Diary of a report writer and his big break into bad business

Ow. Thank you sir may I have another


Something for the Weekend, Sir?

Friday

Utter bastard.

For the second time this week I have had to work overnight for this arsehole to get his job done. As directed, I have taken great care to replace the concise and correct use of English in my original report with an idiomatic minestrone of convoluted expressions. The difference is dramatic. My original was a business-casual kind of document. It’s now three pages longer and reads like the transcript of a teenager on TikTok whining inarticulately between tokes on his inhaler.

I send it off at dawn. At lunchtime, tit-face comes back by email to demand that I rewrite it again before the end of the day (because I’ve "done it wrong") otherwise they won’t pay. By now I’m royally fed up with this wanker’s pissy antics at his shit-for-brains company full of turds.

I type the aforementioned sentence into my email reply but have a change of heart. I delete the insult and replace it with a friendly acknowledgement that I do not expect be paid for the work, and request that the company should therefore not share or publish the report – internally or externally, at all, in the slightest, under any circumstances whatsoever – and that my Word files should be destroyed immediately.

After hitting the Send button, I silence my phone and go watch some Mr Robot season 4 for the rest of the afternoon.

I check my phone at 5:00 PM. I have received seven messages from a completely different person at the tosser’s company. She requests politely, if increasingly pleadingly from one email to the next, whether I would mind doing one last rewrite and send it in.

I fish out my original report from earlier this week, change the version number at the end of the filename, and email it across to her. Within minutes, a reply comes back:

"Thanks. Great work. Send in your invoice."


Thursday

He’s an idiot.

He might be the boss of me for the moment but I’m curious to know why a world-renowned organisation would have chosen such a deadhead to commission and edit reports. After radio silence throughout yesterday afternoon all the way up to 10:00 AM today, he now emails me to rant about how late things are running.

He says my work does not conform to their standards with respect to use of terminology. I ask for examples of what I have written incorrectly. Much later, in the afternoon, I receive a copy of my Word file – saved as a ‘.docx’ – into which someone has inserted a few comments typed in red. No, not Track Changes, just red text typed directly into my report, thereby messing up the layout.

One of the red comments complains that the layout is messed up. Other comments seem to take exception to my lack of commas and predilection for active verbs. My area references measured in square kilometres have been converted to "km2". In one case, the person who marked up the corrections has struck through the words "a quarter" under a chart summary and replaced it with "four times less".

I consult the document properties to see who wrote this foolishness, but my own name is still there from the original saved version. Annoyingly, the time stamp shows that it was edited and saved yesterday – possibly in a different time zone.


Wednesday

A difficult man.

Having worked all night on his urgent report, I submit it at 8:00 AM as requested. I then down a large coffee and hit the sofa for a quick nap so I can be up again an hour later to handle any queries.

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He eventually acknowledges receipt at noon and sets up an immediate Teams. He declares, a bit pompously in my opinion, that he hasn’t been able to open my work because it’s in "the wrong version of Word". Would I send it again please? So I ask which version he wants. "The right version," he snaps back, like a smart-arse, and reminds me that we have now wasted half a day – when in fact we haven't, he has.

I save my documents to 20th century ".doc" format, fix the resulting reflow problems and resubmit the files within half an hour. Then I go to bed.

Mid-afternoon my phone is chiming with a DM. Apparently my report has been "rejected by the client" and it will need to be redone. Client? What client? I request another Teams meeting for clarification but he tells me he can only do email from now on. Bleary eyed, I slump in front of my computer, awaiting further instructions for the rewrite. None arrive.


Tuesday

A jolly busy fellow, I think.

We ping-ponged emails back and forth yesterday afternoon and evening and throughout this morning, trying to agree on a mutually convenient time slot for the Teams meeting. When I say "mutually convenient time slot", I mean he doesn’t have one. Or he does but then he has to change it – several times. It’s only natural that such a fine fellow would be in demand, of course.

It’s lunchtime when we finally get to talk. That is, when he gets to talk. He talks at me for a full hour, which is amazing since my usual vidconf chats these days never take longer than 10 minutes. Clearly this is a man in command! I feel so enthused! I barely even glance at my wristwatch while he talks. Just three or four times, that’s all. By the end, everything seems clear enough: a summary report, charts, infographics, that sort of thing.

Then he says "oh yes, I forgot" and tells me the deadline is first thing tomorrow morning.

That gives me 20 hours to do the job. In terms of raw working hours it’s not impossible, I suppose, but I had planned on sleeping for eight of them. It occurs to me what a shame it was that he’d not been able to schedule this discussion any earlier or mention it in the email, but I prefer to say nothing. He’s the pro, after all!

The money is a bit disappointing to be honest: just basic rate. But I don’t mind. This will be my foot in the door to greater things, working with top people for a top organisation!

I ask if he has a tone of voice or style guide that I should conform to; any special terms or expressions that I should use; US or UK spelling; and so on. He waves it all away – clearly a man of power and urgency! – and tells me I should just get on with it as I see fit.

I also ask how he wants the report materials delivered: PDF? HTML? He says "Word". Any particular version, I ask. The file format has subtly changed over the years and can play havoc with complex page layouts. "Just Word", he says.


Monday

What a top guy!

Great news! I’ve been contacted by an exec at a potential new client, out of the blue. I can’t tell you how much I'm looking forward to working for him. He really sounds the business!

OK so the email doesn’t mention money but, hey, it’s a big organisation that declared vast profits last year – I’m sure paying the going rate is not going to be a problem. The exec who wrote me the email comes across as articulate, friendly and professional, and I pride myself on being an excellent judge of character.

He’s asked for a quick chat over Teams "ASAP"! Definitely the business! At last I get to work with people who know what they’re doing and know what they want. Great things will come from this, mark my words. I’m definitely not going to regret this!

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Alistair Dabbs
Alistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling tech journalism, training and digital publishing. This week he has been a writer of fiction. Any resemblance to living persons blah blah blah. He says it all happened in the past anyway. But, of course, when else could it have happened? More at Autosave is for Wimps and @alidabbs.

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