When teaching writing skills, I like to focus on how the same content can be produced for different purposes and in varied styles. This helps put the focus clearly on the receiver, as well as ensuring that the objective is considered before starting to write.
Here is an interesting example – stair climbing.
This is probably something you do on a regular basis – indeed, at Bournemouth University, there are notices at all the lifts advising that we take the stairs both for environmental reasons and so the lift is prioritised for those with disabilities.
But have you ever considered the health & safety issues of stair climbing – other than when looking after a small child? Well, I’ve just heard of a health and safety notice from an organisation giving advice to employees to avoid “incidents on the stairs”.
The perspective here is one of dangers. The purpose is to warn, inform – maybe to educate – or to ensure the organisation cannot be sued by employees who do not heed the warning (if you are cynical). Apparently, you should:
1. Take your time, and pause before going down the stairs.
2. Keep your eyes on the steps ahead.
3. If you wear reading glasses, remove them or adjust your bifocals so you can see the stairs clearly.
4. Keep to the left and hold the handrail.
5. If you need to carry anything that would block your view of the stairs, or prevent you holding the handrail, please use the lift.
Other people look at stairs with a different perspective – they participate in the sport of stair climbing. Their language is totally different:
World class athletes from running and cycling regularly compete in such events and some have specialized in stair climbing races only… Stair climbing is one of the most grueling sports, requiring competitors to move their entire body weight vertically, instead of horizontally.
So stair-climbing is presented as a calorie burning sport offering a total body workout, building muscle mass and working the “cardio-vascular lung package”. The language makes climbing stairs sound exciting and uses the image of Sylvester Stallone as Rocky as a role model.
Indeed, the sport is recommended in “any public place” – although clearly not if the H&S people know about it.
But, I wonder if instead of issuing dire warnings for stair climbers, organisations could communicate their message more effectively if they organised a stair climbing event – where education and the safety message could be conveyed in a more amusing and entertaining way rather than seeming childish and jobs-worthy?