How understanding tone of voice can help architects, designers and creative businesses win work and get noticed.

A bookshelf showing some of the writer’s source books, including The Economist Style Guide, Steven Pinker’s ‘The Sense of Style’, ‘The Universal Journalist’ by David Randall and titles on copy-editing and Practical English Usage.
A bookshelf showing some of the writer’s source books, including The Economist Style Guide, Steven Pinker’s ‘The Sense of Style’, ‘The Universal Journalist’ by David Randall and titles on copy-editing and Practical English Usage.
A useful bookshelf, featuring The Economist Style Guide and titles on style, use and copy-editing © Sarah Simpkin

When I go into an architecture practice as a freelance writer, one of the first things I do, after a good nose around the projects, is get a sense of their tone of voice. In some cases, this has been thought about by someone; it’s easy to pick up and is consistently used, so I adopt that style. In others, there is no specific guidance, anything goes. Sometimes, I’m there to help a firm work out what their tone of voice is and put together a style guide or ‘brand book’. …


In Homer’s Odyssey, while Penelope waits for her husband Odysseus to return, she weaves. To keep her suitors at bay, she tells them she’s weaving a funeral shroud for Laertes, her father-in-law, and promises to choose one of them when it’s finished. She weaves by day and unpicks the shroud each night, until she’s discovered, outed, forced to make a choice, and so devises an archery competition that only her returning husband can win. …


Sometimes Nicola Dale and I make work together — we are friends, and shared a studio as students. These days, she’s a full-time artist and I’m a writer that can’t quite let go of the idea of making things for their own sake. During 2020, we each developed our own lockdown rituals. With her studio in Stockport closed and her teaching in Leeds moved online, she reconfigured her workspace and did daily Joe Wicks workouts with her partner, Darren Nixon. In London, I just carried on working remotely for an American firm of architects and attempted to home school our…

Sarah Simpkin

Writing about buildings, mostly

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