Author Archives: Elizabeth

Be a better financial writer: 4 ways to sharpen your financial game

financial writing educationWhether you’re a seasoned financial writer who wants to navigate nuanced topics or a general copy writer who wants to improve your depth of knowledge, continuing financial education is essential. If you want to land complex assignments and assure clients that you’re fluent in their language, check out these four ways to sharpen your game:

  1. Get in the news flow: Subscribe to several relevant financial publications. The Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times and The Economist are a good start for mainstream news. Specialized publications feature interpretation and analysis of market moves and industry trends. Some popular choices include Barron’s, Grant’s Interest Rate Observer, Breakfast with Dave, Investor’s Business Daily and Institutional Investor.

Niche publications can help you stay current on a specific corner of the financial world – for example, The Deal specializes in intelligence on financial transactions, including mergers and acquisitions, and private equity exits.

While you won’t add “avid newspaper reader” to your resume, the habit will build your financial vocabulary and help you write better, more topical pitches and pieces than you would if you didn’t keep up to date.

  1. New York Institute of Finance certificate: You can put this one on your resume. Attend classes online or on-site to obtain a professional certificate. Programs range from introductory (Capital Markets Professional Certificate) to specific (Advanced Derivatives Professional Certificate). Completing a course earns you a certificate of completion, and if you score 70 percent or above on the final exam, you’ll receive a certificate of mastery.
  1. CFA Institute Investment Foundations™ certificate: Designed for anyone who works in the investment world – from information technology teams to marketing folks – the program is built to give a clear understanding of how the investment management industry works. Its modules cover investment instruments, ethics and regulations. You’ll study with an e-book and use the online learning platform, then take the exam at a local testing center.
  1. University certificate programs: Most universities offer finance courses through their continuing and professional studies departments. For example, the NYU School of Professional Studies offers several self-paced online classes, including focused topics, such as real estate capital markets. Many universities also offer robust curricula, like Georgetown University’s corporate finance certificate program, which requires completion of seven in-person courses.

Writers who work exclusively in finance may also consider obtaining a FINRA Series 7 license or earning the Chartered Financial Analyst® credential. Both have stringent eligibility and registration requirements.

How do you continually build your financial knowledge? Let us know in the comments below.

Writing for a financial audience? 3 tips to nail the delivery

writing for a financial audienceWhen it comes to creating impactful financial writing, subject matter expertise is a great start. Solid marketing chops and a well-crafted editorial plan help, too. But what about the content itself? Here are three quick tips to enhance your financial communications.

  1. Know your audience

As fellow copywriter Dave Argentar wrote in his recent blog post, high-quality content is approachable and tailored to a specific audience. In financial writing, this often comes down to pinpointing your reader’s level of financial sophistication.

An institutional investment professional will likely know the relationship between the Fed and interest rates, so you could forego any drawn-out explanation. Keep your reader engaged and get straight to the point. But writing for a wider consumer audience is a different story, and assumptions about knowledge can be dangerous. Take a hint from The Wall Street Journal: When describing fluctuations in the bond market, the publication always notes that yields move inversely to prices.

This concept also spills into the area of compliance. Is the content subject to FINRA’s rules on communications with the public? If so, you’ll need to maintain a fair and balanced tone and omit any performance predictions.

  1. Incorporate meaningful charts …

If you have a lot of data to discuss, charts can help to simplify the delivery. Best practices for charts and graphs include:

  • Be clear: Label all axes, clarify the units of measure and use colors strategically.
  • Draw conclusions: The title of the chart and/or the adjacent commentary should draw an obvious conclusion. For example, a chart titled, “U.S. Dollar Correlation to Gold at All-Time High” is more constructive than one titled, “U.S. Dollar Index Daily Correlations to Gold, 1970-2016.”
  • Make it skimmable: Trends should pop out at a glance.
  • Be selective: If a chart doesn’t advance your argument or provide necessary context, consider removing it. The same thinking applies to elements within a chart. Is it beneficial to show data all the way back to 1970, or will it just add noise?
  1. … But don’t weigh the prose down with too many numbers

It can be tempting to rely heavily on numbers in financial writing, but try to exercise restraint in the main paragraphs and chunks of prose. Too much data will frustrate—and probably bore—your reader.

Read your draft aloud. If key points are getting lost in a sea of numbers, consider cutting where you can and rephrasing elsewhere. Smooth out the flow by swapping in “decade” for “10 years” or “more than doubled” for “an increase of 102.8%.”

For more advice about writing clear and direct financial content, check out “Economical Writing” by Deirdre N. McCloskey.

What tips do you have for connecting with financial audiences? Let us know in the comments below.