Tag Archive for: spelling

Is your free report “complimentary” or “complementary”?

Offering a free report to folks who sign up for your email list is a great marketing technique. However, you risk making a mistake if you substitute a multisyllabic word for “free.”

Look at the example in the image below, which shows a sticker that appeared on a local newspaper. I feel confident the advertisers wanted to push the benefits of a free class. Too bad that’s not what they offered.
complementary misuse example
“Complementary” doesn’t mean “free.” It addresses the relationship between two or more items. Taking this ad literally, it suggests that if you pay to take a music appreciation class, it will enhance your experience in the other courses, lectures, or seminars offered by the advertiser.

“Complimentary,” meaning “given free or as a favor,” is the word the advertisers needed.

When you offer a report at no cost to your newsletter subscribers, please consider making it “free.” You’ll avoid an embarrassing mistake. Also, the single-syllable “free” is easy for your readers to absorb.

If you must go multisyllabic, please use “complimentary.”

Another reason to proofread: Broker example

When your letters include typos, you confuse your readers and undercut your image as a professional. One of my Weekly Tip readers shared the following story about some terrible typos. I’d like to credit him, but he told me that he “must remain anonymous because he is not authorized to speak to the media.”

Can you guess the words that the letter’s author was trying to write?

I recall my first sales manager calling a meeting to address a new broker trainee’s remarkable letter to a prospective client. The correspondence highlighted the firm’s extraordinary capabilities in the stick, sock, and bind markets, at various points in the letter.

It was a real letter submitted to a manager for compliance review in a branch out in the hinterlands, and had been photocopied so many times it was almost blurry. Apparently, it was an effective tool for getting the point across to new hires, used by many a manager in the branch system.



If you have a great communications story you’d like to share, please send it along or share in the Comments below.

Image courtesy of Suat Eman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

5 Things to Stop Doing in 2016

To improve your communications in 2016, I propose five things you should stop doing. If you’re making New Year’s resolutions, consider some of the items on my list to improve your relationships with clients, prospects, and referral sources.

1. Sending emails with missing or poorly written subject lines

For starters, never send an email with an empty subject line. People like me often delete those emails, assuming they’re spam. Another subject line “don’t”: keeping the same subject line even after the topic has changed.

If you’re writing to request an action, put that action in your subject line.

If your email is simply an FYI, say that in your subject line.

Whatever the purpose of your email, communicate that in your subject line.

For more on emails, see “Top four email mistakes to avoid when you’ve got a referral” and “4 reasons your emails don’t get results.”

2. Publishing or sending any written communication without proofreading at least once.

Example of typo that I'd like to eliminate as part of my New Year's resolutions

Sigh. I missed this typo.

Mistakes, especially stupid mistakes, make people wonder about your intelligence and attention to details.

Even writer geeks make mistakes. I am the poster child for that. I was so excited about finding a Strunk and White grammar rap video, that I posted it to my blog without proofreading my post. Oops! An obvious typo sneaked in.

3. Not blogging because you think your writing isn’t good enough

If you have a valid reason to blog, you can find a way to make it work. Keep your blog posts short. Use audio or video, if you’re more comfortable in those media. You can improve your blog post writing skills with my financial blogging class.

4. Avoiding social media

Social media isn’t going away. Dip your toes in the water. Get on LinkedIn and connect with as many people as possible, even if your Compliance Department limits your activity. You may be surprised by what you discover. Already on LinkedIn? Check out Twitter. Here’s how I built my Twitter following, which currently consists of more than 11,000 followers.

5. Ignoring your most common writing mistakes

You have lots of company if you’re making “Bloggers’ top two punctuation mistakes.” If you’ve moved beyond those mistakes, you may benefit from my favorite online resources for grammar, punctuation, and word usage help.

Thank you, Dorie Clark for inspiring this post!

Clark’s “5 Things You Should Stop Doing in 2012” is a good read. What are your New Year’s resolutions related to writing and communications?

This blog post was edited on June 11, 2012 to correct a typo and in Dec. 2015 to update the post, which was originally published in 2012, for 2016.
Image courtesy of Prakairoj/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Refresh your grammar and usage skills with Mistake Monday

Test your editorial skills on Mistake Mondays! This weekly feature on the Investment Writing Facebook page displays samples of poorly written or inadequately proofread content for readers to critique.

Readers often come up with great suggestions for tweaking the content. You may find inspiration in their comments. At a minimum, you’ll receive a mini-refresher on how to write and edit well.

Here are some examples of items highlighted on Mistake Monday. If you can’t find the mistakes, maybe you should be reading the Mistake Monday posts.




Thank you, Mistake Monday commenters! You make Mistake Monday a fun learning experience.


P.S. I make some of these mistakes, too. It’s not easy proofreading oneself, especially in a time crunch.

P.P.S. Have a good example for Mistake Monday? Send it along!

Poll: Advisor vs. adviser

Which spelling is correct—advisor or adviser?

Google argues for advisor. Searches yielded 741 million results for advisor versus only 132 million for adviser.

The SEC favors “adviser.”

When I ran a poll on this topic in 2012, “advisor” won over “adviser,” 79% to 21%. Most of my clients prefer “advisor,” too. However, some people whom I respect favor “adviser,” as you’ll see in Bill Winterberg’s tweet, the links below, and the comments on this post.

Updates to “Advisor vs. adviser”

July 2012 update:

Here are links to two recent articles on this topic:

March 2017 update: I removed the outdated poll reference and shared the results of that poll.

Also, see the advisor vs. adviser link in the following tweet, courtesy of Stephen Foreman:

Phillip Shemella, author of “Advisor or Adviser: A data-journey for one word that goes both ways,” says, “advisor is a title, and adviser is anyone else who advises and is not already an advisor.

Adviser or advisor? The debate rages on” covers similar ground in Investment News.