Investment writing may not be easy. But working within a framework can make the task much more manageable. Here are our tips for effective investment writing.
Finding a good idea
What does the reader want to read about? Something may be of burning interest to you, but if nobody else cares, you won’t have much of a readership. The best subject to write about is the one that clearly concerns investors, whether that is important current market developments or long-term trends. If your readers already have the subject in focus, you have a good chance of attracting and holding their interest. This suggests that you understand what concerns investors, and to do that, you need to keep up with investing developments and the views of other commentators. Then you can either express your own views or comment on the views of others.
Fundamental to this is knowing your readership. To do so means you or your organisation should be collecting feedback from readers. This helps you understand what concerns them now and in the future – and helps you to pitch your article at the right level.
Decide when and how your investment writing will reach your readers
How often do your readers want to read something from you? If your article is to be recurring, should it be weekly, monthly, quarterly …? Once you have decided this, you have to be able to stick to it. Issuing a monthly newsletter every six weeks is a good way to look disorganised and unprofessional. Issuing a weekly update that has little content owing to the lack of sufficient new topics risks irritating your readers and may even lead to them simply ignoring an update with significant news.
How do your readers want to receive your update? Do they need it sent by e-mail? Do they want to download it themselves? Do they want it sent as a hard copy to be enjoyed over an evening glass of port and a cigar? Picking the right delivery method and medium may be the difference between your update being read or ignored.
Be clear and avoid jargon
Creating a piece of investment writing that all your colleagues in your office can understand is all well and good. After all, they may be familiar with the industry jargon and in-house terminology you’ve used. But if the finished article is to have a wider readership, you’ll have to rid the text of anything that the reader won’t recognise. The last thing you want is for your readers to question your ability to produce comprehensible language. Firstly, because they may think you like wasting their time. Secondly, because they may interpret your approach as simply misguided, assuming in them a level of knowledge that only you, rather than they, should possess. Thirdly, because a standard measure of a person’s understanding of a subject is their ability to express it understandably to the layman. If you can’t convince them of this, they are unlikely to believe you or invest with you.
So write clear, unambiguous text. Keep it short and to the point. Always remember that if your readers don’t understand what you’ve written, they won’t use it. But there may be times when you have to use terms that many of your readers don’t know yet. There are effective ways to deal with this that allow you to educate as well as inform, without boring the expert reader or confusing the layman. You could follow the example of publications such as The Wall Street Journal and use an explanatory clause surrounded by commas, for example “a long position, buying a security in the hope that its value will increase, …”. Expert readers will skip over the explanations, while the layman may appreciate the new information. Another option is the text box alongside the principal text. Here you can explain a term used, without interrupting the thread of your argument. A third solution is to provide a glossary of the key technical terms at the end of the document. This is perhaps the least ideal route as your readers need to leave the main article and return to it.
Make sure it’s checked
Once the article is written, it’s crucial to ensure that it’s checked. This should be done by someone who both understands the subject and is well versed in the correct use of language. Nothing undermines an otherwise strong written argument more than poor grammar and incorrect spelling. If you can’t take the trouble to create something as straightforward as grammatically correct text, how can you expect to convince others that you will take any trouble with their investments?
Bearing these fundamentals in mind when writing for an investor readership will allow you to create texts that people want to read, and ensure your investment writing is understood and appreciated.
Peter Riley, Head of Financial Translations