Financial writers clinic: Rhythm can help you

I got rhythm, I got music…Who could ask for anything more?                                         

Rhythm isn’t only useful for Gene Kelly tap dancing to “I Got Rhythm” in An American in Paris. It also can also energize your writing about investment or wealth management.

Writers in our industry are prone to writing long, long sentences. One way to improve your rhythm is to insert some short sentences amid the long ones. Or even to start your article with some.

Here’s an example that caught my eye.

Reduce the growth of health care costs. Bend the curve. Find the game changers. Reform the delivery system.



This is how David Leonhardt of The New York Times started his “Falling Far Short of Reform,” a column about health care reform.

The sentences in Leonhardt’s introductory paragraph run four to seven words in length. If the sentence length of his entire article averaged five words, you’d get bored. The repetitive rhythm would start to work against him. In small doses–or interspersed among longer sentences–they are easy for readers to absorb. 

I also like the humor of “Yawn.” It makes it easy for the casual reader to relate to the article.

You might apply Leonhardt’s construction to something you write. Let’s say you want to tear down some of the classic assumptions about portfolio management. You could start as follows:

Asset allocation. Diversification. Buy-and-hold.


Your advisor has been telling you this story forever. But now that you’ve been through the stock market meltdown of 2008-2009, it’s time to take a fresh look at how to manage your portfolio.

I tweaked Leonhardt’s technique slightly by using sentence fragments. That’s okay in moderation. Please try this technique and tell me what you think about it.

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