Posts

5 steps for rewriting your investment commentary

Investment commentary authors often know the markets well, but lack writing and editing expertise. After all, they’re earning big bucks to manage money, not to write. You don’t want me to run your portfolio, but I’ve learned some lessons about how to edit investment commentary. I’ve edited and written commentary for a diverse group of clients.

My experience has inspired this list of steps for anyone who’d like to edit investment commentary or other articles.

5 steps for rewriting your investment commentary inforgraphic

Step 1. Analyze overall structure

Before you dig into the details of your commentary, look at its overall structure. Your analysis may lead you to delete or move entire sections to make the structure more reader-friendly.

First, identify the main themes of your commentary. You may decide after a quick reading that your themes are something like the following:

  1. This was a volatile quarter, due mainly to disappointing corporate earnings and instability in the Middle East.
  2. Corporate earnings are likely to recover for three reasons.
  3. Instability in the Middle East will continue and here’s how it affects our investing.
  4. Here’s why these six stocks are the portfolio’s biggest winners or losers for the quarter.

If a simple read-through doesn’t identify your main themes, you can try mind mapping your commentary’s content. I sometimes use mapping when editing complex client documents. Mapping gives me a bird’s eye perspective that helps me spot clustering of ideas that form themes. For more on mapping, please see my book Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients.

Once you’ve identified the themes, delete any paragraphs that aren’t relevant. Also, move your paragraphs so your argument builds in a logical order.

Step 2. Provide guideposts for your readers

Once you’ve identified your commentary’s themes, you can make it easy for your readers to absorb them. Three key tools are your title, introduction, and headings. Each of these components should manage your readers’ expectations.

Titles should communicate your main topic. Simply writing “Third Quarter Review” isn’t enough. It doesn’t distinguish this quarter’s review from all that preceded it. Nor does it distinguish your review from your competitors’. At a minimum, name your main topic in your subject line. For example, “Third Quarter Rocked by Earnings and Middle East Conflict.”

As for your introduction, I believe it should say exactly what you’ll cover. This lets your readers quickly assess whether your commentary interests them.

Next, use your headings as milestones for your commentary. Express your opinion or conclusion, if possible. For example, instead of using “corporate earnings” as your heading, consider something like “corporate earnings disappoint, but rebound likely.”

Step 3. Work within paragraphs

Once you’ve completed your “big picture” edits, dig into your individual paragraphs. Strong topic sentences will ensure that today’s busy readers can skim what you read, using their quick scan to zero in on the content that most interests them.

A strong topic sentence covers the paragraph’s main point. Everything that follows in a specific paragraph should relate to the topic sentence. If not, then cut it. This isn’t the only correct way to write, but it’s the best way to write for online readers and readers suffering from information overload.

For more on this topic, read my blog post about the first-sentence check.

Step 4. Examine your individual sentences

The next step is to make what professionals call “line edits.” This means correcting and improving your sentences for grammar, punctuation, vocabulary choices, and other issues in your writing style.

Working down to small items from “big picture” items is efficient. It means that you don’t waste time improving your word choices in a sentence or paragraph that you ultimately cut from your draft.

Step 5. Proofread and check statistics

Once you’ve completed your editing, it’s time to proofread. I’ve blogged in “5 proofreading tips for quarterly investment reports” about my best proofreading tips. Also, check the accuracy of your statistics, such as index returns. If possible, get someone else to proofread your work. After you’ve lived with a document for awhile, it becomes hard to spot errors that would smack you in the face on a first reading.

 

 

If you follow these five steps, you’ll attract more readers. That’s your goal, right?

What are your top challenges in writing investment commentary?

As I prepare to deliver a June presentation on “How to Write Investment Commentary People Will Read,” I’m thinking about how to help you beat your challenges.

Please help me to think about this topic by answering my brief survey about investment commentary. I invite you to identify your top challenges and share tips in the survey. If you prefer, you can share your ideas as comments on this post.

Your comments will inspire my teaching on this topic. An earlier, longer survey on my blog became the basis of “Ideal quarterly letters: Meaningful, specific, and short.”

Folks have already raised some interesting topics in discussions. For example:

  • How can I write commentary that’s original?
  • How can I discuss timely yet sensitive topics without offending people?
  • How can I write long-form commentary for an audience that’s suffering from ADD?

I’m planning to allow lots of time for Q&A in my June 22 webinar, “How to Write Investment Commentary People Will Read.”

Early Bird pricing ends June 2

Register now to take advantage of Early Bird pricing on my June 22 webinar, which runs from 1:00-2:00 p.m. Eastern. If you’re not available at that time, you can register and watch the recording.

Visit the webinar’s web page for an overview of the program, testimonials, frequently asked questions, and more details.

Susan Weiner presents at NYSSA 2013

 

Should your investment commentary be different?

“Should your investment commentary present a distinctive point of view?” That’s the great question posed by a participant in one of my presentations on “How To Write Investment Commentary People Will Read.”

My answer? It depends.

What is the distinctive point of view?

If a distinctive point of view means ideas that hold their own vs. leading investment strategies, that’s easier said than done. Not everyone can be an original thinker.

Another challenge: Competing with top investment strategists may also require access to world-class data to support your contentions. That may be tough if you’re at a small company with limited resources.

On the other hand, ideas aren’t the only way to distinguish yourself. You can stand out with the way you express your ideas, instead of the actual content of your commentary. Perhaps you show some personality or you’re an elegant or humorous writer.

Your audience matters

Investment commentary that displays thought leadership appeals to some audiences more than others.

For example, if you sell your firm’s tactical asset allocation services, readers will care about the originality and accuracy of how you assess markets. In short, thought leadership matters if it is an important part of your appeal as an investment manager.

Some readers won’t care whether your ideas are original or common. This is particularly true of individual investors. I believe they’d rather know that you understand them and their needs. In their case, investment commentary explaining how a recent event or trend affects their portfolio may be more powerful than groundbreaking commentary on the stock market.

What do YOU think?

I’m curious to learn your thoughts on this topic. Please comment.

Tweet your quarterly investment commentary for more impact

“Second Quarter Market Update”—I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this boring status update in my Twitter streams, LinkedIn, or Facebook. You can attract more views, and get more people to click your links when you strengthen the status updates you share via social media. I have some tips for you.

1. Highlight your opinions, not the date

Everybody knows what quarter has just ended, but they don’t know your opinions about what drove the period’s returns or how you view the stock and bond markets’ future. This is why you should highlight your opinions with subject lines such as “3 reasons why stocks will continue to rise [LINK TO YOUR COMMENTARY].”

By the way, use a link shortener, such as bitly or the link shorteners in HootSuite, to make the best use of the limited character count available to you in status updates, especially Twitter.

2. Pose questions

People are curious. Take advantage of that by asking questions in your status updates. For example, “Which sectors are positioned to outperform for 2014? Read our views: [LINK TO YOUR COMMENTARY].”

3. Use images

Images increasingly drive social media engagement, even on Twitter. A powerful image will boost views and clicks. This may mean including two links in your tweets—one to the image and another to your commentary.

By the way, your logo or headshot photo doesn’t count as a compelling image. A graph or photo could work.

4. Link directly to your commentary

Many investment management firms force their social media readers to click twice to reach their commentary, which lives on their websites as prettily formatted PDF documents. However, every time you ask readers to click, you risk losing them.

To avoid this risk, put your commentary—or at least a big chunk of the opening text on an ordinary web page.

5. Tweet more than once

Don’t expect one tweet to reach all of your target readers. Share your quarterly commentary more than once. Mix up your status updates, perhaps highlighting a key finding in one, but asking a question in another.

Your tips?

I’m curious to learn what works for you in getting readers from your social media status updates. Please join the conversation.

Image courtesy of artur84 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Note: updated November 10, 2020