How do you spell it? “Out-performance” vs. “outperformance”

The browser’s spellchecker keeps tagging “outperformance” as a typo. I feel very annoyed when this happens because I The prefix out- should be united with whatever follows, just as bride and groom should be united.believe it’s wrong. This spurred me to do research on the correctness of my assumption.

The case for “outperformance”

Here’s the evidence in favor of marrying “out” and “performance” so they’re one word:

  1. “Generally do not hyphenate when using a prefix with a word that starts with a consonant,” said The Associated Press Stylebook, when I originally researched this question some years ago. More recently, the online AP Stylebook says, “Follow Webster’s New World College Dictionary.” The dictionary includes “outperform” without a hyphen.
  2. Words into Type says, “The modern tendency is to eliminate the hyphen between a prefix and a root unless the root is a proper noun or adjective, such as un-American.”
  3. I asked, “What would The Wall Street Journal do?” as suggested in my financial jargon killer blog post. At a quick glance, the newspaper appears to favor “outperform.”

The case for “out-performance” with a hyphen

I mustered one piece of  evidence in favor of hyphenating “out-performance” when I originally researched this post. Google yielded more than 931 million search results for “out-performance” vs. only 1.01 million for “outperformance.” It’s strange that the first four results use the spelling “outperformance,” as you see in the screen shot on the left.

I found a similar discrepancy between the number of search results for “outperformance” versus “out-performance” and the spelling in the actual search results when I repeated my search in March 2024. However, the gap between the number of search results shrank to 5.6 million for the hyphenated word versus 5 million for the unhyphenated word.

Results of my spelling poll

When I polled my newsletter and blog readers about the proper spelling, “outperformance” won in a landslide, with 92% of the vote. Here are the results:

  • Outperformance: 92%
  • Out-performance: 0
  • Out performance: 8%



Note: This post was updated again on March 22, 2024. I updated this piece on December 1, 2013, to share the results of my poll, instead of directing readers to a poll that’s no longer active. This post originated as a request for readers to respond to a poll.

Do I need to use the (r) mark with my CFP designation?

“Do I need to use the ® mark with my CFP designation”? This question spurred me to do some research on whether one must always write “CFP®.”

When I was active as a reporter, I never used the ® mark. In fact, I rarely included an interviewee’s CFP designation because space was tight.

Upon doing research, I discovered that the rules for me as a reporter and blogger differ from the rules for you as a CFP certificant.

If you’re using your CFP designation in sales or advertising

Here’s what The Chicago Manual of Style says on its website:

Q. Is it proper or necessary to use the circled R each and every time the registered trademark name is used in a document? What is the correct usage for the symbol?

A. In publications that are not advertising or sales materials, all that is necessary is to use the proper spelling and capitalization of the name of the product. A trademark attorney can tell you when the use of the symbol is required.

From a legal standpoint, the key seems to be whether you’re using your designation in something that might be considered advertising.

The CFP Board’s stance on “CFP®

It appears that the CFP Board would like the circled R to appear with every use of the CFP mark, with the exception of “CFP Board.” As it says in its guidelines, Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. (CFP Board) is a company name or trade name, not a trademark, and therefore is not required to be displayed with the ® or ™ symbols.”

You can read general guidelines—and download detailed instructions—on the CFP Board’s website.

Will you land in trouble if you don’t abide by the guidelines? Maybe not, but do you want to annoy the body that issues a credential that’s important to you? Here’s the CFP Board’s response to my tweet on the topic.

CFP Board on using R with CFP designation

By the way, the CFP Board also has rules about what words you bundle together with “CFP®.” They ask you to use:

…one of CFP Board’s approved nouns (“certificant,” “professional,” “practitioner,” “certification,” “mark” or “exam”) unless directly following the name of the individual certified by CFP Board.

CFP practices at some big firms

For the heck of it, I searched “CFP” on the Merrill Lynch website. It yielded a sea of “CFP®” references. I didn’t see any CFPs without the mark.

The CFP certificants who popped up in a search on the Ameriprise Financial website also used the registered mark.

What about the CFA?

Doing this research made me worry about whether I’m supposed to use a mark when I write “Susan Weiner, CFA.” I learned that my current usage is fine, but there are cases where the CFA Institute would like me to use  the mark.

Here are some examples of proper usage from the CFA Institute’s web page about trademark usage:

  • John Smith is a CFA® charterholder.
  • Amy Jones, CFA, is a portfolio manager.
  • John Smith is a holder of the right to use the Chartered Financial Analyst® designation.

For more on the proper use of this designation, visit the CFA Institute’s page about trademark usage.

What about the CPA?

I researched the CPA credential when copyediting bios for a client. The AICPA seems to allow either Certified Public Accountant or CPA.

Your firm’s biographies

Doing this research made me realize that you should research the trademark status of the designations held by your financial firm’s employees. With research, you can make sure your firm’s bios conform with the rules.

10-minute boosts for your financial content marketing

Financial content marketing helps you to attract new clients by boosting your visibility and showing that you can solve their problems. Great financial content takes time to create. But you don’t always have big chunks of time to devote to your content strategy, writing, editing, and promotion.

Don’t despair! You can give your content a boost when you have as little as 10 minutes to spare.

10-minute boosts infographic

Generate financial content ideas tailored to your audience

  1. Mind map ideas around one of your key topics. Put the topic in the middle of your map and record any idea that pops into your head. I discussed a variation on this exercise in “Photo + Mind Map = Blog Inspiration.”
  2. Generate ideas by reading an article—any article. I got the idea for this article from reading “Time Crunch: 13 marketing tips that will take you 10 minutes or less” in the Journal of Financial Planning (July 2016). However, any article can spur ideas if you let your mind run free. For example, the Boston Sunday Globe‘s “More height warnings coming to Storrow,” which discussed trucks crashing into road overpasses, made me think about those crashes as a metaphor for individuals ignoring warnings about their finances. It could turn into an article about “3 warning signs you shouldn’t ignore” or a topic in behavioral finance. It could also serve as a story for content about auto insurance or infrastructure investments. You can also riff on the titles that appear on a magazine cover.
  3. Ask your target audience what they want to learn. One technique is to pose a question on social media. The cool thing is that when people comment on your social media post, people you don’t yet know may see it and comment. This expands your network. I discuss other techniques in “Financial content: Ask questions of your readers.”
  4. Do keyword-based research. Brainstorm ideas around the keywords for which you’d like your website or blog to rank high. Some online tools, such as AnswerThePublic, spit out ideas based on the words that people input into search engines.
  5. Set up a Google Alert. See what people are talking about in your main areas of interest.

Create financial content

  1. Introduce content you’ve already created. It took me less than 10 minutes to write an introduction and load an infographic that I’d had my virtual assistant create for me. You can see the results in “Infographic: 5 Ways to Add Personality to Your Financial Writing.” You can take content that you’ve created elsewhere—an infographic, video, podcast, webinar, slideshow, or guest post on someone else’s blog—and re-purpose it on your blog.
  2. Assign a task to a team member. You don’t have to do all of the financial content marketing work yourself. For example, every month I email my virtual assistant with introductory text and a list of articles to highlight in my newsletter.
  3. Request a guest post. Ask an expert, referral source, client, or other person for a guest post.
  4. Draft a list of questions for a Q&A post. Think of a topic that you’d like to cover in an “interview” via email. After you gain your interviewee’s consent, send them a list of questions to answer.
  5. Start a blog post with the intention of not finishing. You don’t have to complete every post in one day, especially if you’re pressed for time. Sometimes it’s good to stop a post before you are done dumping your thoughts on the page. Later, when you return to the post, it’ll be easier for you to resume writing by expressing the thoughts you had left unstated in your last session.
  6. Think about how you can adapt a blog post to a different medium. Could your blog post become a podcast, an infographic, or a presentation? When I worked on staff for a large asset management firm, I was always surprised by how happy the salespeople were when I turned a quarterly commentary letter into a PowerPoint presentation they could use with prospects.
  7. Bundle your blog posts into a new blog post or publication. I discussed this in “Repackage your blog posts to get more mileage out of them.”

Edit your financial content

  1. Assess your draft’s readability. You can use a free online tool like Hemingway App, which I discuss in “Free help for wordy writers!”
  2. Proofread by listening to your content. I describe this in “My best tip for editors who proofread their own work.” Of course, fixing things may take you more than 10 minutes.
  3. Send your content to a colleague or a professional for proofreading, copyediting, or other feedback. Another set of eyes is always helpful.

Amplify your financial content marketing

  1. Install an SEO plugin. I use the free version of the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress to boost my awareness of how to highlight my keywords.
  2. Learn more about SEO. You can find relevant videos on the Google Webmasters channel on YouTube. Some of them, like “SEO for startups in under 10 minutes,” are short. You can also check out classes on the Google Webmasters website. For more videos, type “learn SEO” in the YouTube search bar.
  3. Write a social media status update. Promote your content via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or whatever social media channels work best for you.
  4. Research a blog for a potential guest post. My two-part post, “How to guest-blog on personal finance or investments,” tells you how to approach blogs for guest posts and gives you links to some blogs that accept guest posts.
  5. Pitch a guest post. Email your potential host to propose a guest post.

How to Write Blog Posts

Hourglass image courtesy of Graphics Mouse at

Note: This post was updated on November 4 and 14, 2021, and Sept. 30, 2022.

Your webinar-day checklist

If you’ve ever delivered a webinar, you know that things can go wrong—especially at the last minute. I created a webinar checklist when I delivered an investment commentary webinar via Zoom to a CFA Society last year. My goal was to minimize opportunities for problems to disrupt me. Unfortunately, I‘ve learned from experience about some of the things that can go wrong during a webinar.

I’m sharing a generic version of my webinar-day checklist in case you’ll benefit from adapting it for your needs.

Check today’s newspapers for news relevant to my topic.

Reboot PC and close down as many programs as possible to minimize the load on my PC. Kill anything that might put pop-ups—like Microsoft Outlook task reminders—on my screen.

Have a travel clock handy—and a list of my target time to start each of five sections—to help me keep track of time.

Wear non-distracting clothes—for example, no tiny prints that’ll shimmer or wildly swinging earrings.

Make tea with honey and do my vocal warm-up exercises to make my voice more resonant.

Put phones on “Do not disturb.”

Adjust the lighting to optimize it for the webinar (I discovered that opening my blinds for sunlight made me too washed out).

Remind introducer or facilitator of things I’d like them to do during the program and make sure they have my bio (have it ready to email if necessary).

Remind myself to look at the webcam, not my keyboard or my screen.

Have fun!


I hope you find this checklist helpful. A webinar can be a great way to connect with people. It works even better when you’re not rattled during your webinar by problems that a webinar-day checklist could have prevented.



Secret of regular blogging

In 2010, a portfolio manager told me his most powerful tip for blogging on a regular schedule:

I speak my thoughts into Dragon NaturallySpeaking.

This speech recognition software transcribes his words, so he need not type his first draft. This is a great time saver.

Back then, Dragon software was your main option for automated transcription of whatever you said. Since then, your options have multiplied. Your smartphone probably offers a voice assistant that can transcribe your speech. There are also options from third parties, such as or the automated transcription service from Rev.

If automated transcription services’ errors, such as typing “NASA allocation” for “an asset allocation,” are too annoying, you can hire a human transcriptionist.

The bottom line: If dictation helps you to write more regularly or quickly, use it.

Secrets of regular blogging infographic


Note: This was updated in February and November 2021.

Look smarter to your clients, prospects, or boss with alerts

Will you look smarter to your clients, prospects, or boss if you stay current on news stories about them? Of course.

Free Google Alerts

The free Google Alerts service provides email updates of the latest Google results (web, news, etc.) for your topic.

You can get information from Google on how to sign up. It’s easy. You will need a Google account.

Search tips

I’ve gotten the best results by selecting “all results” instead of “only the best results” in response to the question “how many.” That’s probably because my alerts are for very narrow, specific topics. “Only the best results” sometimes yielded no results, when “all results” yielded some. I noticed this with the alert for Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients. Some of the results come from poor-quality websites. That’s been useful because it has made me aware when my book’s copyright has been infringed.

If I were searching on a broad topic, such as “investment management,” I’d select “only the best results.” I’d also narrow my topic to a specific kind or aspect of investment management.

I adjust my settings so I only receive alerts once a week. Otherwise the flow of emails could overwhelm me.

There are many other tracking services, such as Mention or Talkwalker.  However, Google Alerts is free and widely accessible. It’s a great starting point.

Other uses

Are you researching a topic for a blog post, white paper, or other purpose? Set up an alert for your topic. It may yield some helpful information.

If you’re searching for something to blog about, a Google alert on a broad area may make you aware of a great topic you wouldn’t know of otherwise. It can also yield ideas for content to share via social media.

Also, keep an eye on your reputation by tracking your name, website, and other relevant topics.


NOTE: This post was originally published in 2008. I’ve updated and expanded it since then.

Finding your best clients

Learning what works for you in winning clients is a good way to make your marketing more efficient and effective. I’ve described my approach on this blog. But two webinars by consultant Mary Cravets of Simply Get Clients inspired me to revisit this topic.

List marketing techniques and top clients

Cravets suggested that participants draw two columns on a piece of paper. In the left-hand column, list all of the marketing techniques that you use consistently or inconsistently, or that you’d like to try. In the right-hand column, list your top five clients.

Draw lines

The next step was for participants to draw a line from each top client to the technique in the left-hand column that brought them that client.  In other words, participants identify how they gained their best clients. That’s a great refinement on my original idea of analyzing all of my new clients in a given year. After all, wouldn’t you rather duplicate your best clients rather than your average clients?

For me, the visual impact of seeing the lines on my paper converging in one place was stunning. I tend to think of my newsletter and blog as major contributors to bringing me clients. But this exercise said that it’s really the internet and LinkedIn. Of course, my blog and newsletter are essential to my presence in both of those places.

Act on what you learn

The next step is to focus more on the techniques that bring you your best clients, and then do more of that. You should also deemphasize the less productive techniques, so you can win better clients with less effort.

In my case, the mix of ways I gained my top five clients was similar to how I gained all of my new clients last year. However, that might not be true for you, especially if you’ve tried new marketing techniques over the last year.

Take a closer look at how you gained your top clients so you can spend more time on those techniques. Then, maybe you can cut back on some of your time-consuming marketing that doesn’t get results. And, maybe you can spend less time on marketing, and more on what you enjoy.

Focusing on your best clients, rather than any new clients, can improve your business.

Flip the exercise

You can also learn from doing the reverse of this exercise, suggested Cravets. List your 5 worst clients, and then draw lines to the techniques that brought those clients to you. This may suggest techniques that you should avoid. For example, perhaps those clients came from a lead-generation service rather than from referrals. It may be time to put more energy into cultivating referrals.


NOTE: I expanded and revised this post after seeing a second presentation by Cravets in May 2021.

Financial advisors, a media platform can boost your business

I heard good things about Qwoted, a platform that connects reporters with sources, from some writer friends. So, I asked the firm for a guest post on how advisors can benefit from such platforms, which also include HARO and ProfNet. The post below by Madelynne Kislovsky, Qwoted’s deputy editor and marketing manager, is the result.

Madelynne told me, “Over 400 financial advisors use Qwoted, thanks to dozens of weekly source requests from reporters looking for insights from wealth managers and financial planners.”

Financial advisors, a media platform can boost your business

By Madelynne Kislovsky

Securing earned media opportunities is a crucial element of any marketing strategy. A necessary first step to garnering free media coverage is building relationships with reporters, which boosts the chances of getting your quotes and ideas in front of the audiences of top publications. The coverage you gain as an expert in your field will play a valuable role in the perception of your business by establishing you as a trustworthy source in your industry. Hiring a PR company to manage this can be costly and attempting to secure media opportunities with no guidance often stretches small business owners too thin.

While doing it yourself can be intimidating, there are platforms that assist with obtaining media coverage fast. Qwoted helps professionals in any field cut through the noise and connect with reporters who are looking for specific information around a particular topic. Reporters can also search Qwoted’s media database directly to find vetted, relevant sources. As a member of the Qwoted community, you’ll receive relevant source requests daily, which provide context around your outreach to reporters and propel you as a credible media source.

Sharing your expertise is never a poor choice, as any brand can benefit from securing earned media coverage on either the local or national level. However, reaching out to a journalist requires a collaborative approach. Keep the reporter’s needs in mind throughout the conversation, especially because most good journalists can sniff out your motives right away.

Here are some tips:

  • Respond to source requests as soon as possible to increase your chances of securing the media opportunity.
  • Include written responses to reporters’ questions in your initial pitches. You’ll make the reporter’s job simpler by immediately providing what they’re after. This will improve your chances of being included in the story.
  • Stay away from lengthy anecdotes and “TL;DR” paragraphs.
  • Be thoughtful and offer value without expecting anything in return. The ultimate goal is to build relationships with the media. This approach will provide more returns in the long term.
  • Do a bit of research on the journalist beforehand to learn about the topics they cover.
  • Make sure you have a plan should you receive a piece of coverage. You’ll want to leverage your earned media across your website, social channels, and directly with customers and prospects.

Garnering earned media opportunities doesn’t have to be expensive, difficult, or time-consuming. Make the most of your time by securing media opportunities the smart way. Research affordable alternatives and find which media request platform works best for your business model. You’ll find yourself securing opportunities and expanding your brand faster than you thought possible.


Focus on WIIFM, not the article

Nobody gets excited about reading an article. That’s the thought that crossed my mind when I received a newsletter that opened as you see in the image below.


The person sending the newsletter had good intentions. He knew that the SECURE Act brings changes that can affect the retirement planning of his clients and prospects. However, he didn’t convey that the changes were going to offer opportunities for readers to gain—or to experience pain. As a result, few people are likely to click on the link to read the article. It might be a great article. But the newsletter doesn’t give readers a reason to click.

Readers care about the WIIFM—What’s In It For Me. They want to know how they’ll benefit—or how they can minimize their pain.

The SECURE Act offers both gains and pains. That could inspire better headlines, such as:

  • GAIN: Avoid required minimum distributions—and the related taxes—for longer under the SECURE Act
  • PAIN: New limits on “stretch IRAs” mean you may need to adjust your retirement plan.

If you think about it, I bet you can apply this lesson to create better headlines.

A great way to annoy your editor

Would you like to guarantee that the editor of a magazine, blog, newspaper, or other publication never asks you to write for them again? Then, follow the advice in this article. I feel confident that your assigning editor will ignore your future proposals.

Surefire way to annoy

Here’s my advice: Accept a clearly defined assignment from an editor, and then turn in a story on a different topic. After all, if your new topic is interesting, the editor should be delighted, right?

No, no, no.

An editor’s perspective

When I’m wearing my “editor hat,” and I ask you to write on a specific topic. I want an article on that topic. That’s because the topic fits in with the rest of my editorial calendar. Also, I believe that my readers are interested in the topic.

Despite this, I’ve run into a writer who ignored the assignment that I’d given him. He turned in his article late, and didn’t comment in his cover email about his change of topic. When questioned, he said, “Oh, I figure everyone already knows all about that. I thought this topic was more interesting.”

Can you imagine how that infuriated me? Plus, then I had to start over in finding a writer to tackle my original topic.

When an article idea doesn’t work

There will be times when assignments don’t work out. Perhaps I was testing a hypothesis for which there’s not enough supporting evidence. Perhaps you weren’t able to gain access to the resources needed for the story.

I understand that things happen. However, please figure that out before your deadline. And, tell me about your issues early in the process. Don’t just drop a story on a different topic into my email inbox.