Test your financial editing skill with these examples

Savvy editors can boost the effectiveness of financial content by streamlining it. Hone your financial editing skill by reviewing the before-and-after examples I share below. Some of the “before” examples are taken directly from my reading. Others are inspired by my reading, but tweaked.

I’ve grouped the examples by the main lesson that they illustrate. If you’re hungry for more examples, see “Can YOU simplify investment commentary better than this?” You can learn more more tips and techniques for financial editing in my book, Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients.

If you can improve on my edits, please let me know. Sometimes an editor with a fresh eye can make improvements.

1. Delete or replace forms of the verb “to be”

edit financial writingBefore: The company’s 2015 loss is a reflection of the shifting preferences of consumers for ordering online instead of going into a store to buy.
After: The company’s 2015 loss reflected consumers’ shift toward buying online instead of in stores.
Note: “Is a reflection of” becomes “reflected,” as you replace a “to be” verb plus noun with the verb form of the noun.

Before: This data is supportive of higher prices.
After: This data supports higher prices.

Before: Stocks as expensive as these are often experience price declines.
After: Stocks this expensive often fall in price.

Before: This kind of growth could be sustainable going forward.
After: This growth could continue.
Note: I imagine that in either version, the next sentence might discuss what will drive the continued growth. I believe the writer is trying to say something with the adjective “sustainable.”

2. Delete “the fact that,” “it should be noted that,” and similar phrases

Before: We are pleased with the fact that the company’s profitability is improving.
After 1: We are pleased with the company’s improving profitability.
After 2: The company’s profitability is improving
Note: Phrases such as “the fact that” don’t add anything useful to the sentence. “We are pleased with” sounds self-congratulatory. I prefer to simply present the information.

Before: It should be noted that boom and bust cycles for oil tend to be long lasting and we have been talking about the end of this cycle for some time now.
After: Oil’s boom-bust cycles tend to last a long time, but this boom is already long.
Note: The rewrite also benefits from using the possessive. Using “but” instead of “and” makes the relationship between the two clauses easier to grasp.

Before: We have seen stocks that have failed to live up to expectations.
After 1: We have seen stocks fail to live up to expectations.
After 2: We have seen stocks disappoint expectations.
After 3: We have seen stocks disappoint.
After 4: Some stocks disappointed.
Note: This four-step revision shows how it can help to keep looking for ways to streamline your sentences.

3. Say what you think, not what you don’t think

Before: We do not think it is a coincidence.
After: We think it resulted from a plan.
Note: Say what you think. Don’t make people struggle to figure it out by analyzing what you don’t think.

4. Use the possessive to shorten

Before: The type of actions that Jeb Bush is taking might not seem strange to Republicans
After: Jeb Bush’s actions might not seem strange to Republicans.

5. Replace “result”

Before: These changes resulted in cost savings.
After: These changes cut costs.

Before: These changes resulted in revenue growth of 74%.
After: These changes grew revenues by 74%.

6. Remove excess words

Before: The recent sell-off in the small-cap stock market has created an attractive window of opportunity to invest in the sector.
After: Their recent sell-off has opened a window to invest in small-cap stocks.
Note: It’s clear from the context that a “window” is an attractive opportunity to invest.

Before: There has been a proliferation of new entrants into the social media analytics space.
After 1: Many new companies have started offering social media analytics.
After 2: Many new companies offer social media analytics.
Note: Try to replace nouns, especially multi-syllabic words such as “proliferation,” with verbs.

Before: The company has strong preexisting relationships with wholesalers.
After: The company has strong relationships with wholesalers.
Note: I don’t think you would make the mistake of assuming from the new sentence that the company has anything other than preexisting relationships with wholesalers, unless this is in the context of writing about something that brings new relationships.

Before: Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A) was a major theme in 2015, as transactional activity accelerated during the year led by many
prominent investment firms.
After: An increase in mergers and acquisitions (M&A), led by major investment firms, made M&A a major theme in 2015.
Note: This sentence was hard to simplify out of context. I might have chosen differently if I saw the entire paragraph. However, sometimes you can streamline by simplifying adjectival phrases. “Transactional activity” becomes “transactions.” Limit the number and length of adjectives. “Many prominent investment firms” becomes “major investment firms.” Avoid random capitalization, as in “Mergers and Acquisitions.” Letters that are capitalized in acronyms, such as M&A, shouldn’t be capitalized when the words are spelled out in full.

Before: The company was two times the size of its smallest competitor.
After: The company was twice the size of its smallest competitor.

Tips for refining your financial editing skill?

Editing other people’s drafts is a great way to improve your skill as a financial editor and writer. You can also take classes to get more practice. If you have other tips for improving your financial editing skill, I’d like to hear them.

Image courtesy of bplanet / FreeDigitalPhotos.net