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Financial blog topic: write a letter

A letter can be a great format for your financial blog. Writing a letter can help you tackle difficult topics or get a new perspective on an old topic.

I’m not thinking about the kinds of letter you usually write. I don’t mean prospecting letters, quarterly reports, or requests for documentation.

Instead, I am thinking about letters that tackle topics that you feel strongly about. Sure, you can write about those topics in a regular blog post. However, there’s something about a letter that makes it more personal.

Different letter recipients, different content

Imagine, for example, that you write a letter to one of the following people:

  • Your mom, whom you are grateful to for teaching you the value of saving and investing
  • Your son, who just started his first job with a 401(k) plan
  • Your client who holds no stocks in her retirement plan
  • Ted Benna, father of the 401(k) plan

Each of these letters might discuss retirement. However, your choice of recipient will affect the opinions you express, your tone, and the details you use to make your point.

Letter-writing benefits

The details that you use in a letter—especially a letter to your mom or son—are likely to deepen the reader’s sense of who you are. Are you a person like them? A person they can relate to? Your letter to a client will show if you can empathize, or you’re coldly logical. Your letter to Ted Benna may display your technical expertise.

I think that showing your personality, which I’ve written about in “How to add personality and warmth to your financial writing—part one”  is one of the strengths of a letter.

Another reason to use the letter format is to make your language more reader-friendly. I remember struggling with a topic in my essay-writing class at Radcliffe Seminars many years ago. To end my stilted language, my teacher suggested I write a letter to a classmate, telling her what I wanted to say. He hoped that would pull more conversational language out of me. Visualizing your ultimate reader always helps, as I discussed in “Your mother and the ‘fiscal cliff.’

Have YOU ever written a blog post in the form of a letter? If so, please share a link in the comments.

By the way, this post was inspired by a book, Karen Tei Yamashita’s Letters to Memory, which takes the form of letters to historical figures and other people. It’s a provocative read about Japanese-American history that brings in Greek and Indian mythology and other diverse topics, thanks to her choice of letter recipients.

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How to add personality and warmth to your financial writing–Part two

Personality and warmth help your readers connect with you. In part one of this post, we discussed using personal stories. In this post, I add four more techniques:

    1. Self-deprecating humor
    2. Analogies
    3. Distinctive language
    4. Quotations

 

1. Self-deprecating humor

Humor can be tricky because it can veer into the offensive. But gently poking fun at yourself is usually in good taste. It can also be disarming, as in the example below.

I like the following line written by Helen Lambiase, a student in my blogging class: “Keeping up consistently with a portfolio of individual stocks for the average individual investor is about as easy as sticking to a Weight Watchers diet (believe me, I can tell you about both.) ” Everyone in our class remarked on how friendly and approachable Helen sounded.

In another example, Bob Rall of Rall Capital Management titled his post “Are You Single?” and then wrote, “Before my wife reads that headline and thinks that I’m up to something that I shouldn’t be, I need to explain. If you are single, you have a different set of financial planning issues to deal with.”

A comedy-writing friend suggests that you use humor in moderation, or your shtick may become your identifying characteristic. If you recognize the name of Rodney Dangerfield, you know his most famous line is “I don’t get no respect.”

2. Analogies

Like flashlights, analogies illuminate murky areas. The analogies that you choose reflect your identity. For example, I’m unlikely to use sports, military, or science images. Gardening, travel, and books are more my speed.

3. Distinctive language

Write the way you speak, especially when you write blog posts. Everyday language makes you more approachable. (By the way, I originally wrote “colloquial language.”)

I’d love to see my client in Texas write blog posts that sound like his conversations. His colorful phrases, such as “drinking from a fire hose,” delight me.

I also like the following translation from a Chinese newspaper article, which I found in a Wall Street Journal article: “When the weasel pays a New Year’s visit to the chickens, nothing good will come of it.”

4. Quotations

If techniques 1-4 fail you, then find an evocative quotation to give a spark to an otherwise dry piece. The kind of person whom you quote can also reveal something about your personality. You’ll find plenty of quotation sources online, including the following:

As you do your daily reading, jot down great quotes in a notebook or electronic file. They may come in handy later.

How do YOU add personality and warmth?

I’m sure I’ve skipped some great techniques. Please share YOUR great ideas for adding personality and warmth to your writing.

 

Note: I updated this article on July 8 because I found my notes about that great weasel quote from “Chinese Media Open Cannon at U.S.” in The Wall Street Journal. Updated again on July 7 to correct a typo.