Tag Archive for: commentary wriitng

Writing: More specific is better until it’s not

Investment commentary writers often struggle to make their writing more concise. Sometimes being more precise helps.

How to do it

Here’s a before-and-after example:

BEFORE: Value stocks outperformed growth stocks in the last month of the quarter.

AFTER: Value stocks outperformed growth stocks in June.

See the difference? I find many examples like this when I compile and edit fund performance commentary for my asset management clients.

The flip side

On the other hand, commentary writers sometimes go overboard with specificity. One of my pet peeves is excessive references to the quarter under discussion.

If you name the quarter in the beginning of your paragraph, and you don’t change periods, there’s no need to repeat “the third quarter” in every sentence. The repetition is boring. It also uses up space that could be spent on meaningful discussion of the drivers of performance.

What do YOU suggest?

You’ve probably read investment commentary that could benefit from greater specificity. What are your suggestions in this area?

Key lesson for investment commentary writers from my professional organizer

My personal possessions aren’t as neatly organized as my writing, so I’ve worked with several professional organizers. They’ve taught me a lesson that is critical for folks who write market, economic, or portfolio commentary: Put like with like.

Just as I should keep my overabundant collection of sweaters in one drawer, rather than scattered over all of my dressers, you should organize your commentary topics in a logical manner. This isn’t easy when you’re an investment professional who is under pressure to churn out commentary at a quarter-end, right when you’re busy with other quarterly tasks.

How does this translate into quarterly commentary? For example, you might separate commentary into sections on the economy, stocks, and bonds. I imagine many of you already do this. However, you can take this one step further.

Use some sort of organizing principle within each section. For example, don’t dump economic statistics in any old order. Consider dividing them into positive and negative indicators, or employment, manufacturing, and income statistics. This kind of organization makes it easier for your reader to grasp your message.

Organize your information well, and you’ll make it as easy for your readers to find your message as it would be for me to find my navy blue cardigan if I divided my sweaters into cardigans vs. pullovers and then sorted them by color.