The Writer’s Fine Print Awards 2011

Yes indeed. To counterbalance the naming and shaming of plain English day, we thought we’d round up some of the year’s best examples of writing at work. So here we give you The Writer’s inaugural Fine Print Awards, for people who’ve aspired to something greater than merely ‘plain’. Our list is partial and subjective. There was no call for submissions; we didn’t convene a judging panel. It’s based largely on what’s stuck in our heads over the last year. Which in itself is some kind of test, really.

The Top Words from the Top Award

Goes to Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, who in February of this year wrote his now famous ‘burning platform’ memo to everyone at Nokia. The BBC called it ‘one of the most combustible and gripping documents ever to emerge from a major corporation’. It was so good in fact that many doubted its authenticity. But it was real. And it rightly went viral. Here’s just a snippet of its urgent, brutally honest tone:

‘Why did we fall behind when the world around us evolved? This is what I have been trying to understand… We had a series of misses. We haven't been delivering innovation fast enough. We're not collaborating internally. Nokia, our platform is burning.’

A close runner-up is Warren Buffet, whose New York Times piece ‘Stop Coddling the Super-Rich’ cut through the millions of words about the financial crisis with its frank and direct honesty. All financial institutions currently bleating about ‘restoring trust’ should take note. This is what honesty sounds like:

‘Our leaders have asked for “shared sacrifice”. But when they did the asking, they spared me. I checked with my mega-rich friends to learn what pain they were expecting. They, too, were left untouched.’

The Poetry in Motion Award

Goes to BBC London Travel Alert. They’ve managed to take a thoroughly unpromising subject and give it a genuine dash of idiosyncrasy: sometimes poetic, sometimes funny, sometimes just plain odd. When we blogged about them earlier in the year, we picked out a few tweets we liked. There have been countless more since. Lovely.

BBCTravelAlert A surfeit of precipitation. Ergo A12 Eastbound between Aldborough Rd & Hainault Road – carriageway is 50% deficient.

BBCTravelAlert The Underground railway isn’t available at Liverpool Street at present whilst the fire alarms therein reverberate. 

BBCTravelAlert Her Maj’s Jubilee line is ok now. This means that in fact the entire choob network is running efficiently. Let’s see how long it lasts.

The Giving it Gusto Award

Definitely has to go to discount voucher people Groupon. We love how they’ve made their madly flamboyant, energetic and frankly bonkers style a big part of their identity. (They call fingers ‘cheek slappers’, ‘clapping utensils’, ‘shake traps’ and ‘high-five dispensers’ among other things. And that’s just fingers, for God’s sake.) Some people love it. Others hate it. But in 2011, everybody was talking about it. This list of humour taboos from their writing guidelines shows just how seriously they take it, too. Yes, occasionally they get it staggeringly wrong. But we’ll take their glorious failures over plain and safe any day.

The What’s-in-a-Name Award

Goes to LOCOG for calling the Olympic mascots (OK, they were technically named a few years back, but were really unleashed on the public in November) ‘Wenlock’ and ‘Mandeville’: both names are clever references to Britain’s Olympic heritage, but most of all we liked them because they just sound so unexpected. ‘Like a pair of melancholy detectives from a minor existential comedy’, said our Nick when he blogged about them last month. Sporting names are usually so thrusting and energetic and relentlessly positive.

A close runner up was ‘Movember’ (‘the month formerly known as November’), the name of the fundraising campaign for men’s health – and of course the name of the month when men now grow ridiculous facial hair. Renaming one twelfth of the calendar was a pleasingly audacious move, and the word has already passed into everyday use.

That’s it. Agree? Disagree? Think we’ve missed something noteworthy? Then tweet us (@TheWriter) or leave a comment.

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