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At Last, the Secret to Financial Writing is Revealed

2 min read

When you want something exciting and fast-paced to read, you always pick up a piece of financial writing, don’t you? Sparkling, well edited, stuffed with juicy numbers—it’s the double chocolate brownie of business writing.

Or not. And perhaps the only task more daunting than producing crisp, comprehensible financial writing is teaching others how to do it, especially if you don’t have experience in training employees. What a muddle.


There is a solution to this challenge!

Try these ideas, which you would learn in a top-quality financial writing workshop:

  1. Use verbs, not adjectives

  2. Plan and design your document (easy, now—we’re thinking about simple document design)

  3. Write for your audience, who may not share your full financial vocabulary

  4. Use lists to help readers organize your points


What’s so important about verbs?

Think about how we begin stories, the oldest form of verbal communication between humans. “There I was, munching my sandwich in the café, when a rabbi, a priest, and a duck sauntered in.”

No one begins a story with, “This is about a rabbi, a priest, and a duck. And about an egg salad sandwich.”

That first opening plays a little video on the insides of your eyelids. The second leaves you looking for the exit. The difference is verbs.

Put a verb in your title. Change “Fiscal Year 2015 Projections” to “Acquisition Strengthens 2015 Outlook.” The second one sounds like a newspaper headline, right? It’s the verb. You’re beginning a story.


Plan headlines to organize your thoughts and data

Now that you have our interest, plan to keep it. Use headlines and subheads with verbs in them to tell us the main points of your story. To build on the imaginary title of your document, you could use headlines like “Frogfoot acquisition increased 2014 revenue by 18%.”

Pick your three to five key messages to us about the 2015 outlook, then turn them into headlines. Now you’ve just saved yourself some time: you have a structure, and everything you’ve planned to say should fit into that structure. Non-finance-expert readers need clear layout and guideposts to follow in financial writing.


Write for your audience

If we spoke fluent Finance, we’d probably be in your field. Even if we work for a financial firm, if we’re not directly in a department that focuses on  your subject matter, we need you to keep it simple. Imagine the tables turned: imagine that we were experts in Robert’s Rules of Order, and we were explaining something to you using all the technical language that the system employs. If you weren’t familiar with that system, you’d be lost.

What’s the way out? If your best friends are verbs, your second best friends are metaphors or images. “Our financial projections last year suggested a paltry yield by year end, but we now see an abundant harvest.” With that picture, we can follow your story.


Use numbered lists to help your readers absorb information

You can imagine our relief if you were to write, “There are three key implications of this changed projection.” We know lists; we use them all the time. They increase our comfort, and thus our ability to absorb your story. If you can use them sparingly, we also appreciate bulleted lists if not over four bullets.

These points would not be hard to share with other writers in the company, would they? Your muddle is un-muddled. Try these secrets to financial writing and you will be excited with the results.


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