to learn from a publication that is both nuanced and approachable?

Within each week’s cirriculum, there was a mixture of written lessons, articles, and videos. The videos were recorded by various editors and contributors from the magazine. The individuals offered a wide range of techniques and approaches to getting words on paper. For instance, the science editor, Alok Jha, faces different challenges compared to his economics and finance counterparts when writing a story. As a result, he works to keep the scientific facts relevant to the broader economic picture. Similarly, other editors cited that the best writing is often the easiest to read. That is, the point is conveyed clearly and is not hidden behind fancy words or embellished prose.

The written assignments and associated feedback was the most valuable part of the course. Rather than being particularly concerned with the subject, the editors sought clarity in what was being said. Often, the comments would come back to say, “you can say this with less words” or “break that thought apart”. In doing so, I was able to take a rather weedsy topic and distill it into points that made sense to a wide audience. This type of feedback and instruction was at the heart of the course- say what it is you want to say with clarity.

To wrap up, editing ones own work requires strong focus on what it is you are trying to say. All too often, I find myself, even when writing this, straying away from the main points. Taking this course has helped develop new skills to get my ideas down on paper and pare them back later. For folks looking to enhance their writing skills, I would strongly recommend the course. Overall, it is six weeks long, takes place completely online, and requires six to ten hours of commitment per week. Each week, written assignments are due and build upon one another into a larger paper of roughly 1,200 words.

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